They may appear to be giants on the big-screen, but looks can be very deceiving. Some of our most famous faces are actually not all that tall at all. Fortunately, thanks to tricky camera angles and apple boxes for actors to stand on, height has never been much of a barrier to Hollywood success.
As far back as the ‘40s, filmmakers have found ways to trick audiences into believing that their stars were the tall archetypes they portrayed. Film Noir star Alan Ladd was a mere 5’6” and would often stand on a box in certain shots to appear taller than his female co-stars. Studios would even dig little trenches on sets for taller actresses or build smaller doorframes for their stars.
Looking at more contemporary cinema, there are a number of notable stars that are probably not as tall as you’d think they are.
Here are 15 Actors You Didn’t Know Were Short.
15 Jack Black (5’6”)
While Jack Black isn’t known for his stature, you may be surprised that the funny man is a mere 5’6”. Not known for his romantic movies as such, he has starred alongside some of Hollywood’s most beautiful women. When shooting Shallow Hal with Gwyneth Paltrow (5’8”), his short stature wasn’t an issue as most of the film focussed on Gwyneth’s “Fat-Suit”.
His recent appearance in Goosebumps made him look relatively tall when compared with his child co-stars, though they may be catching him up if a sequel happens. Which leaves producers the decision of putting in boxes for close-ups or just letting his height be a non-issue.
Fortunately for Jack Black, his larger-than-life persona more than makes up for any perceived lack of height. His energetic performances in movies like High Fidelity and School of Rock have garnered him a strong fan-base that continues to grow.
14 Jon Stewart (5’7”)
Most famous for sitting behind a desk and saying the things about politics that some others dare not (Except maybe John Oliver), Jon Stewart has a pretty solid acting resume under his belt, too, with roles in The Faculty and Big Daddy.
Jon Stewart’s satirical on-screen persona has allowed him to interview presidents, admirals and other people of enormous power. His wit and charm have allowed him to ask questions of these individuals that the regular news networks just couldn’t get away with. He has been referred to as a modern day Edward Murrow and at times the most trusted man in America.
The 51-year-old has also acted, produced, and hosted the Academy Awards. Tall? No. successful? Absolutely!
13 Scott Caan (5’5”)
The son of The Godfather actor James Caan, Scott had some pretty big shoes to fill when he followed in his footsteps and became an actor too. While not yet having anything quite as iconic as The Godfather on his filmography, he has made numerous appearances in movies such as the Ocean's 11 series. He’s probably better known for roles as the arrogant Scott Lavin on Entourage or as Danny “Danno” Williams on the reimagined Hawaii Five-O.
On Hawaii Five-O in particular, he plays a by the book cop often seen at odds with his maverick partner Steve McGarrett, who is head and shoulders above him at 6’. Despite this, he gives as good as he gets and is often seen to be equally as tough and capable as his much taller team-mate. Their on-screen odd-couple chemistry is seen as one of the strongest aspects of the show and their comedy arguments on their way to crime-scenes are seen as integral to the success of the long-running series.
12 Tom Cruise (5’7”)
Few people will have missed stories about Tom Cruise’s height over the years. It’s been the subject of many a tabloid headline, and the butt of several jokes. But if there’s one person that has overcome a lack of height, it’s Tom Cruise. He’s been at the very top of the Hollywood A-list for over 30 years and is one of the few legitimate super stars that can still sell a movie with his name alone.
The star of the Mission: Impossible franchise famously performs many of his own stunts, including hanging onto the exterior of a plane while it was in flight! If he’s compensating, he’s doing one heck of a job of it!
His height has caused some casting controversies over the years however. When he was cast in the role of Jack Reacher, fans of the books were in uproar that the diminutive superstar was going to tackle the role that was famously physically intimidating at a whopping 6’2”. Positive box office returns and an upcoming sequel in the works suggest that he pulled off the role in spite of this.
His height has been the subject of many comments with regard to his marriages. His ex-wife Nicole Kidman wryly remarked that she could “wear heels again” after they divorced.
11 Robert Downey Jr. (5’9”)
While not tiny, at 5’9” Robert Downey Jr. is notably smaller than fellow Avengers co-stars Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth. In the comic books, tony stark is a solid 6’, but honestly he’s perfectly cast in spite of this.
