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Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize
23 April 1943
|Died||4 September 1993 (aged 50)|
North Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Ashes spread into the Pacific Ocean|
|Notable work||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)
Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize (French: [ɛʁve vilʃɛz]; April 23, 1943 – September 4, 1993) was a French actor and painter. He is best known for his role as the evil henchman Nick Nack in the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, and his role as Mr. Roarke's assistant, Tattoo, on the 1977–1984 American television series Fantasy Island. On Fantasy Island, his shout of "The plane! The plane!" became one of the show's signature phrases.
Villechaize was born in Nazi-occupied Paris, France, on April 23, 1943, to English-born Evelyn (Recchionni) and André Villechaize, a surgeon in Toulon. The youngest of four sons, Villechaize was born with dwarfism, likely due to an endocrine disorder, which his surgeon father tried unsuccessfully to cure in several institutions. In later years, he insisted on being called a "midget" rather than a "dwarf", which annoyed his acting contemporary with a similar condition, Billy Barty, who was an activist who found that term derogatory. Villechaize was bullied at school for his condition and found solace in painting. 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.
Villechaize initially worked as an artist, painter, and photographer. He began acting in Off-Broadway productions, including Werner Liepolt's The Young Master Dante and a play by Sam Shepard, and he also modelled for photos for National Lampoon before moving on to film.
His first film appearance was in Chappaqua (1966). His 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 The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971); Christopher Speeth and Werner Liepolt's Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973); Crazy Joe (1974); and Oliver Stone's first film, Seizure (1974). He was asked to play a role in Alejandro Jodorowsky's film Dune, which had originally begun pre-production in 1971, but was later cancelled.
His big break was getting cast in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), by which time he had become so poor that he was living in his car in Los Angeles. Prior to being signed 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-star 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 often confronted and chastised spousal and child abusers when he arrived at crime scenes.
In the 1970s, Villechaize performed Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street as a pair of legs peeping out from Oscar's trash can, for scenes that required Oscar to be mobile. These appearances began in the third 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 par with that of his co-star Ricardo Montalbán. Villechaize was replaced by Christopher Hewett.
Villechaize 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 title role in the "Rumpelstiltskin" episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre. In the 1980s, he became popular in Spain due to his impersonations of Prime Minister Felipe González on the television show Viaje con nosotros (Travel with Us), with showman Javier Gurruchaga. His final appearance was a cameo as himself in an episode of The Ben Stiller Show.
Personal life and death
During production of 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond star Sir Roger Moore was dismayed by Villechaize's alleged sexual proclivity, calling him a sex maniac. Moore said many decades later at a live event: "He was a very small man and he used to touch me and I used to say, 'Don't touch me. You are diseased.'" Moore followed up by adding, "I wasn't being cruel about his size; it was just that he was a sex maniac. He had a lust for ladies, unnatural."
Villechaize was married twice. He was divorced from his first wife in 1978 after eight years of marriage. 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. He had a few Hollywood friends, most notably country music singer Johnny Lee, whose concerts Villechaize would often attend in the 1980s.
In 1983, Haywood Nelson interviewed Villechaize for the television program That Teen Show—which included messages directed at depressed and suicide-prone teenagers—about his many suicide attempts. Villechaize said that he had learned to love life, even though the pain was severe and intense.
In the early morning hours of September 4, 1993, at his North Hollywood home, Villechaize, aged 50, is believed to have first fired a shot through the sliding-glass patio door to awaken his longtime girlfriend, Kathy Self, before shooting himself. Self found Villechaize in his backyard, and he was pronounced dead at the Medical Center of North Hollywood. His ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean off Point Fermin in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California.
Villechaize left a suicide note saying he was despondent over longtime health problems. He was suffering from chronic pain due to having oversized internal organs putting increasing pressure on his body. According to Self, Villechaize often slept in a kneeling position so he could breathe more easily. He also left an audio recording of the suicide that included his last words.
At the time of his death, Cartoon Network was in negotiations for him to co-star in Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which was in preproduction at the time. Villechaize would have voiced Space Ghost's sidekick on the show.
Depictions in media
In a March 2012 New York Times interview, Peter Dinklage revealed that Sacha Gervasi and he 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, "After he killed himself, Sacha realized Hervé's interview was a suicide note". The film, My Dinner with Hervé, which is based on the last few days of Villechaize's life, stars Dinklage in the title role, and premiered on HBO on October 20, 2018.
|1971||The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight||Beppo|
|1972||The Last Stop||Deputy|
|1972||Greaser's Palace||Mr. Spitunia|
|1973||Malatesta's Carnival of Blood||Bobo|
|1974||The Man with the Golden Gun||Nick Nack|
|1978||The One and Only||Milton Miller|
|1980||Forbidden Zone||King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension|
|1982||Airplane II: The Sequel||Little Breather|
|1988||Two Moon Junction||Smiley|
|1977–1984||Fantasy Island||Tattoo||132 episodes|
|1980||Taxi||himself||season 2 episode 23 Fantasy Borough|
|1982||Faerie Tale Theatre||Rumpelstiltskin|
|1992||Larry Sanders Show||Himself||Season 1 Episode 4 The Guest Host|
- "Herve Villechaize; Actor, 50, Commits Suicide at His Home". The New York Times. September 5, 1993.
- "Hervé Villechaize Biography". Biography.com. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
- 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.
- Mangan, Lucy (October 22, 2018). "My Dinner with Hervé review – a glorious and tragic romp in 90s Lalaland". The Guardian. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
- Evanier, Mark (January 19, 2001). "Victor & Billy". News From ME. Comics Buyer's Guide; republished at newsfromme.com.
- Evanier, Mark (January 19, 2001). "POV Victor & Billy". Comics Buyer's Guide. News from ME.
- Rose, David (November 28, 2006). They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781416545040.
- Miller, Julie (October 19, 2018). "The Tragic, Beautiful True Story Behind Peter Dinklage's My Dinner with Hervé". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
- 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.
- Paul Gaita (September 11, 2021). "Fantasy Island Actors you may not Know Passed Away". Looper. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
- "Children Of The World (2) – Why". Discogs. 1980. Archived from the original on February 28, 2021. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
- Garcia, Chris (September 24, 2012). "A life of blows and disappointments can't bow Susan Tyrrell". Austin 360. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- "Roger Moore: 'Fantasy Island' actor Herve Villechaize was a 'sex maniac'". torontosun. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
- Kyriazis, Stefan (November 1, 2021). "Roger Moore on 'sex maniac' Bond star Herve Villechaize: 'I asked him not to touch me'". Express.co.uk. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
- "Documondo Film". 5mtl.com. Archived from the original on June 14, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- Wilkins, Frank. "The Suicide of Herve Villechaize - Tattoo". Reel Reviews. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
- "'Fantasy Island' Star Hervé Villechaize Made Recording Of His Own Suicide". Radar Online. October 31, 2018.
- "Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The Second Pilot". C4vct.com. Archived from the original on February 9, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- Kois, Dan (March 29, 2012). "Peter Dinklage Was Smart to Say No". The New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
- "James McAvoy Reading Sacha Gervasi's 'My Dinner With Hervé'". The Playlist. April 19, 2011. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
- "Sacha Gervasi — Peter Dinklage: 'Herve Villechaize Biopic Is Based On Director's Final Interview'". Contact Music. April 19, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
- Wagmeister, Elizabeth (May 9, 2017). "Peter Dinklage and Jamie Dornan Team Up for HBO Film". Variety. Retrieved May 10, 2017.