A recent comment on my "Caine Mutiny" review got me to thinking about short movie stars.
It's no secret that a lot of male movie stars are on the short side. Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze and Mel Gibson are among those pointed to as being on the smallish side -- beyond guys like Billy Crystal and Michael J. Fox, who are known to be quite little. But actors who portray heroic characters or action-oriented characters often end up being shorter than their oversized personas.
I think there's several things going on with this phenomenon:
- Most men lie about their height anyway, adding 1/2" to 1". Usually they're giving their height while wearing shoes, or just outright fibbing.
- For whatever reason, people want to think of heroes as being big guys. The hero myth is not a short guy with a pot belly -- it's tall, lean, nearly always dark-haired (but that's another blog post).
- When you're dealing with stars and the hype machines studios surrounding them, every little detail of information is controlled. So they'll add an inch or two to a star's bio.
- Most women, even the most modern, liberated ones, want to look up to their romantic ideal. People think it's funny when the male half of a couple is shorter than the female.
I've interviewed a few famous people, but nearly always on the phone. Still, I have a few confirmed celeb height sightings.
In the late 1980s or early 1990s, I ran into Roy Scheider at a movie theater in Orlando. He was filming that SeaQuest show at the time. I had always thought of Scheider as being a tall, rawboned guy -- perhaps because he often seemed to star with pipsqueaks like Dustin Hoffman and Richard Dreyfuss. Anyway, I sat right next to him and when we stood up at the end of the show, I was surprised to be staring him dead in the eye. So he was actually around average height.
I interviewed Haley Joel Osment last year or the year before; he's about 5'6".
Interviewed David Thewlis last fall. He's thin as a beanpole and very tall, probably 6'3"-ish.
Interviewed Phil Collins for the movie "Brother Bear," which he did the music for. He was tiny.
Met David Ogden Stiers while doing story on "Lilo & Stitch" -- huge guy, John Wayne territory.
I think there's also a certain amount of exaggeration going on when it comes to public sightings of movie stars -- in the opposite direction. People will say an actor who's 5'9" is really small, when in fact that's right about average.
Incidentally, when I said that all men lie about their height, I meant myself as well. Except it turns out I was mistaken. I'd always said I was 5'10", when in fact I thought I was 5'9" or 5'9.5". I just hadn't been measured since I was a teen. Anyway, I had a doctor's appointment a few months ago where they measured me, and I came up exactly 70 inches (without shoes). But still, I thought I was shorter than that, so I believed I was lying, even though it turns out I was accurate. So, all men lie about their height.
Guess I'll have to start saying I'm 5'11" or even 6 foot. Why not? The stars do it...