You play Tyrion Lannister, a major character on the HBO series Game of Thrones, a show that kills off major characters all the time. Are you worried about your job?
I don’t think Tyrion is going anywhere. He once said that he’d like to die “in my own bed, at the age of 80, with a belly full of wine and a girl’s mouth around my cock.” I like to think that was a premonition. That’s how he’s going to go. He’s a survivor. But you’re right; it’s amazing how many major characters get killed this season. People who have read all the George R.R. Martin books that the show is based on tell me Tyrion’s still alive. We’re only on season three and there are five books. Tyrion hasn’t been killed yet, so I feel pretty secure.
Do you feel like a badass when you’re swinging around a sword, or is it just awkward and weird?
There’s a scene in the show when I chop a man’s leg off from behind. The gentleman was probably about 70 years old. They filmed him from the back, so you don’t see how old he is. Also he’s an amputee. He had one leg, so basically I just knocked out the fake leg. I had a big dull sword, and I knocked a wooden leg off an amputee who was 70 years old. So to answer your question, no, I don’t feel like a badass. The fight scenes are all a big lie. 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. In one of the battle scenes I did, it was cold and wet, and if at any point you weren’t wet enough they’d hose you down for consistency. Not that I’m complaining, but when it’s 35 degrees and they’re hosing you down with cold water, it’s very easy to get into that medieval state of mind.
When you won an Emmy, the announcer said that Game of Thrones is “filmed on location in Awesome Land.” Tell us more about this magical place called Awesome Land.
It’s in Northern Ireland. And Croatia, Morocco and Iceland, but mostly Northern Ireland. We shoot in a studio in Ireland where the Titanic was built. Not the movie but the ship that sank. That can’t be a good omen, can it? I love being over there. It’s like getting paid to be a tourist. Not that we have a choice. You can’t shoot a show like this in New Jersey. You need these exotic locations that exist out in the world. It’s why Peter Jackson shot Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. I’m just lucky. We’re in our third season now, and our fourth year doing the show. Northern Ireland isn’t huge, so I think we’ve technically used every bit of geography the country has. We’ve walked every square inch.
There’s a video on YouTube called “Peter Dinklage Gets So Much Pussy” in which two guys talk about how much you’ve been getting laid since Game of Thrones. They estimate your sexual activity has increased 600 percent in the past few years. Does that sound about right?
It depends. By “pussy” do they mean actual pussy? Or is it a metaphor, like for gardening? Because if that’s the case, then yes, I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately. If they mean sex, they might be getting me confused with somebody else. But if pussy means wearing old-man sweaters and watering my herb garden, then absolutely, I’m getting so much pussy.
You are aware that you’re a sex symbol, right? Some might even call you a DwILF.
DwILF, as in Dwarf I’d Like to Fuck? That’s very clever. Honestly, I think there’s an irony in all of this. I take it with a grain of salt. They’ll say, “Oh, he’s sexy,” but women still go for guys who are six-foot-two. It’s nice that people are thinking outside the box, but I don’t believe any of it for a minute. We still live in a world where Paul Newman is the sex symbol standard.
We notice you have a few scars. Do any of them have interesting stories?
I have a pretty big scar that runs from my neck to my eyebrow. I was in a band called Whizzy for many years in New York. We were this punk-funk-rap band. We played a show at CBGB, and I was jumping around onstage and got accidentally kneed in the temple. 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 at the time about personal safety. We were smoking and drinking during our shows, and one time my bass player fell off the back of his amp because he passed out. It was one of those bands.
Have you stolen anything from a movie or TV set, such as your armor from Game of Thrones?
I wouldn’t want it. We’ve all been hurt from the armor so much more than saved by it. It really hurts. If you fall over while wearing that armor, you could get your throat slashed. We had a guy fall off the back of a horse, and if he hadn’t been wearing the armor, he would’ve been fine. But because he was covered from head to toe, he got banged up. It nearly killed him. That stuff is dangerous.
During your Golden Globes acceptance speech, you mentioned Martin Henderson, who was partially paralyzed during a dwarf-tossing attack in Britain. Did you ever hear from him?
No. And he doesn’t need to call me. It’s fine. The whole thing was spontaneous. The morning of the awards my wife and I were having coffee, and she saw a story about him on the internet. She’s the one who told me, “You should say something.” And I was like, “No, no, I don’t want to be one of those actors with their political causes.” But the world is kind of fucked-up, and sometimes you have to put a Band-Aid on the broken leg. My friends were less concerned with what I said than that I apparently brushed off Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on my way to the stage. When you’re in that moment and you’re about to accept an award and you have no idea what you’re going to say, you don’t notice that Brad and Angelina are reaching out to say hello. All I saw was a sea of people I needed to get through. Friends don’t care about issues like dwarf tossing. They only care about “Dude, you dissed Brangelina.”
You’re from New Jersey. Was your upbringing more like a Bruce Springsteen song or the reality show Jersey Shore?
It’s funny you mention Springsteen. I was born in Bay Head, New Jersey, and his manager lived next door to us. Bruce used to come over to his house and hang out and play guitar. This was when I was two, so I don’t remember any of it. My mom and dad went to a wedding at a surfboard factory, and Bruce was in the wedding band. He was about 17 years old at the time. My mom didn’t think he was that great. She told me he was too loud. But yeah, I liked growing up in Jersey. I was always jealous of kids who grew up in New York City. They seemed so much cooler and well-rounded. It’s like the guys who grew up with a sister. They weren’t as strange or nervous around women as the rest of us. When you grow up in the city, you have a different walk. You have this ease and confidence about you. I desperately wanted that confidence as a teenager.
You were an insecure teenager? That sounds like everybody on the planet.
I know, right? High school is a funny thing. On one hand you’re so fragile. But I thought I was William Burroughs by the age of 13, so I had this massive ego as well. Everything in high school feels like it’s life or death. Shakespeare really got it right with Romeo and Juliet. Even though in most stage versions or movies they’re played by adult actors, Romeo and Juliet were 13. I went to a pretty athletic high school, and I didn’t have many friends. I remember once talking to my best friend, and we came up with the idea that we should hang ourselves off the bell tower. “That’ll show them.” We totally had no inclination to commit real suicide at all; we just liked the idea of the whole town responding to this tragedy, how the school would mourn. Oh God, we were so dramatic.
As kids, you and your brother would perform puppet shows for your parents. Was that your first taste of—
Whoa, whoa, just hold on! That sounds like I’m Ed Gein or John Wayne Gacy.