Interview

Peter Dinklage visits The Late Show with David Letterman

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Peter Dinklage was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman last night to promote the upcoming season of Game of Thrones.

Dinklage talks about not having read the ASOIAF series yet, and having to confess to that fact in front of George R.R. Martin himself. After Letterman comments on the amount of limb removals in Game of Thrones, Dinklage recounts an embarrassing battle scene when he had to chop off an old man’s leg. He also discusses his time in New Jersey as a boy putting on puppet shows with his brother, and in Brooklyn as an aspiring actor.

34 Comments

  • Very excited to see what kind of job he does as trask in xmen days of future past seeing as it was an interesting caring choice.

  • Thanks so much for getting this footage. I was so bummed to miss recording the show last night – only learning it was happening right after it aired. Surprised Peter hasn’t read the books, but I sure love him. Great guy & stupendous actor.

  • Fiona:
    Surprised Peter hasn’t read the books, but I sure love him.

    This is something that makes perfect sense to anyone who’s acted beyond an amateur level, but confuses the average fan.

    In the industry, it’s VERY common for actors not to want to read the books or whatever a show/film is based on. Specifically because as an actor, your loyalty lies with the production, not the source material.

    The nature of adaptation is that all characters change somewhat between book and screen, and a lot of actors don’t want the portrayal in the source material to affect their ability to portray the character that the director is asking for.

    Some DO like to read the books, but plenty don’t. It’s a personal choice. Roose Bolton’s actor started reading them, then decided to stop, because he started seeing things about BookRoose that he felt wouldn’t work on screen, so he’s only read to the end of ACoK.

    Anyway, back to Tyrion – two things spring to mind. First, those who complain of his perceived whitwashing need to wait and see how this season pans out. Breaking Bad worked because of the descent of Walt from Mr Holland into Scarface… He didn’t start out as S5’s Walt. Tyrion’s arc will go a similar way. Secondly, the new sample chapter from TWoW shows GRRM is enjoying riffing on Richard III. A play written about a controversial and disgraced former politician, portraying him as a monster…

  • Chickenduck,

    And yet actors can also gain valuable insight about their roles from the novels, as any good novel can provide more depth to the character than a script or direction.

    I’ve never understood the whole “not wanting to be influenced” thing. I would think having more knowledge of what you’re doing is a positive. You don’t necessarily have to utilize it.

    But on the other hand, you take an actor like DeNiro who worked at a steel factory for months to prepare for The Deer Hunter.

  • I like you Peter and Imma let you finish; but you need to succumb to the power of the pussy.

    An unrelated query: I wonder if any celebrities have ever sharted and left a stain on those light colored chairs. If so, who? Sorry. I don’t why my mind goes to those places.

  • Chickenduck,

    It’s not as common as you claim, especially for a part of this scope, in a production of this scope. He should have read the books.

  • Malcatraz,

    He shouldn’t have to read them, nor should any other actor. It wouldn’t hurt most actors to read them, but it should not be necessary. You can inform yourself on a character without having to commit the time to reading these giant and complicated books. I’d say more than two thirds of the actors haven’t read them. Ironically, the ones who have are the same actors who get criticized the most for their performances, whereas actors like Sean Bean,Peter Dinklage,Charles Dance,Lena Headey,Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, and Jack Gleeson haven’t read them.

  • WeirwoodTreeHugger:
    I like you Peter and Imma let you finish; but you need to succumb to the power of the pussy.

    An unrelated query:I wonder if any celebrities have ever sharted and left a stain on those light colored chairs.If so, who?Sorry.I don’t why my mind goes to those places.

    what?!!?

  • Tyrion Pimpslap,

    Agreed. He’s playing ShowTyrion not BookTyrion. Is his performance going to be better if he chooses to pretend Tyrion doesn’t have a nose? Is he going to make a few wise cracks about building a chain across the mouth of Blackwater Bay? Will he win an Emmy if he tells himself in the back of his mind that Tyrion got in a few good swings at the Battle of the Green Fork instead of getting knocked out? No. We hope D&D will bring the books to life in the scripts, but it’s then the actors’ jobs to bring the scripts to life, not the books.

  • There are good points to be made on both sides of the actor’s to-read-or-not-to-read argument. What I find much more interesting is George R.R. Martin’s current predicament: the inevitable influence of seeing actors play his characters while he’s still writing the series of novels. This must be difficult for an author, because even if he applauds the adaptation and all the major performances, his original conception of a character now has a single actor’s face (and voice and manner and choices) superimposed on it. Can an author ignore that? Does he wish to, or need to?

    This happens with original screenplays (not based on existing material) too, if roles are written without an actor in mind; as pilot becomes series, the writing can proceed in unforeseen directions based on the actors cast. But Martin wrote four whole novels – a huge world crafted entirely in his own head – before the TV series was conceived, and now the final ones will be written knowing they’re headed for the screen (and roughly how they will look). J.K. Rowling was in this situation as well. I wonder how that affects an author’s work, and if they would ideally prefer not to have a filmed adaptation until they’ve finished the final novel.

  • I really respect the actor’s choice when it comes to whether they read the books or not. Some don’t want to be spoiled, or have the knowledge of what’s going to happen influence the way their character acts within a scene. For some, I see little benefit in reading the books. BookRoose is pretty different from ShowRoose, for example, and even if Charles Dance read the books, he wouldn’t be getting insights into the way Tywin’s mind operates, since Tywin is not a POV character.

    Other actors, though, have said that reading the books has helped. Michelle Fairly mentioned how the books give insights into what a character is thinking at a particular time, which was helpful for her. And NCW I think reads, but only very selectively (Ctrl+Fing “Jaime.”) Different strokes for different folks.

