Hervé Villechaize

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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 roles as the evil henchman Nick Nack in the 1974 James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, and as Mr. Roarke's assistant, Tattoo, on the American television series Fantasy Island that he played from 1977 to 1983. On Fantasy Island, his shout of "De plane! De plane!" became one of the show's signature phrases.[1] He died by suicide in 1993.

Hervé Villechaize
Villechaize in 1977
Born
Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize

(1943-04-23)23 April 1943
Paris, France
Died4 September 1993(1993-09-04) (aged 50)
North Hollywood, California, U.S.
Resting placeAshes spread into the Pacific Ocean
OccupationActor
Years active1966–1993 (as an actor)
Notable workNick 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)
TelevisionFantasy Island
Height3 ft 11 in (119 cm)
Spouses
Anne Sadowski
(m. 1970; div. 1979)
Camille Hagen
(m. 1980; div. 1982)

Early life

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Villechaize was born in Nazi-occupied Paris on April 23, 1943,[2] to Evelyn, an Anglo-Italian socialite who was an ambulance driver during World War II and André Villechaize, a surgeon in Toulon.[3] Villechaize also had German ancestry.[4][5] The youngest of four sons,[5] Villechaize was born with dwarfism, likely due to an endocrine disorder, which his surgeon father tried unsuccessfully to cure in several institutions.[6] In later years, he insisted on being called a "midget" rather than a "dwarf",[5] which annoyed his acting contemporary with a similar condition, Billy Barty, who was an activist who found that term derogatory.[7] 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.[8][9]

In 1964, Villechaize left France for the United States.[10] He settled in a Bohemian section of New York City, and taught himself English by watching television.[9]

Career

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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.[citation needed]

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.[11] 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 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.

In 1980, Cleveland International Records released a single by the Children of the World, featuring Villechaize as vocalist: "Why", with B-side "When a Child Is Born".[12]

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.[13] For its final season from '83-'84, Villechaize was replaced by Christopher Hewett, best known for his lead role in the sitcom Mr. Belvedere.

Villechaize also 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 [es]. His final appearance was a cameo as himself in an episode of The Ben Stiller Show.

Personal life and death

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In the mid-1970s, Villechaize met actress Susan Tyrrell. According to Tyrell, they had a two-year relationship and shared a home in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles.[14]

Villechaize married twice. He married his first wife, artist Anne Sadowski, in 1970. After years of reported serial infidelities, as well as painful ridicule over their height difference, they divorced in 1978/1979 (conflicting sources).[5][1] He met his second wife, Camille Hagen, an actress and stand-in double, in 1977 on the set of the pilot for Fantasy Island.[5] They married in 1980 and Hagen filed for divorce 15 months later. During their marriage, 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.[5]

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.[15]

Villechaize left a suicide note saying he was despondent over longtime health problems.[1] 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.[15] He also left an audio recording of the suicide that included his last words.[16]

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 pre-production at the time. Villechaize would have voiced Space Ghost's sidekick on the show.[17]

Depictions in media

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Sacha Gervasi spent several years writing a script about Villechaize. Gervasi conducted a lengthy interview with Villechaize just prior to his suicide.[18] The film My Dinner with Hervé,[19] which is based on the last few days of Villechaize's life, stars Peter Dinklage in the title role,[20] and premiered on HBO on October 20, 2018.[6][21]

Filmography

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Hervé Villechaize filmography
Film
Year Title Role Notes
1966 Chappaqua Little Person Uncredited
1970 Maidstone
1971 The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight Beppo
1972 The Last Stop Deputy
Greaser's Palace Mr. Spitunia
1973 Malatesta's Carnival of Blood Bobo
1974 Seizure The Spider
Crazy Joe Samson
The Man with the Golden Gun Nick Nack
1977 Hot Tomorrows Alberict
1978 The One and Only Milton Miller
1980 Forbidden Zone King Fausto of the Sixth Dimension
1982 Airplane II: The Sequel Little Breather
1988 The Telephone Freeway Voice
Two Moon Junction Smiley
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1977–1983 Fantasy Island Tattoo 130 episodes; 2 TV films
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
Phil Donahue Show Himself Famous Past Celebrities

References

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  1. ^ a b "Herve Villechaize; Actor, 50, Commits Suicide at His Home". The New York Times. September 5, 1993.
  2. ^ "Hervé Villechaize Biography". Biography.com. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  3. ^ "The True Story Behind My Dinner with Hervé". October 19, 2018.
  4. ^ "Exclusive: Peter Dinklage talks Hervé Villechaize movie, addresses casting controversy". Entertainment Weekly.
  5. ^ a b c d e f 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.
  6. ^ a b Mangan, Lucy (October 22, 2018). "My Dinner with Hervé review – a glorious and tragic romp in 90s Lalaland". The Guardian. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  7. ^ Evanier, Mark (January 19, 2001). "POV Victor & Billy". Comics Buyer's Guide – via News from ME.
  8. ^ Rose, David (November 28, 2006). They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781416545040.
  9. ^ a b Miller, Julie (October 19, 2018). "The Tragic, Beautiful True Story Behind Peter Dinklage's My Dinner with Hervé". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  10. ^ Adelson, Betty (2005). The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation. Rutgers University Press. p. 251. ISBN 9780813535487.
  11. ^ IMDB (n.d.). "Item 72-D: The Adventures of Spa and Fon". USA: IMDB. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  12. ^ "Children Of The World (2) – Why". Discogs. 1980. Archived from the original on February 28, 2021. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  13. ^ Paul Gaita (September 11, 2021). "Fantasy Island Actors you may not Know Passed Away". Looper. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  14. ^ Garcia, Chris (September 24, 2012). "A life of blows and disappointments can't bow Susan Tyrrell". Austin 360. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  15. ^ a b Wilkins, Frank. "The Suicide of Herve Villechaize – Tattoo". Reel Reviews. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  16. ^ "'Fantasy Island' Star Hervé Villechaize Made Recording Of His Own Suicide". Radar Online. October 31, 2018.
  17. ^ "Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The Second Pilot". C4vct.com. Archived from the original on February 9, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  18. ^ Kois, Dan (March 29, 2012). "Peter Dinklage Was Smart to Say No". The New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ "Sacha Gervasi — Peter Dinklage: 'Herve Villechaize Biopic Is Based On Director's Final Interview'". Contact Music. April 19, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
  21. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth (May 9, 2017). "Peter Dinklage and Jamie Dornan Team Up for HBO Film". Variety. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
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