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A star unlike any other at the time, Hervé Villechaize was a man with dwarfism who overcame a turbulent past to become a 1970s breakout actor of TV’s Fantasy Island and the Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun. He’s, perhaps, best known for the catchphrase, “De plane! De plane!,” heard each week on the ABC series. By the end of the 1980s, the actor faded into obscurity, only to die by suicide at the age of 50 in 1993.
Villechaize’s final days leading up to his death are chronicled in the new HBO film My Dinner With Hervé, which is based on writer-director Sacha Gervasi’s own accounts with the actor during a newspaper interview that spanned several days in Los Angeles. “He was telling some random stranger his whole life story,” Gervasi recalls to ET, describing the whole experience as “surreal.” Later, he realized those interactions were the actor’s suicide note.
Slated to debut Saturday, Oct. 20, ET has the exclusive first look at the trailer for the film, which stars Emmy winner Peter Dinklage as Villechaize and Jamie Dornan as the journalist tasked with interviewing him for a puff piece.
Making a total transformation for the film, Dinklage delivers a stunning and, at times, an unrecognizable performance as Villechaize, seen both in the present day at 50 years old and in flashbacks at various stages of his life in France, New York and at the height of his success in Hollywood.
Careful not to make Dinklage look like he’s trying to do an impersonation onscreen, the director says the actor “channeled his version of Hervé,” bringing as much detail as he could without making him feel like a caricature. And when it came to finally filming -- after nearly 15 years of trying to get the movie made -- the director says that it was “sheer joy” watching Dinklage perform. “You know, when you really prepared well for something like Peter did for this, we were just in the pocket. He was extraordinary.”
Gervasi also commends Dornan for bringing a level of “power, rawness and truth” to his role as Danny, something that the director says will surprise many fans who mostly know him for the Fifty Shades franchise.
In fact, the film as a whole is full of surprises. Through Villechaize’s own words, audiences are taken on an unexpected and revealing journey about a person who was so much more than a popular catchphrase.