The modern man of Game of Thrones’s ancient world, the solitary railroad enthusiast of The Station Agent, the non-elf of Elf. Peter Dinklage is one of a kind. A leading man with strength, vulnerability, and a cartoonishly thick head of hair, he has delivered a slew of memorable roles marked by a sardonic sense of humor. He also managed to survive an eight-season bloodbath in Westeros.
1. Peter Dinklage's first taste of acting came in fifth grade.
Like more than a few of his colleagues, Dinklage—who was born in Morristown, New Jersey, on June 11, 1969—caught the acting bug as an adolescent, appearing in a lead role in a performance of The Velveteen Rabbit in fifth grade. “When you get your first solo bow, that feels pretty good,” Dinklage told People. Despite its lack of rabbits, he also credited watching Sam Shepard’s True West in 1984 as a major inspiration to pursue acting as a profession.
2. He grew up next to Bruce Springsteen's manager.
Dinklage's family’s next-door neighbor in Brookside, New Jersey, was The Boss’s manager, which meant Springsteen regularly played guitar just one house down. Dinklage’s parents also heard Springsteen play at a wedding in a surfboard factory but complained that he was “too loud.”
3. He refused to play stereotypical roles—even when money was tight.
When Dinklage was surviving the salad days in a New York City apartment filled with rats, he had offers to play elves and leprechauns, but he turned down those paychecks out of principle. It created a short-term setback (at least when it came to paying rent), but his tenacity eventually paid off with roles like the one in Elf that challenged clichés. He was even careful when Game of Thrones came calling, recognizing the way dwarves normally look in fantasy projects. “[Tyrion Lannister’s] somebody who turned that on its head,” he told The New York Times in 2012. “No beard, no pointy shoes, a romantic, real human being."
4. He was in a punk-funk-rap band.
What does that genre blend sound like? Hard to say, but the band was called Whizzy, and they played CBGB, where Dinklage got the notable scar along the side of his face. "I was jumping around onstage and got accidentally kneed in the temple," he told Playboy. "I was like Sid Vicious, just bleeding all over the stage. Blood was going everywhere. I just grabbed a dirty bar napkin and dabbed my head and went on with the show. We didn’t care much about personal safety."
5. His mom told him he was going to lose the Golden Globe to Guy Pearce.
Just before Dinklage made his way to the Golden Globes ceremony in 2012, where he was nominated for Game of Thrones, Dinklage spoke with his mom back in New Jersey, who told him, “Have fun, but have you seen Mildred Pierce? Guy Pearce is so good. He’s gonna win.” He wryly noted how moms keep us all humble.
6. He's an outspoken vegetarian.
Dinklage has been a vegetarian since childhood, and he has used his fame as a platform to speak out on animal rights issues. That includes telling Game of Thrones fans to stop adopting Huskies after the breed’s popularity (and abandonment rate) shot through the roof thanks to the show’s dire wolves.
7. He read his Game of Thrones scripts in a special way.
Specifically, he read them backwards. “The first thing I really do when I get the scripts is I go to the last page of the last episode and then look backward until I find my name to see if I survive,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2017.
8. He starred in the same movie twice.
In Death at a Funeral, Dinklage played Peter, the American man who surprises a family by showing up at the patriarch’s funeral claiming to be the old man’s lover. The 2007 film, which was directed by Frank Oz and featured a stellar cast of British actors, was popular enough to warrant an American remake. Dinklage returned to play the same role with a completely different cast and Neil LaBute as director.
9. The sword fights on Game of Thrones didn't make Dinklage feel cool.
Smiting foes on the field of battle would be enough to make a lot of actors feel powerful, but not Dinklage. “The fight scenes are all a big lie,” he told Playboy in 2013. “The whole time you’re trying not to get hit in the eye with a sword, and you wish you had on a welding helmet.” To drive the point home, he explained how one shot, which involved his character cutting a knight’s leg off, involved him swinging a blunt sword at a 70-year-old amputee.
10. Dinklage saw a stranger die.
One morning in Los Angeles, Dinklage was walking down Melrose Avenue when he met eyes with a man on a motorcycle who pulled out into traffic, got hit by a car, and died. “It was in the morning, so there was no one around, you know?” he told Esquire. “It was empty, so there was this quiet moment where it was like I was the only person in the world who knew this guy was dead."
11. He was the only Game of Thrones actor to win an Emmy for his work on the show.
Between 2011 and 2019, Dinklage earned eight Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy nominations for his role as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones—one for each season. While he took home the award four times (in 2011, 2015, 2018, and 2019), he is the only actor on the show to actually win the award, despite regular nominations for co-stars including Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Diana Rigg.
A version of this story ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2022.