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Villechaize in 1977
Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize|
23 April 1943
4 September 1993 (aged 50)|
North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide by shooting|
|Resting place||Ashes sprinkled into the Pacific Ocean|
Nick Nack in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) |
Spider in Seizure (1974)
King Fausto in Forbidden Zone (1980)
Smiley in Two Moon Junction (1988)
|Height||3 ft 11 in (119 cm)|
(m. 1970; div. 1979)
(m. 1980; div. 1982)
André Villechaize (father) |
Evelyn Recchionni (mother)
Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize (French: [ɛʁve vilʃɛz]; April 23, 1943 – September 4, 1993) was a French-born actor and painter who achieved worldwide recognition for various roles including that of the evil henchman Nick Nack in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), as well as Mr. Roarke's assistant, Tattoo, on the television series Fantasy Island (1977–1984). On Fantasy Island, he was well known for delivering the line "De plane! De plane!"
Villechaize suffered from proportionate dwarfism, likely due to an endocrine disorder, despite his surgeon father's attempts to cure the disease in several institutions. In later years, he insisted on being called a "midget" rather than a "dwarf".
Villechaize was born and raised in Paris, France to English-born Evelyn (Recchionni) and André Villechaize, a surgeon in Toulon. The youngest of four sons, Villechaize was bullied at school for his condition and found solace in painting. He also had a brief modeling career. In 1959, at age 16, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts to study art. In 1961, he became the youngest artist ever to have his work displayed in the Museum of Paris.
In 1964 he left France for the United States. He settled in a Bohemian section of New York City, taught himself English by watching television.
Villechaize initially worked as an artist, painter and photographer. He began acting in Off Broadway productions, including The Young Master Dante by Werner Liepolt and a play by Sam Shepard, and he also modeled for photos for National Lampoon before moving on to film.
His first movie appearance was in Chappaqua (1966). The second film was Edward Summer's Item 72-D: The Adventures of Spa and Fon filmed in 1969. This was followed by several films including Christopher Speeth's and Werner Liepolt's Malatesta's Carnival of Blood; Crazy Joe; Oliver Stone's first film, Seizure; The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight; and Forbidden Zone (1980). He was asked to play a role in the film Dune, which had originally begun pre-production in 1971; however, the project was cancelled.
His big break was getting cast in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), by which time he had become so poor he was living out of his car in Los Angeles. Prior to being signed up by Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, he made ends meet by working as a rat catcher's assistant near his South Central home. From what his co-actor Christopher Lee saw, The Man with the Golden Gun filming was possibly the happiest time of Villechaize's life: Lee likened it to honey in the sandwich between an insecure past and an uncertain future. In addition to being an actor, Villechaize became an active member of a movement in 1970s and 1980s California to deal with child abuse and neglect, often going to crime scenes himself to help comfort abuse victims. Villechaize's former co-workers recalled that despite his stature, he would often confront and chastise spousal and child abusers when he arrived at crime scenes. In the 1970s, on Sesame Street, Villechaize performed Oscar the Grouch as a pair of legs peeping out from a trash can, for scenes which required the Grouch to be mobile. These appearances began in the second season and included the 1978 Hawaii episodes.
Though popular with the public, Villechaize proved a difficult actor on Fantasy Island, where he continually propositioned women and quarreled with the producers. He was eventually fired after demanding a salary on a par with that of his co-star Ricardo Montalbán. Villechaize was replaced with Christopher Hewett, of Mr. Belvedere and The Producers fame.
He starred in the movie Forbidden Zone (1980), and appeared in Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), and episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and Taxi. He later played the role of the character Rumpelstiltskin in the Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre episode Rumpelstiltskin.
Personal life and death
Villechaize was married twice. He met his second wife Camille Hagen, an actress and stand-in double, on the set of the pilot for Fantasy Island. They resided at a 1.5-acre (0.61 ha) San Fernando Valley ranch which also was home to a menagerie of farm animals and pets.
In 1983, for a television program That Teen Show which included messages directed at depressed and suicide-prone teenagers, Haywood Nelson, star of the sitcom What's Happening!!, interviewed Villechaize about his many suicide attempts. Villechaize said then that he had learned to love life.
In the early morning hours of September 4, 1993, Villechaize is believed to have first fired a shot through the sliding glass patio door in order to awaken his longtime girlfriend, Kathy Self, before shooting himself at his North Hollywood home. Self found Villechaize in his backyard, and he was pronounced dead at a North Hollywood facility. Villechaize left a suicide note saying he was despondent over longtime health problems. Villechaize was suffering from chronic pain due to having normal-sized internal organs putting increasing pressure on his small body. According to Self, Villechaize often slept in a kneeling position so he could breathe more easily.
At the time of his suicide, Cartoon Network was in negotiations for him to co-star in Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which was in pre-production at the time. Villechaize would have voiced Space Ghost's sidekick on the show.
Legacy, tributes and depictions
In a March 2012 New York Times interview, Peter Dinklage revealed that he and Sacha Gervasi spent several years writing a script about Villechaize. Gervasi, a director and journalist, conducted a lengthy interview with Villechaize just prior to his suicide; according to Dinklage, "[a]fter he killed himself, Sacha realized Hervé's interview was a suicide note". The film, My Dinner with Hervé, is based on the last few days of Villechaize's life, and will star Dinklage in the title role. The film will be on HBO.
- Chappaqua (1966) as Little Person (uncredited)
- Maidstone (1970)
- The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971) as Beppo
- The Last Stop (1972) as Deputy
- Greaser's Palace (1972) as Mr. Spitunia
- Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973) as Bobo
- Seizure (1974) as The Spider
- Crazy Joe (1974) as Samson
- The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) as Nick Nack
- Hot Tomorrows (1977) as Alberict
- Fantasy Island (TV series, 1977–1983) as Tattoo
- The One and Only (1978) as Milton Miller
- Forbidden Zone (1980) as King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension
- Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) as Little Breather
- The Telephone (1988) as Freeway (voice)
- Two Moon Junction (1988) as Smiley
- Evanier, Mark (2001-01-19). "Victor & Billy". News From ME. Comics Buyer's Guide; republished at newsfromme.com.
- Jackovich, Karen G. (October 13, 1980). "Tattoo and His Bride Begin Their Marriage with a Plea: 'We Are as Normal as Anyone'". Retrieved August 31, 2018.
- Adelson, Betty (2005). The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation. Rutgers University Press. p. 251. ISBN 9780813535487.
- IMDB (n.d.). "Item 72-D: The Adventures of Spa and Fon". USA: IMDB. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- "Documondo Film". 5mtl.com. Archived from the original on 2010-06-14. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Wilkins, Frank. "The Suicide of Herve Villechaize - Tattoo". Reel Reviews. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- "Herve Villechaize; Actor, 50, Commits Suicide at His Home". The New York Times. September 5, 1993.
- "Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The Second Pilot". C4vct.com. Archived from the original on 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Kois, Dan (2012-03-29). "Peter Dinklage Was Smart to Say No". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- "James McAvoy Reading Sacha Gervasi's 'My Dinner With Hervé'". The Playlist. 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- "Sacha Gervasi — Peter Dinklage: 'Herve Villechaize Biopic Is Based On Director's Final Interview'". Contact Music. 2013-04-19. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Wagmeister, Elizabeth (May 9, 2017). "Peter Dinklage and Jamie Dornan Team Up for HBO Film". Variety. Retrieved May 10, 2017.