Hollywood actors tower above us mere mortals. Projected on giant screens in cavernous theaters, they are quite literally larger than life. These titanic figures stand tall as they embody huge moral and thematic ideas in the stories that somehow manage to unite us all in a culturally shared experience.
But some of them are actually pretty short! The Hollywood hocus pocus of CGI and effects work is discussed all the time, but it’s also a fairly routine practice to hide the fact that an actor who is supposed to seem physically imposing is actually fairly small. Flattering camera angles and apple crates have rendered many a vertically challenged actor the equivalent of an NBA point guard.
This isn’t a crime, and it’s almost certainly given us some all time great performances from men who might seem too pint-sized to properly play the roles they’re best known for. Everyone from Oscar winning thespians to tough guy action stars have needed the occasional cinematic booster seat, and we should embrace and celebrate the talents of actors who can’t quite reach the top shelf at the grocery store. They can’t all be a Hemsworth!
Let’s take a look at 15 Actors You Didn't Know Are Secretly Short.
15 Ben Stiller (5'7")
One of the most consistent comedic movie stars of the 21st century, Ben Stiller comes from a long line of undersized comedic geniuses. The Zoolander star is the son of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, who were a prominent comedy duo dating back to the '60s, and Jerry found a second wave of fame in the '90s as George Costanza’s cantankerous father on Seinfeld.
Stiller’s diminutive stature has never had an adverse effect on his career. After breaking through as the everyman romantic lead in There’s Something About Mary, Stiller has taken on roles as varied as maniacal gym owner White Goodman in Dodgeball, action star Tugg Speedman in Tropic Thunder, and more dramatic turns in director Noah Baumbach’s films Greenberg and While We’re Young.
In this shot from Zoolander 2, a combination of angles and hair poof make Stiller seem taller than his co-star Owen Wilson (5'10"). While he's got the Blue Steel down pat, he's not quite got the height of a male model.
14 Christian Slater (5’7")
There was a time when Christian Slater was poised to be the next Tom Cruise. Like that height-impaired movie star, Slater was a young, good-looking leading man who was giving strong performances in interesting films like Heathers in the late '80s.
By the early '90s, he was an A-list draw, starring in films like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Interview with the Vampire, and Tony Scott’s immortal True Romance, the latter of which earned Slater the best reviews of his career.
The '00s were less prosperous for Slater, who began toiling in the dregs of low-budget TV movies. His career ticked back up in 2015 when he was cast in Mr. Robot as the titular mysterious cyber hacker, a role that earned him a Golden Globe. In the show, it makes sense that his character would loom over Rami Malek - but that's not the case in real life, where they're of about equal height.
13 Josh Hutcherson (5’7")
Josh Hutcherson got his start as a child actor, appearing in commercials as well as in minor roles on shows like ER and House Blend. He made some low profile family films and was the motion capture actor for the Hero Boy in The Polar Express opposite Tom Hanks, but Hutcherson’s career hit another gear when he was cast as Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games films.
Hutcherson played his signature role of Peeta with a reserved grace; a decidedly less flashy (and much shorter) love interest for Jennifer Lawrence’s Katiness Everdeen than Liam Hemsworth’s Gale Hawthorne, who stands at 6'3".
Hutcherson also has some decent comedy chops, as he memorably hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, proving he was more than happy to make fun of himself for a laugh.
12 Dave Franco (5’7")
On the surface, Dave Franco might come across as just a pint-sized version of his older, more famous brother, James - who stands at 5'10". But the younger Franco has a singular, strange energy all is own, playing lovable weirdos in films like 21 Jump Street and Neighbors, as well as a role in the Now You See Me films.
Franco has largely enjoyed supporting roles up to this point in his career, but he seems to be on the verge of a breakout. He’ll be voicing the lead character of Lloyd Garmadon in the upcoming The Lego Ninjago Movie, and will be starring opposite his brother in the Tommy Wiseau biopic The Disaster Artist as an actor and line producer who as a firsthand witness to the creation of The Room, arguably the worst movie ever made.
11 Javier Bardem (5’7")
It’s hard to imagine Javier Bardem as anything other than a towering figure. That he’s actually fairly short is a testament to his power as an actor. The Spanish actor was a huge star in his native Spain for many years before his breakout in the United States, which came in 2007’s No Country For Old Men. Bardem portrayed the sociopathic assassin Anton Chigurh, a vicious man with a very strange haircut. The performance earned him an Academy Award.
Bardem’s star has only risen since then. He starred opposite his future wife in the Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and once again indulged in a very strange haircut to menace James Bond as Raoul Silva in Skyfall, one of that franchise’s most striking bad guys.
10 Oscar Isaac (5’7")
Oscar Isaac seemingly came out of nowhere. He was essentially unknown until Inside Llewyn Davis, a 2013 Coen brothers film where he portrayed the titular musician, struggling to make ends meet in the folk music scene of 1961 New York.
That film wasn’t a huge hit, but Hollywood took notice, and after impressive performances in prestige projects like A Most Violent Year, Show Me A Hero, and Ex Machina, Isaac found himself at the center of two huge franchises, as the ultra powerful mutant Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse, and as heroic Resistance pilot Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He’ll be reprising the latter role in this year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and the sky seems to be the limit for Isaac at this point.
9 Alfie Allen (5'7")
Alfie Allen is making quite a career out of playing jerks. The English actor – who is the brother of pop star Lily Allen – got his start with minor roles in films like Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London and Flashbacks of a Fool before landing his signature role of Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.
Being under 6 feet has never impaired Allen’s ability to imbue Theon with gigantically awful charisma. He masterfully portrays a conflicted child of two worlds who always finds a way to make the wrong choice - even if he's shorter than the teenaged Sansa Stark.
