The Little King

Size doesn't matter in a new production of Richard III at the Public Theater

Dangerous in both criminal and sexual terms. Probably the most memorable scene in Richard III is theinfamous seduction of Lady Anne, the widow whose husband and father are both murdered by Richard. Yet the malformed "homicide" still manages to lure her to his bedchamber as she conveys the corpse of her father-in-law, Henry VI, another of Richard's victims, to burial. ("Was ever woman in this humor woo'd?" Richard himself asks in fiendish astonishment at his own success.)

"So often you see a Richard who's so physically grotesque that it's hard to buy the seduction," says DuBois. "With Peter the scene is very organic. He's incredibly sexy, and so has no problem activating that aspect of the character. He has almost a romantic, leading-man quality. You start to find him hot."

Google Dinklage and you'll find chat rooms of young female fans who unabashedly find the diminutive blue-eyed actor irresistible. One of the things that made The Station Agent unique, beyond the intriguing yoking of misfit characters, was the way it didn't shy away from its star's masculine allure. "Producers were reluctant at first to give us money for the film," Dinklage recalls. "They were like, 'There's never been a movie with a dwarf as the lead.' Now that audiences have favorably responded, a door has been opened."

Peter Dinklage: Easy lies the crown.
photo: Richard Mitchell
Peter Dinklage: Easy lies the crown.

A lot of doors, actually. Dinklage has had to turn down theater opportunities (like the part of Toulouse-Lautrec in Martha Clarke's upcoming Belle Epoque at Lincoln Center and last season's Mabou Mines dollHouse). After the box office success of Elf (in which Dinklage beat up Will Ferrell for confusing him with one of Santa's helpers), scripts have been steadily streaming in. Amid everything, Touchstone has been developing a character-based series for him.

Still, getting a classic role like Richard has been a dream for Dinklage, who studied theater at Bennington College and has been plugging away in New York since he graduated in 1991. But he did have reservations. After George C. Wolfe told him he wanted to build this production around him, Dinklage raised concerns about someone his height playing an English king. "I mean, back then I would have been left on someone's doorstep or had bells on my hat like a jester," he said. "I wasn't sure if we could pull it off. But George said, 'Well Peter, this is theater. We can get away with things, you know, because of imagination.' I thought, 'Oh yeah, this is why I love what I do for a living.' "

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