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Disney defends its 'Snow White' remake after criticism from Peter Dinklage

Peter Dinklage attends the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater in 2019 in Los Angeles.
Matt Winkelmeyer
Getty Images
Peter Dinklage attends the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater in 2019 in Los Angeles.

Disney is on the defensive after actor Peter Dinklage criticized its plans to release a live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The studio announced in June 2021 that it had cast West Side Story breakout star Rachel Zegler as the titular character in a forthcoming remake of the 1937 film, which was Disney's first animated feature and a major box office success.

The live-action version will be directed by Marc Webb (best known for the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies) and feature Gal Gadot as the evil queen. Disney previously said that production would start in 2022.

Dinklage pushed back against the remake in an episode of the "WTF With Marc Maron" podcast that aired Monday.

The Emmy-winning Game of Thrones star, who has a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, said he was "taken aback" by the studio's celebration of casting a Latina lead even as it revisits a story with problematic representation of dwarfs.

"Take a step back and look at what you're doing there. It makes no sense to me," he said, about an hour into the 80-minute episode. "You're progressive in one way and you're still making that f***ing backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together, what the f*** are you doing, man?"

Dinklage stressed that he meant "literally no offense to anyone" and sent "all love and respect to the actress and to the people who thought they were doing the right thing." But his frustration was palpable.

"Have I done nothing to advance the cause from my soapbox?" he continued. "I guess I'm not loud enough."

He added that he would enthusiastically support a more sensitive retelling of the 85-year-old film with a "cool, progressive spin on it" but wasn't otherwise convinced.

Dinklage's comments picked up steam online, and Disney responded to his concerns in a statement reported byVariety and other outlets on Tuesday.

"To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community," a spokesperson said. "We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period."

Dinklage said on the podcast that he was not affiliated with any particular group and has expressed discomfort at the thought of speaking on behalf of other people his size in previous interviews, telling New York Times Magazinein 2012 that "every person my size has a different life, a different history."

Still, his comments about the movie gained traction on social media, with high-profile writers and activists voicing their agreement.

Dinklage, who made a name for himself with roles like a grieving man in The Station Agent and a pugnacious children's book publisher in Elf, told NPR in 2012 that he has tried to find roles that upend the stereotypical roles given to actors of his height, even if he hasn't always been successful.

"You do have to make a living," he said at the time. "I do not fault anyone else who makes choices to play characters that they wished they hadn't. ... Because at the end of the day, none of us are happy with our jobs all the time."

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.