Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On short movie stars

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.
The result is all sorts of efforts to create the illusion that actors are taller than they really are. A lot of them wear special shoes, even when they're not on-set, that add a few inches. Tall extras have a harder time finding work in Hollywood, because smaller ones are preferred to make the stars seem bigger. They will even build platforms for the star to stand on or dig trenches for the co-star to walk in.

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...

1 comment:

  1. If male movie stars are too tall, it's hard to get their female companions in the same frame for close-up conversations.