How Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage became the beloved 'Game of Thrones' bad boy

Sunday, Peter Dinklage took home his second Emmy for supporting actor on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The 46-year-old actor has been nominated in the category each year since the series’ start.

But long before Dinklage played the iconic role of Tyrion Lannister, the Jersey native worked an office job, performed in a punk-funk-rap band, and bootstrapped his acting career.

In honour of his Emmy, we’re taking a look back at Dinklage’s unstoppable rise to fame.

Peter Dinklage was born to a Morristown, New Jersey, couple in the summer of '69. He said his childhood was 'uneventful.' His father sold insurance, and his mother taught music at an elementary school.

The Dinklages didn't even have a TV set in the house, or so he thought. In his teens, Peter discovered his parents watching a black-and-white TV they had purchased and hid in the bedroom closet. 'It was 'Three's Company' from then on out,' he says.

ABC Photo Archives

Source: The New York Times

He attended the Delbarton School, an all-boys Catholic institution where he 'didn't really fit in.' But he picked up a passion for acting from an eccentric priest with an extensive VHS collection.

The Kountze Mansion, also known as 'Old Main,' on Delbarton School's campus.

Source:, Esquire

As a teenager, he decided to become a vegetarian. 'At the time I was doing it because of my love for animals,' Dinklage says, 'but also for a girl. Of course.' He's stuck with it through the years.

While a student at Bennington College in Vermont, Dinklage appeared in school productions, drank a lot, and rocked long-flowing hippie hair. Friends called him 'Dink.'

Dinklage was the Class of 2012's commencement speaker.

Source: Esquire

After graduating in 1991, he and a classmate moved into an apartment under the Williamsburg Bridge (back when you could live in that New York City neighbourhood on the cheap). They dreamed of opening a theatre company.


(Source: Esquire, The New York Times)

He worked nearly seven years at a company called Professional Examination Service. 'I still don't know what the company did,' Dinklage says. 'I just like, plugged information into a computer ... I called in sick every Friday because I would go out Thursday night with my friends.'

Dinklage continued to pursue a career in writing and acting. Standing at 4 feet 5 inches, he refused to audition for or accept gigs that would cast him as a leprechaun or elf.

Andrew H. Walker/Getty
Actors Sarah Ries and Dinklage perform in the '24 Hour Plays' at the Atlantic Theatre in 2008.

Source: Esquire

His breakout came in 2003, when a screenwriter friend wrote a leading role with Dinklage in mind. 'Station Agent,' about an introverted train aficionado grieving the death of his friend, gave Dinklage his first Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.

SenArt Films
'The Station Agent,' available on Netflix, costars Bobby Cannavale and Patricia Clarkson.

Source: Esquire, The New York Times

Later that year, he appeared alongside Kate Beckinsale and Matthew McConaughey in 'Tiptoes,' about a family of dwarves. Gary Oldman played a dwarf by wearing a harness to shorten his arms and walking on his knees. 'There was some flak,' Dinklage says. 'I have my own opinions about political correctness, but I was just like, 'It's Gary Oldman. He can do whatever he wants.''

Langley Productions

Source: The New York Times

He played a pugnacious children's author in 'Elf.' In the movie, he beat up Will Ferrell's character for confusing him with the North Pole elves.

The next 10 years, Dinklage kept busy with small film roles and TV cameos. He voiced Captain Gutt in an 'Ice Age' film, dated Liz Lemon on '30 Rock,' and acted in both the American and British versions of 'Death at a Funeral.'

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Parabolic Pictures Inc., Stable Way Entertainment

When 'Game of Thrones' cocreator David Benioff approached him with a role in HBO's new series, Dinklage had one hesitation. 'Because of the fantasy genre, I told him I didn't want a really long beard and pointy shoes.'

Frederick M. Brown/Getty
From left, actors Emilia Clarke, Sean Bean, and Dinklage, writer and executive producer D.B. Weiss, writer George R.R. Martin, and writer and executive producer Benioff during the 'Game of Thrones' panel at the HBO portion of the 2011 Winter TCA press tour.

Source: Reddit

Dinklage was cautious after spending a seven-month shoot on 'Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian' in Eastern Europe and New Zealand, sweating under a long red beard.


Source: The New York Times

The show's creators 'assured me this character and this world wasn't' like that, Dinklage says. 'They told me about his complexity -- the fact that he wasn't a hero or a villain, that he was a womanizer and a drinker -- and they painted a flawed and beautiful portrait of him. So I signed on.'

In 'Game Of Thrones,' Tyrion Lannister won freedom through trial by combat, with the help of a champion.

Source: Reddit

His character, Tyrion Lannister, is the black sheep of a wealthy family who responds to his physical limitations with wit and cunning. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the books the show is based on, says it's easy to see why Tyrion is a fan favourite. 'My readers identify with the outcast, with the underdog, with the person who's struggling rather than the golden boy,' he says.

Macall B. Polay / HBO

Source: The New York Times

When he's not filming 'Game of Thrones,' Dinklage keeps busy with movies. The self-proclaimed comic book fan played a genius psychologist-villain in 2014's 'X-Men: Days of Future Past.'

And you can hear him as the voice of Mighty Eagle in Rovio's feature-length 'Angry Birds' film, which the game developer studio is betting on to revive the franchise.


Source: yle

He's since had a change of heart. 'The leads are often the boring part. Maybe I'll have to take that back. I like playing the guys on the sidelines. They have more fun.'


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