Even before he started writing the script, director Andrew Adamson knew Peter Dinklage was the only actor who could do justice to the role of the heroic Trumpkin the Red Dwarf in "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."
So, one problem solved, right? Not necessarily.
"I cast him before I knew he would do it," says Adamson, who had admired Dinklage's breakout performance in the 2003 indie hit "The Station Agent," in which he played a loner who moves into an abandoned station depot after the death of a friend. "I loved that film and what he did in it. I was impressed how likable and curmudgeonly he could be at the same time," Adamson says.
The 38-year-old Dinklage hadn't intentionally avoided big fantasy films to this point, "but I think the timing was never right," he says. Plus, he had doubts about the complexity of Trumpkin's role, especially because the script wasn't completed at the time Adamson approached him.
"Sometimes, with these fantasy film characters who are dwarfs . . . sometimes you can be set dressing. I am not interested in that as an actor. It's all about the character. I wasn't completely sold until I met with Andrew Adamson. What Andrew told me, it seemed very fun and well-rounded," Dinklage says of the second lavish action-adventure film based on C.S. Lewis' children's books, which opens Friday. Adamson, though, had been so optimistic that Dinklage would play Trumpkin that he had preliminary character designs made of the actor in the role. "I showed them to Peter and I showed him a lot of pre-visuals mapping out the action sequences."
Set one year after the events of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" but 1,300 years ahead in Narnian time, the Pevensie children -- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy -- return to the magical kingdom after they are summoned by Caspian, the rightful heir to the Telmarine throne who has been usurped of his power by his evil uncle, Miraz.
Dinklage's Trumpkin is a gruff but valiant Narnian, long thought to be extinct by the invading Telmarines. But he has a tender side that slowly emerges as he fights alongside the Pevensies and Caspian to defeat Miraz.
"The kids warm him up," Dinklage says. "In the 'Narnia' movies, there is a lot of wonderment. Children with aghast expressions on their faces. He provides a lot of humor . . . . Older people in the audience may get a kick out of him."
It took makeup artists Howard Berger and Tami Lane three hours each day to transform Dinklage into the red-haired, beak-nosed Trumpkin. For the role, Dinklage's head was shaved and then yak hair was applied to his head and face. "It was itchy," he says. And hot. "We shot from January to September in New Zealand during the summer and in Eastern Europe during the summer."
Later this year, Dinklage will reprise Trumpkin for the third film in the series, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which will be directed by Michael Apted. In the meantime, the actor is moving into producing. "I'm getting writers and directors together, and hopefully we will start shooting at the end of the year," Dinklage says. "I think as actors get older they sort of gravitate to the other side of the camera."
Where you've seen him
Since "The Station Agent," Dinklage has been working steadily in such films as "Elf" -- in which he tackles Will Ferrell in a brawl -- "Find Me Guilty," "Death at a Funeral" and "Underdog," in which he played bad guy Simon Barsinister. On TV he has been Joely Richardson's love interest on "Nip/Tuck" and starred in the CBS sci-fi series "Threshold."