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Peter Dinklage is ‘Game’ for anything, like tackling his first voiceover role for ‘Ice Age’
Peter Dinklage sounds animated when he talks about mixing things up.
“I just like doing new things,” the 43-year-old Golden Globe winner says. “As an actor, you like to challenge yourself and try to convey things that you haven’t done before.”
This week, he unveils his newest challenge. Dinklage tries his hand at his first voiceover role in “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” opening Friday. The 20th Century Fox animated release is just the latest project for the hardworking actor, who won the Supporting Actor Golden Globe last January for his compelling performance as Tyrion Lannister on “Game of Thrones.”
Dinklage says he enjoyed the first “Ice Age” movie and is pleased to be on the team now for the fourth installment. He says he’s been a fan of animated films, including “Spirited Away” and other movies.
“I think it’s really neat that [in] animation now, they’re using people that you wouldn’t expect, and it has really good results,” he says. “I wonder how they think of these actors for all these different parts.”
Moving from the HBO series to the “Ice Age” franchise is just the latest project in his varied career, which gained momentum with his breakout performance in 2003′s “The Station Agent.” Dinklage says the animated genre gave him the freedom to step outside of his comfort zone and do things he’s unaccustomed to — “like, you know, yelling.”
In the film, Dinklage voices a menacing orangutan named Captain Gutt, a gruff pirate. He’s the foil to Ray Romano’s Manny, a woolly mammoth who staunchly refuses to kowtow to Gutt’s demanding orders.
Dinklage says he prepared by doing a lot of hollering at home, something the soft-spoken actor is not accustomed to.
“I don’t really raise my voice above this pitch,” he says with a laugh. “It’s part of why I like being an actor. In real life, I’m not very confrontational at all, so because I don’t like to be yelled at, I therefore don’t yell. You know, one of those do-unto-others things.”
To prepare for his recording sessions, he says, he also learned how to treat his voice well. “You make sure you don’t stay out too late the night before,” he says, “because then your voice will give way, like a sore muscle. It will go away if you’re talking too much.”
To hear Dinklage tell it, his latest movie is just the latest example of his simple strategy for success: picking material he appreciates.
“I always just went after scripts that I liked and the rest sort of followed,” Dinklage says. “To create success for yourself, you have to be happy at the end of the day with what you’ve done. And I’ve always tried to do that.”
Born in Morristown, N.J., Dinklage studied acting at Bennington College before moving to New York in 1991. Four years later, he landed a role in the 1995 Steve Buscemi comedy, “Living in Oblivion.” In that satire of indie filmmaking, Dinklage played a dwarf actor tired of being typecast.
But attention really came his way with “The Station Agent,” where Dinklage plays a shy hobby store employee and train-depot owner who draws together several characters. They included a lovely local librarian (Michelle Williams) and a melancholy artist (Patricia Clarkson). The film, a winner of several indie film fest awards, was his ticket to the major leagues after nearly a decade of minor roles in film and TV.
Since then, he’s transcended roles that confine him to references about his height — Dinklage is 4-foot-5 — and costumes that don’t treat the dwarf community with respect.
“It’s funny, because I never see that,” he said of being called a pioneer in Hollywood. “As an actor, I just like to play juicy roles and that’s secondary. I mean, it’s very nice when people approach me, but it’s not the reason why I do what I do.
“That responsibility should be put on some people who are actually making decisions or policies like politicians, not for an actor who just wants to work and pay the bills.”
It’s Dinklage’s self-effacing demeanor that’s made him such a favorite among filmgoers, but it’s his passion for the craft that has turned his portrayals, especially on “Game of Thrones,” into must-sees.
With his “Game of Thrones” character in mind, Dinklage initially thought he would be using a British accent to play Gutt in the latest “Ice Age” movie.
“But it ultimately ended up being something different,” he says. “It was low and gravelly and just the kind of voice you’d need to command a pirate ship.”