  • Malcatraz:
    Chickenduck,

    It’s not as common as you claim, especially for a part of this scope, in a production of this scope. He should have read the books.

    Unless you work in a different entertainment industry to the one I did, it is a pretty common practice. Lots of the GoT cast haven’t read the books, and aren’t planning to until the show is over.

    Similarly, many actors in a remake of an old film choose not to watch the original.

  • Hodor Targaryen:
    And NCW I think reads, but only very selectively (Ctrl+Fing “Jaime.”) Different strokes for different folks.

    Exactly. Actors approach things in different ways. Need to respect their craft.

  • Question: like many, I read and obsessed over the books after seeing the show. While I am now “book guy” around my friends, I can’t picture any season 1 actor as being anyone other than their actor/actress portrayal. Does this same issue exist for those who read the books well in advance?

  • I would actually even say that most likely a significant portion of the actors who claim to have read the books probably HAVEN’T. They just say they have read them to appease the fans and/or interviewers. Watch closely the next time they are asked – they squirm and try to be evasive about details. They don’t want to offend.

  • Peter’s in good form, but I hadn’t seen Letterman in ages! Seems he’s getting a little too close to Pycelle’s supposed personality for comfort.

  • Oh please, not the book police!!! One thing that is evident from a show based in feudal times albeit fictional (yes, I do know it’s a fantasy) is that the poor dogs underneath, the small folk, the peasantry, whatever one likes to call them, had very little freedom. Even these days nobody is 100% free but – in the west at least – we have much more freedom that people did in the Middle Ages. We are free to read what we want (at least once we have left school – I had to read some books when studying English Literature back in the day that I would never read through choice). I have tied to read (and listen) to the ASOIAF books since I became familiar with the GOT show, though they are hard to get hold of in my local library and there is one I have not read/heard yet. But please, don’t let’s tell other folk they MUST read the books. Freedom is a precious thing.

  • Hodor Targaryen:
    I really respect the actor’s choice when it comes to whether they read the books or not. Some don’t want to be spoiled, or have the knowledge of what’s going to happen influence the way their character acts within a scene. For some, I see little benefit in reading the books. BookRoose is pretty different from ShowRoose, for example, and even if Charles Dance read the books, he wouldn’t be getting insights into the way Tywin’s mind operates, since Tywin is not a POV character.

    Other actors, though, have said that reading the books has helped. Michelle Fairly mentioned how the books give insights into what a character is thinking at a particular time, which was helpful for her. And NCW I think reads, but only very selectively (Ctrl+Fing “Jaime.”) Different strokes for different folks.

    I don’t know if NCW reads his characters’ chapters, I know Michelle Fairley and Sophie Turner do, but NCW has said contradictory things or joked whenever the question is posed.

  • Lars:
    I would actually even say that most likely a significant portion of the actors who claim to have read the books probably HAVEN’T. They just say they have read them to appease the fans and/or interviewers. Watch closely the next time they are asked – they squirm and try to be evasive about details. They don’t want to offend.

    Oh, come on. It’s not like reading books is that incredibly difficult. We’re not talking about some hard, complicated task. Most of us at this site have read them, are you telling me that actors are less capable of reading than we are? It’s just a matter of choice, if they think it could get them confused between the book and show version or if they think it would help them. Not that many GoT actors even claim to have read all the books (I think only Emilia Clarke says she’s read them all, Kit Harington said he read the first four when he was cast and then decided to stop, Rory McCann said he read the first three, and I can’t remember who else said they read the books rather than just their chapters, as Michelle and Sophie, or being informed by their parents, as Maisie), if it’s about appeasing the fans, why don’t they all claim they’ve read them? It’s not like just some of them need to appease the fans and the others don’t.

  • In my earlier post I should have said “tried to read” – the time I could have edited it is past.

  • Canis Dirus,

    Not really, I already had pretty strong mental pictures for most of the characters. Though, some of the characters are sort of a hybrid between book and show for me. It’s especially true for characters that look nothing like their book descriptions in the show. I have cognitive dissonance lol.

  • Aaaaaaaaagh! The video has been removed!!!! I missed Letterman last night. Any chance of seeing this on YouTube perhaps?

  • I remember a while ago an interview with an actress or actor playing a character on GOT–can’t remember which one–who said that he/she asked the showrunners if he/she should read the books, and they told him/her not to do so.

  • Annara Snow,

    The only TV actor I know, he never reads, he only memorizes.
    He can spend hours playing a line, deciding if he raises his eyebrow or tilts his head. Some people move their lips, he can’t read without moving his whole being. Other people I knew went to Uni and read Drama. He left school at fifteen to live on the streets (not long – his very worried parents tracked him down in front of a TV studio and promised to pay for him to go to actor school if he came home).

    He is forever licking the bum of some show runner, producer, casting agent, director (he knows them all – never forgets a face), always striving to be the next Figwit, to turn his nine words into a pop-culture catch phrase and a recurring role. The director is the genius who sees how his character can expand. The guy that wrote the book is a spent force, never saw how important (and immortal) his character is. For him. it’s all about increasing his screen time. or whatever the director wants him to do next.

    Famous actors probably don’t grovel so much, but only Kit Harrington seems to be much of a reader (and what do you care if he has read Pliny the Younger or Vera Brittain?). Peter Dinklage is probably too busy looking through new scripts to bother reading old books. And Charles Dance earns his living playing Coriolanus, no matter what the book says, because he’s Charles Dance.

  • Canis Dirus,

    For a few characters, it does; for most others, it doesn’t. All have grown on me since season one, but yeah. Really had to let go of some long-ago constructed images in order to enjoy the show :)

    Refswife1: thank you for posting that; WicNets post tells me CBS has put their copyright foot down on this video.

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