Allen’s big screen output is best defined at this point by his role in John Wick as Iosef Tarasov, a moronic mobster who sets off the film’s magnificently violent ballet by being very unkind to animals. Allen will also star in the upcoming Predator movie.
8 Joe Dempsie (5’7")
Joe Dempsie might not be a name that readers immediately recognize. The British actor has had bit parts on television series like Doctor Who and Merlin, as well as some very low profile movies like Monsters: Dark Continent and Burn Burn Burn.
Dempsie’s one genuine claim to fame at this point is his role as Gendry in Game of Thrones. The bastard son of the late King Robert Baratheon, Gendry starts out as a simple blacksmith just trying to survive in Westeros, but eventually ends up dodging ice zombies alongside Jon Snow and friends.
Despite the fact he disappeared from the show for several seasons, Dempsie does solid work in the role, and chances are good he’ll end up in bigger roles in the future.
7 Gael Garcia Bernal (5’7")
While something of an up-and-coming cult star in America, Gael Garcia Bernal is a huge star internationally. After getting his start in soap operas, Bernal began a string of projects with future Oscars winners, starting with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros, and later in perhaps his most celebrated film, Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien.
After making a few forays into English speaking films – most notable in Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep and Iñárritu's Babel – Bernal took on the lead role in the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, which is entering its fourth season.
Bernal has nothing to prove at this point in his career, but if he ever wants to take a swing at big American stardom, he seems more than capable of it.
6 Dustin Hoffman (5’6")
One of the greatest actors of all time, there’s essentially nothing Dustin Hoffman can’t do. After making his breakthrough in the Mike Nichols directed The Graduate in 1967, Hoffman had a run in the '70s and '80s that boggles the mind. He played a scuzzy con man in Midnight Cowboy, a father enduring a contentious divorce in Kramer vs. Kramer, and a real life reporter who would bring down Richard Nixon in All The President’s Men.
Hoffman won Academy Awards for Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man, the latter as an autistic savant opposite Tom Cruise. Whether he’s playing Lisa Simpson’s substitute teacher, Ben Stiller’s overbearing father in law, or Captain Hook, Hoffman always imbues his characters with a humanity and empathy that is irresistible. He is, quite simply, an all-timer.
5 Macaulay Culkin (5’6")
Macauley Culkin had a meteoric rise in the late 80’s and early 90’s at the go to cinematic child actor. He had memorable turns in films like Uncle Buck and My Girl, but the film that made him a househould name was Home Alone, where he portayed Kevin McCallister, an eight year old who is mistakenly left behind by his family and has to fend off two incredibly stupid burglars with a series of Rube Goldberg traps.
Home Alone was a gigantic hit, and led to roles in less well-received films like Richie Rich and The Good Son before Culkin took a long hiatus from acting amid a very public battle between his parents over his finances. Culkin would return to acting as an adult, taking on decidedly more offbeat roles in films like Saved! and Party Monster.
4 Freddy Rodriguez (5’6")
Freddy Rodriguez had bit parts in several films and TV shows before landing the role of Federico Diaz in the classic HBO series Six Feet Under. Federico was the business partner of the Fisher brothers, but always felt like an outsider to the show’s constant family drama. It was a great, underrated performance on a show full of great performances.
Rodriguez has kept busy since Six Feet Under ended in 2005. He starred in the Planet Terror of the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse. He had a recurring role on the ABC dramedy Ugly Betty, and currently stars on the CBS courtroom drama Bull. He’s also found steady work as a voice actor, having worked on American Dad, Teen Titans, Young Justice: Invasion, and Scooby-Doo.
3 Daniel Radcliffe (5’5")
There may be no actor in a better position today than Daniel Radcliffe. Radcliffe, of course, became an international superstar for his portrayal of Harry Potter in eight films about the residents of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of the Boy Who Lived.
And yet despite having completed that massive eight film story, Radcliffe is only 28 years old, and has shown a desire to make decidedly offbeat films that may not bust the box office, but take interesting creative chances. Films like Swiss Army Man and Imperium seem to confirm that Radcliffe is going to use his Harry Potter wealth and cultural cachet to indulge in some strange, but creatively fulfilling work on screen and stage.
2 Jason Alexander (5’5")
Jason Alexander may be remembered primarily for one role, but he’s far from a one trick pony. He’s an accomplished and award winning Broadway performer, having won a Tony for his performance in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. He memorably voiced the title character in the '90s animated series Duckman, which was an early forerunner of the Adult Swim style of crude, absurdist cartoons for grownups.
But let’s be honest: he’s George Costanza, forever and always. A sitcom icon on the same footing as Archie Bunker and Homer Simpson, Alexander was the beating diseased heart of Seinfeld, the most neurotic, self-obsessed opportunist of the show’s central quartet.
The tiny, loud, balding man who could never get out of his own way, George Costanza is the king of television losers, and no one could have done a better job with that role than Alexander (well, maybe Larry David).
1 Emilio Estevez (5’4")
Emilio Estevez’s family is Hollywood royalty. Virtually everyone in his family has been involved in show business over the years, with his father and brother representing opposite ends of the fame spectrum. His father Martin Sheen is an award winning elder statesman, most warmly remembered for portraying President Josiah Bartlet for seven seasons on The West Wing. His brother Charlie Sheen has become something of a walking, talking Hollywood cautionary tale, having squandered most of his talent and fame with his addiction problems and volatile behavior.
Emilio is decidedly somewhere in the middle. Never as controversial as Charlie or as accomplished as Martin, Emilio Estevez came to prominence '80s movies like The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire, and found surprise success by starring in The Mighty Ducks trilogy.
Estevez has mostly concentrated on directorial work in recent years, leaving the more headline-grabbing work to his other family members.
Are there other actors you can think of who are unexpectedly short? Share them in the comments!