'He wasn't Filipino': Game of Thrones star rubbishes 'whitewashing' claims
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'He wasn't Filipino': Game of Thrones star rubbishes 'whitewashing' claims

Peter Dinklage has defended himself against a "whitewashing" backlash over his latest role, saying his critics have used incorrect information from Wikipedia as the basis for their claims.

The Game of Thrones star is playing late Fantasy Island actor Hervé Villechaize in an upcoming HBO biopic, My Dinner with Hervé.

Villechaize, who was born with dwarfism, died by suicide in 1993, aged 50, following prolonged health problems and a stalled career.

When HBO announced the project last July, critics online took umbrage with Dinklage's casting, accusing the broadcaster of promoting "yellowface", as Villechaize had long-been described as being "half-Filipino".

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Peter Dinklage has rubbished "whitewashing" concerns over his latest role.

Peter Dinklage has rubbished "whitewashing" concerns over his latest role.Credit:The Age

But, in a new interview with EW, Dinklage rubbished the claims.

"Hervé wasn't Filipino... I've met his brother and other members of his family. He was French, and of German and English descent. So it's strange these people are saying he's Filipino. They kind of don't have any information," Dinklage said.

The actor traced the confusion to a claim long listed on Villechaize's Wikipedia page, and assumptions based on his most famous roles.

Peter Dinklage as Hervé Villechaize, with Jamie Dornan.

Peter Dinklage as Hervé Villechaize, with Jamie Dornan.Credit:HBO

"It says [Villechaize was half-Filipino] on Wikipedia. Family members can't change information on there. My daughter's name was 'Zelig' on Wikipedia for a long time. Her name is not Zelig. I don't know who is able to put information up, but there are so many things on there that aren't true," he said.

"Maybe people were thinking of The Man with the Golden Gun, which was shot in Southeast Asia, and Fantasy Island, where he's on an island, and that, compounded with how he looked, made some think he must be from that part of the world," said Dinklage.

"Everybody I met – his brother, his girlfriend, people who worked with him – said he was 'so proud'. If [being Filipino] was part of his heritage he would have been very proud of that."

Hollywood has been stung by a string of "whitewashing" backlashes in recent years, and questions over its representation of minorities, including last year's Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson and Disney's upcoming Aladdin remake.

While explaining he was sensitive to the "sense of justice" the film's online detractors displayed in questioning his casting, Dinklage noted the absurdity of the discussion.

Hervé Villechaize in Fantasy Island in 1978.

Hervé Villechaize in Fantasy Island in 1978.Credit:ABC

"These people think they're doing the right thing politically and morally and it's actually getting flipped because what they're doing is judging and assuming what [Villechaize] is ethnically, based on his looks alone," he told EW.

"He has a very unique face and people have to be very careful about this stuff. This [movie] isn't Breakfast at Tiffany's. Personally, I would never do that, and I haven't done that, because he wasn't. People are jumping to conclusions based on a man's appearance alone and that saddens me...

"Herve would be laughing at this right now, and part of me is too. But when I start to be accused of things that are not truthful and not real, that's when you want to say, 'Okay, calm down.'"

Dinklage, 49, who like Villechaize was born with dwarfism, also told the publication he was "cynical" about the opportunities afforded to dwarf actors since Villechaize's heyday.

"Not to get too political about it, but it's a stereotype that still exists. Dwarf tossing still exists. There are still people of my size dressing up like elves at Christmas time. And if everybody continues to do that, then it won't stop," he said.

"It's tricky what we put out there, to perpetuate for future generations."

Dinklage, who will reprise his role as Tyrion Lannister in next year's final Game of Thrones season, will also be seen in the upcoming sci-fi film I Think We're Alone Now, from The Handmaid's Tale's Emmy-winning director Reed Morano.

Rob Moran is an Entertainment reporter for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times.