Saturday, February 12, 2011
TNT in a small package
Pint-sized Verne ‘Mini-Me’ Troyer will make his first visit to Israel in a tailor-made promotion for a children’s clothing line.
‘Put a frickin’ bell on him or something,” demanded Mike Meyers/Dr. Evil of his miniature “cloned” son Mini-Me in the 1999 Austin Powers James Bond parody The Spy Who Shagged Me.
But when Verne Troyer – the actor who played Mini-Me in the film franchise – arrives in Israel next week, he’ll likely have so many people around him that he won’t need any bells to keep from disappearing.
The pint-sized (2 ft 8 in, 0.81 m) personality is flying in for a photo shoot on behalf of TNT Kids – the popular clothing line owned by local fashion giant Honigman – with almost 60 stores around the country.
“A lot of my fan base is made up of kids, so I thought it would be cool to come and promote the line. I’ll be wearing some of the clothes, too, “ said the 42-year-old Troyer Tuesday from his Los Angeles home.
Bringing in pop culture celebrities to promote their products isn’t new to TNT. Last year’s model was Jesus Luz, Madonna’s ex-boyfriend who had accompanied her when she performed at Hayarkon Park in 2009. But Troyer, who may be small in size due to cartilage–hair hypoplasia dwarfism, is certainly huge in face recognition. Besides his highprofile Mini-Me roles, the Michigan native has appeared in dozens of other films including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Love Guru, another Meyers vehicle.
Troyer got his start in films in what some may see as a rather unorthodox position – a baby stunt double – but which he realized was an opportunity.
“I was already in my mid-20s and I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment business, but I didn’t really know how to go about it,” he said in his high pitched tenor. “But I got lucky and was hired as a stunt double for a nine-month-old baby on the 1994 John Hughes comedy Baby’s Day Out. That led to other stunt jobs and ultimately to his first small acting roles in Men in Black in 1997 and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1998.
Troyer credited his outgoing personality to his childhood in small town Michigan where, attending public school as the smallest pupil, he learned to turn his height disadvantage into an asset.
“Everybody knew everybody there, so it was fine for me,” he said. “But there were times when I got called a name or something and had to stick up for myself. Once in grade school, a kid two years younger than me called me something, and he was like a foot taller than me, but I jumped up and punched him in the nose. And he never bothered me again.”
Troyer’s self-confidence didn’t prepare him, however, for the media and public onslaught that greeted him upon the phenomenal success of The Spy Who Shagged Me and its 2001 sequel Austin Powers – Goldmember, which featured Mini-Me in an even more prominent role.
“I was really taken aback by all the attention suddenly.
I never thought anything like that would happen to me, and to this day I kind of forget about it until I go out in public. But I think it’s great. I enjoy my fans a great deal,” he said.
The spotlight has caused some glare and tabloid behavior, however, including a 2004 marriage to a model that was annulled the next day and a 2008 leaked video sex tape with his then live-in girlfriend.
Troyer didn’t try to keep a lower profile either, taking to the reality show genre as naturally as serial tabloid celebs Latoya Jackson or Danny Bonaduce. He appeared as a cast member in MTV’s Surreal Life in 2005, and in 2009 joined Celebrity Big Brother in England, where he finished in fourth place.
Having developed some thick skin to protect his underdeveloped frame, Troyer said he didn’t regret his participation in the reality shows and offered just one piece of advice for Israel’s Big Brother cast members. “Be careful! I think it can be a good experience, but be aware that the producers are going to portray you how they want you to look,” he said, adding that he would have no problem joining another show. “I know now what’s expected and what not to do.”
Troyer manifests his exhibitionist spirit these days between acting and endorsement offers by hosting his own YouTube channel, where he regularly posts video clips of himself going to charity events and doing crazy Hollywood things like riding a motorized skateboard on a golf course.
And in the back of his mind, like multitudes of fans, he may be hoping for another Austin Powers movie down the line.
“My personal opinion is that Mike wants to make another one, but being such a perfectionist, he wants it to be bigger and better, and that’s a hard thing to do,” said Troyer.
In the meantime, Troyer is in demand and looking forward to his first visit to Israel, which he calls “The Holy Land.”
“That’s the aspect of Israel I think of first and foremost. I come from a religious home, and my mom still goes to church every day. Other than that, I don’t really know what to expect. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. Especially taking off that frickin’ bell.