Many paparazzi shots of behind the scenes will show RDJ wearing stacked heels in his role as Tony Stark to appear to be the same height as his co-stars. He has also employed the “step-stool” for close ups in this year’s Captain America: Civil War in order to go toe-to-toe with Chris Evan’s six-foot Captain America.
Given that he’s currently the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, commanding over $50 million to put on the Iron Man suit, it’s unlikely that his height bothers him at all. Funny, talented, and always charming, Robert Downey Jr. is a titan of the big screen, even if he’s a mere 5’9”.
10 Sylvester Stallone (5’9”)
There are numerous conflicting reports regarding Sylvester Stallone’s actual height. Sources suggest anything between 5’7” and 5’10”. We’re splitting the difference and going for an average 5’9”, which, while not tiny, is certainly shorter than you’d think, considering his classic action star persona from the 1980s.
Given his iconic role as heavyweight boxer Rocky Balboa, you’d imagine Stallone to be a solid six feet tall. Most heavyweights are at least this tall. However, Stallone isn’t a boxer, he’s an actor and making you believe he’s something he’s not is his job. So if you watch those classic movies and see him pounding on equally muscle-bound pugilists like Carl Weathers and Mr T, go for it. Just don’t question the use of camera angles and forced perspective to imply he’s quite the imposing figure he appears to be.
Now 70, he’s making fewer action movies, though he's popped up in the Expendables franchise three times in the last decade, and an Oscar-nominated turn in Creed shows that he’s not slowing down any time soon.
9 Mark Wahlberg (5’8”)
While often famed for his impressive physique, Marky Mark is, perhaps surprisingly, only 5’8”. After a turbulent time, including a jail spell, he turned to body-building and rapping. Acting roles followed and after breaking out alongside George Clooney in the sleeper hits Three Kings and The Perfect Storm, he established himself as a reliable and bankable star in movies like The Departed.
Recent years have seen him stand (metaphorically) shoulder to shoulder with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (6’5”) in Pain and Gain and even Optimus Prime (35’) in Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Now a business owner and producer alongside his acting career, Mark Wahlberg is a figurative giant of Hollywood.
8 Al Pacino (5’7”)
One of the finest actors to ever grace the silver screen, Al Pacino has been an icon since the 1970s. Mind-blowing performances in The Godfather trilogy as Michael Corleone and an Academy Award for his role as a blind former Lieutenant Colonel in Scent of a Woman have given him a reputation few can match.
It may be quite a surprise therefore that he is a mere 5’7”, with many sources claiming that he is in fact far shorter and wears stacked shoes in order to reach this height. While often standing alongside far taller actors, directors have often found ways to present them as being of equal height, such as placing the camera in such a way that the audience perspective is “forced” or having them converse while sitting. The latter example is used to good effect in Heat where an exchange between Pacino and Robert DeNiro has all the intensity of a physical altercation, while merely having the two men face each other down.
To add further fuel to the fire, recent photographs of Al Pacino with his ten-year-old son suggest the two are similar in height. The rumours of stacked shoes might not be too far from the truth after all…
7 Robert De Niro (5’8”)
Another actor whose height remains open to debate is Robert DeNiro. Seen in some movies as equal in height to actors of between 5’6” and 6’1”, there’s been plenty of forced perspective and “step stool” shenanigans throughout his forty-plus year career.
Physically imposing in movies such as Raging Bull and Cape Fear, Robert De Niro has never allowed his height to stop him playing the toughest of tough guys. He’s even been seen donning his boxing gear in recent movie Grudge Match alongside Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone, proving that neither age, nor height can stop him delivering a heavyweight performance.
6 Tom Hardy (5’9”)
Officially, Tom Hardy is stated to be 5’10”, but most reports claim he is, at best, 5’9”. When he was cast as the gigantic Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, he hit the gym big-time in order to portray Batman’s greatest physical opponent, but standing toe to toe with a 6’ Christiaan Bale mean that he costume department had to stack his boots considerably to make him as imposing as the part required. His henchmen were cast from a pool of shorter actors to make him stand head and shoulders above them in scenes that required full body shots.
