Peter Dinklage Returns to a Romantic, if Slightly Seedy, Los Angeles in 'Pete Smalls is Dead'

 

Peter Dinklage loves his dog.

Accepting an Emmy for his work on HBO's Game of Thrones in August, he made a special point to thank the dog-sitter for watching his four-legged friend, Kevin, back in New York.

It makes it that much harder to watch a loan shark steal his character's dog, and only friend, for collateral in the new movie Pete Smalls is Dead.

Premiering in Los Angeles on Nov. 11 and available on video on demand, Pete Smalls is Dead follows a Hollywood expat named K.C. (Dinklage) back to the city he left a failure for a the supposed funeral of a friend and the promise of $10,000 -- the price on the canine's head.

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"Oh, I could completely relate," Dinklage tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Alex [Rockwell] and I are both dog lovers, we know how important they are to us."

He speaks of the director, who he'd previously collaborated with in the 2002 film 13 Moons. Dinklage originally had his eye on another character in Pete Smalls, a hapless tour guide of sorts played by Mark Boone Junior, but Rockwell wanted him for K.C.

"I'm in love with directors like Mike Leigh, who work with the actor," says Dinklage. "When you work with someone repeatedly, like I have with Alex, they end up kind of writing for you rather than the role. It doesn't happen enough... I don't think people often have the luxury of doing that."

As is evident through the course of the film, this particular role was presented with a lot of holes in it -- something he filled in himself and with help from the ensemble, which includes Tim Roth, Rosie Perez, Steve Buscemi, Theresa Wayman and his Game of Thrones co-star Lena Headey.

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"I liked that he was a bit of mystery and everybody else sort of twisted and turned around him," he says. "They explained who he was instead of he explaining himself."

Another major player in the film is Los Angeles -- not the sunny, successful side, but the corners where producers make pitches from broken-down trailers, editors go unpaid in grimy post-production suites and meals are slipped under the bulletproof glass of a bodega.

"I live in New York, so I can't help but be cynical about LA," Dinklage says, "Like I'm a scorpion and LA is a frog and it's in my nature to sting it and criticize it. But when I'm there, I really do love it and I have a real romance about it."

And though Dinklage thinks the city's greatest asset is its sunset, he's quite fond of the seedier parts as well.

"I think with movies like Alex's and poetry like [Charles] Bukowski's, there's a beauty to the downtrodden side of it," he says. "I know that's a very romantic notion, and if you are downtrodden in Los Angeles, it's not very romantic, but there's a beauty there."

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Much of Pete Smalls focuses on a rather madcap quest to retrieve reels of film, so after much financial discussion, they decided to stay true to their subject, shooting it on the more expensive Super 16.

"Although the financial aspect of shooting on high-def was appealing, we knew we couldn't do it," Dinklage says. "Unfortunately, that's usually the overriding solution, economically."

And fiscal considerations aren't the only things worrying him about his career. With fewer theatrical runs -- Pete Smalls bows at limited engagement at the Leammle in Santa Monica -- Dinklage thinks much of movies are getting lost as they're screened on different devices.

"I love the smell of popcorn in the theater and feeling transported," he says. "There's a beauty in not being able to pause something. It sort of chops up the experience. I'm a little old-fashioned when it comes to movies."

It also makes him wonder what role technology will play in his long-term career.

"Avatar was an incredible movie experience, but it was computer generated," he said, laughing. "I get a little nervous."

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