Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Ryan Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Frost
Mini-Me in the Austin Powers Films
Currently Known For:
1999 - Present
January 1, 1969
Mini-Me in the Austin Powers Films
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“Me being able to beat up Austin Powers? I mean, how great can that be?” Proving that dynamite comes in small packages, Verne Troyer may stand only at 2’8” tall but he’s certainly packed a punch over the last two decades as an actor, stunt actor and comedian. Getting his start in 1990s films like Baby’s Day Out, Jingle All the Way, Men in Black, RocketMan, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Troyer is perhaps best known for playing Mini-Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember. He’s also starred in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Pauly Shore is Dead and The Love Guru with his most recent credits coming in 2015 flicks like Trailer Park Boys: Drunk, High and Unemployed: Live in Austin and Gnome Alone. So, how did the 48-year-old end up as one of Hollywood’s favorite dwarfs? Let’s find out!
One of three children raised by a factory worker and a repair technician, Verne Troyer came into this world on January 1, 1969 in Sturgis, Michigan where doctors diagnosed him with a rare genetic-based disorder known as cartilage-hair hypoplasia dwarfism. Despite his diagnosis, his parents refused to treat their son like he was different and made him do the same chores as his siblings as he learned to carry wood and feed the farm animals. “My parents raised me to be very independent and taught me that I can do anything I want to,” Troyer said of his childhood. “I have an average-sized brother and an average-sized sister and I had to do everything they had to… We had a mid-sized farm in Michigan, so we had to feed the cows and feed the pigs, help put the hay down. There was a lot of picking up wood and cutting down trees. It was real country.”
Although he loved working on the family farm, Troyer dreamed of becoming an entertainer but put those dreams on hold to take a job at the local telephone company in Michigan after graduating from high school in 1987. A few years later, everything changed as Troyer’s dreams of performing seemed closer than ever. “I had just turned 21 years old and I was laid off at my job in Michigan, which was working as a telephone company operator,” Troyer recalled. “My brother was in the midst of transferring his job down to Texas, so because I didn’t have anything going on, I went with him. I lived there for ten years.”
Taking a job as a customer service representative for Sprint, Troyer settled down in Texas when his friend, the president of Little People of America, received a phone call from the producers of a new comedy film titled Baby’s Day Out. Looking for a stunt double to stand-in for the main character, Troyer flew to Hollywood for the audition and was hired two days later. Quitting his job at Sprint, he made his film debut as a nine-month old infant’s stunt double in the 1993 comedy Baby’s Day Out. Afterward, he became a well-known name in the industry as he starred as Little Santa in Jingle All the Way in 1996, stood in as Pinocchio’s double in Pinocchio’s Revenge in 1996, and played a midget wrestler in My Giant and Baby Joe in Mighty Joe Young in 1998.
In 1999, Troyer’s acting career changed for the better when he landed his breakthrough role as Mini-Me in the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Cast as the mini clone of Dr. Evil, the film made Troyer an instant star and a household name as he and Myers proved their chemistry both on and off the screen. “Me and Mike Myers had great chemistry between us,” Troyer said. “He improvises a lot and when he improvises, you have to do it too. You have to be quick on your feet. Mini-Me was an important role for me, it put me where I am now.”
With Austin Powers putting Troyer on the map in Hollywood, he went on to appear in How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Bubble Boy before he was cast as Griphook in the popular film franchise, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which grossed over $974 million at box offices worldwide. In 2002, he reprised his role as Mini-Me in Austin Powers in Goldmember, which was just as successful as the first film. He went on to appear as himself in Pauly Shore is Dead in 2003 before taking a break from the silver screen to focus his attention on television as he appeared in The Surreal Life, Bo! In the USA, and The Girls Next Door.
Joining his Austin Powers costar Mike Myers for The Love Guru in 2008, the film wasn’t a huge hit but kept Troyer in the spotlight as he made the rounds appearing at a variety of events. He was a guest commentator on The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest and was even a guest host on WWE Raw. He then dabbled in reality television with appearances on Through the Keyhole, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Celebrity Wife Swap. In 2014, he teamed up with National Geographic to launch Incredibly Small World, which showcases dwarfs around the world and their incredible lives. “I thought it was a great idea—going into the lives of so many different little people and seeing how they lived,” Troyer said of the series. “Basically showing the world how independent we are and also the struggles that we have in the outside world…”
Attributing his success to both his size and his talent, the 48-year-old has worked to prove he lives a normal life and was even a hot topic of scandal in June 2008 when a leaked sex tape revealed Troyer and his girlfriend, Ranae Shrider, having sex. Although Troyer later sued TMZ for copyright infringement and invasion of privacy, the media had already blasted the story, which brought Troyer some unwanted attention. Since then, Troyer hasn’t appeared in any other sex tapes (thank goodness) and is happily releasing videos of his own on his YouTube channel, but promises nothing too risqué especially now that he’s settled down with his girlfriend, actress Brittney Powell, and her son, Tyson.