Similar techniques were used in mega-hits Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant where he played characters who seemed much larger than their co-stars. In reality, he is noticeably shorter than 6’ Leonardo DiCaprio (his The Revenant co-star) and 5’10” Charlize Theron (With whom he starred in Mad Max).
5 Jason Statham (5’9”)
Not exactly Danny DeVito short, but certainly not as tall as you’d expect, the Transporter star is a mere 5’9”. This hasn’t stopped him from competing as a sportsman, becoming a major action star, or even dating some of the most beautiful women on the planet.
Making a name for himself in the 1990s as part of the ensemble cast of Guy Ritchie’s surprise hit, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and following it up with roles in John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars and the Transporter movies, Jason Statham has become a recognizable face of action-cinema. So much so that when producers of the most recent Fast and Furious movie were looking for an antagonist to go head to head with Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, they opted for Statham. Which leads us to…
4 Vin Diesel (5’9”)
Catching the eye of many with a small but memorable role in Steven Spielberg’s epic Saving Private Ryan, and later breaking out with back to back sleeper hits Pitch Black and The Fast and the Furious, Vin Diesel was one of the first bona fide stars of the 21st century.
Most of his roles have seen him cast in an action setting. As Dominic Toretto in the Fast and Furious franchise or as Xander Cage in xXx, there has been a lot of emphasis on his physique and stature… which might make his actual height all the more shocking! At 5’9” he is dwarfed by his Fast and Furious co-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who is a staggering 6’5”. Some clever photography and use of foot stools have managed to convince audiences that they are of similar heights since they began to work together on the fifth installment of the franchise, but in some shots it’s clear that Vin Diesel is stood on a step due to his legs being obscured and his waist being several inches higher than Johnsons.
3 Jamie Foxx (5’9”)
Unlike some of the others on this list, Jamie Foxx isn’t known to try to hide his height, so he probably isn’t at all bothered by it. He’s given his height as 5’9” pretty openly and given that he regularly stands shoulder to shoulder with celebrities of similar heights without appearing to use stacked shoes, it’s probably a fair estimate.
This hasn’t stopped his success in any way, his Oscar-winning performance in the Ray Charles biopic Ray, as well as stand-out roles in Django Unchained and Miami Vice have put him firmly in the A-list. When not acting, he’s even gone out and picked up Grammy awards as a musician.
Given his background as a comedian, if you try to make a joke about his height, he’s probably going to beat you to the punch and come back at you with ten more, so don’t even bother.
2 James McAvoy (5’7”)
Go back and watch those early scenes in X-Men: First Class where Xavier (McAvoy) is walking out of a bar with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). He’s clearly at least the same height, despite the fact she’s in heels. However, there’s clearly Hollywood shenanigans afoot as in real-life Miss Lawrence is 5’9”, a full two inches taller than he is!
Despite his small frame, he’s become something of a sex-symbol since taking on the role of Charles Xavier in the X-Men series. He’s also added to his credentials as a leading man with roles in Wanted, Filth, and The Last King of Scotland.
1 Arnold Schwarzenegger (5’10”)
This one is cheating really as 5’10” isn’t really short by anyone’s definition. In fact, it’s downright average. However, the Austrian Oak makes the list as his height has been the subject of debate for decades. Ever since his days as a body-builder, winning numerous Mister Universe titles, there have been questions regarding his stated physical measurements.
While he may have towered over his 5’ co-star, and friend, Danny DeVito in Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be quite the giant that movie made him out to be. For many years, he claimed his height to be 6’2”. While this was often disputed, it gained traction in 2003 when he ran for the governorship of California. During public appearances, many were surprised that the superstar didn’t tower above his running mates as they had expected. Indeed, he appeared to be a man of average height. with no stools, or Hollywood trickery, and with a renewed spotlight on every aspect of his life, including his height, it actually became newsworthy for a time.
With his political career seemingly over for now and a return to acting, his height is seemingly a non-issue once more. Should the laws regarding non-"natural born" Americans running for president ever change, don’t rule out him achieving his greatest wish and sitting in the oval office.
Are there any actors who are noticeably shorter, or even taller, than you’d expect that we haven’t mentioned? Tell us about them in the comments!