Most people know that Hollywood is full of short people. You can't tell how tall someone is on screen. There are all sorts of tricks to make people appear taller on camera (like surrounding them by other short people, for example). Let's look at some of the most successful and influential actors and under 5'9″ tall…
Love him or hate him, Tom Cruise is one of the most legendary actors of our time. From Rain Man to the epic Mission: Impossible franchise, there isn’t a genre in which he hasn’t delivered a captivating (even Oscar-worthy) performance.
At a humble 5’7”, Tom Cruise is somehow larger than life. I think his success is do in part to the intensity that he brings to the screen. This energy seems to be an inherent part of his character, but you can tell that he works hard too.
After all, he does a lot of his own stunts, which is pretty badass. Of course, he does occasionally partner with a stunt double.
For example, in that opening scene of Mission: Impossible 2 he had some help from legendary rock climber Ron Kauk, who is only an inch or so taller.
Short and slender, Wood made a name for himself at a young age when he appeared (briefly) in Back to the Future Part II. Shortly thereafter, he established himself as an emotional, versatile actor through his roles in Radio Flyer, The Good Son, and The War (which, by the way, is an amazing movie that didn’t get nearly enough attention at the box office).
In 2001, when Wood was 20 years old, he catapulted to super-stardom after portraying the lovable Frodo in the first installment of what would become one of the most epic film trilogies of all time.
Since LOTR, Wood has been in some awesome movies. After all, he has enough money to do whatever he wants, so he doesn’t exactly have to chase the blockbusters anymore. If you want to see the grittier side of Elijah Wood, check out Green Street Hooligans, the brutal tale of soccer gang rivalries in England.
Wood is also a funny dude. If you don’t believe me, check out his new show Wilfred. Fair warning: you’ll either love it or hate it.
An award-winning author, comedian, actor, writer, director and musician, Woody Allen is one of the most talented entertainers and creative minds of the century. He stands five feet and five inches tall and weighs less than 150 pounds, so he's a pretty small guy.
Allen has said a lot of quotable things, but one of my favorite lines of his is:
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
It's so true. Just show up. Make sure you're on time and looking sharp, and you will get far. But don't take my word for it. Take Woody's. After all, he has won four Oscars, two Golden globes and nine BAFTAs.
What comes to mind when you think of Al Pacino? Is it the fact that he's 5'7″ tall? Or do you picture a pissed-off, blood-covered Tony Montana letting loose with a machine gun? Yeah…me too.
Al Pacino has played some of the most hardcore characters in some of the most dramatic films ever made. The crazy thing is, he actually has a lot in common with these characters that he portrayed so masterfully.
Pacino grew up in a broken family in the bad part of NYC. He was drinking and smoking at a very young age, and he apparently didn't shy away from a fight. He dropped out of high school at age 17 and worked odd jobs to finance his acting lessons.
So, even as a little kid in the ghetto, he didn't let his size hold him back. He worked hard and fought (literally) his way to success. Let Al Pacino be an example of how a short man – or any man – can overcome the odds and achieve great things.
Ben Stiller is a hilarious actor and director. He parents were both established comedians, so it was pretty much inevitable that he was going to be a funny man.
He got his big break with There's Something About Mary in 1998, and it was all uphill from there.
Stiller is only 5'8″ tall, but he stays in great shape. He's been side by side with Tom Cruise in a few short spoofs, and he definitely holds his own when it comes to “jackedness”.
Ben's willingness to use slap-stick, self-deprecating style of humor has worked out well for him. About his commitment to acting and making people laugh, he has said:
“I'm always willing to endure humiliation on behalf of my characters.”
Being a shorter man, I think this sort of “roll with the punches” mentality goes a long way. You should expect someone, at some point, to make fun of you. Whether it's about your height or something else. Your power comes from how you react, and Ben Stiller has mastered that.
Michael J. Fox
Fox is cool for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, he rode a hoverboard in Back to the Future Part II, a scene which, to this day, makes me resentful that we don't have real hoverboards yet.
Second, he became a heartthrob actor, producer, activist and philanthropist despite being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease more than two decades ago.
These days, Michael J. Fox puts a lot of energy in to his foundation for Parkinson's research, although he still does some acting (like unexpected and often hilarious appearances on Saturday Night Live, Rescue Me and Curb Your Enthusiasm).
Most people, however, will remember Fox for his starring roles in the classic films like Teen Wolf, Back to the Future, Doc Hollywood and Stuart Little.
Some people love him for Jaws, some respect him for Mr. Holland's Opus, and others just want to watch What About Bob on repeat. Regardless, most of us generally agree that Richard Dreyfuss is an outstanding actor.
At 5'5″ he is one of the shortest actors on our list. This didn't stop him from winning an Oscar for Best Actor, along with a Golden Globe and BAFTA Award.
Dreyfuss is also a political activist, public speaker, author and academic. He has battled bipolar disorder for a long time, but he clearly didn't let this or any other physical or mental conditions stop him.
Obviously, these are just a handful of the famous short actors we've grown to love over the years. Perhaps I'll add more to the list or write another post featuring some younger and up-and-coming actors.
Until then, I hope this list inspires you to get out there and do great things.
Want more? Check out part two of this series – Famous Short Men, Part 2: Rockstars.
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