Sunday, September 23, 2012

Michael Anderson, Sept. 11, 1987

Working at a down-market newspaper in the 1980s, an entertainment writer was largely at the mercy of studio field reps for access to actors and filmmakers. In my case, I would deal with PR folks in Denver, Salt Lake City and Dallas who were employees of ad agencies in those cities who had contracts with the major studios -- and some independents -- to promote their films. Once in a while, I'd do someone a favor with the unspoken (usually) agreement that if I'd help them out by doing an interview with someone I wasn't really interested in, they'd return the favor by putting me on the list for a higher-profile interview that I'd otherwise get at some point down the road. Such was the case with this interview. I remember it because the rep in Denver just pleaded with me to do it. And do it I did.

The subject of the interview, Michael Anderson, went on to work a lot. He was the "man from another place" in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," and in fact worked on Lynch's "Mulholland Dr.," as well as lots of other episodic television series and  supporting roles in movies.

Michael J. Anderson
Sept. 11, 1987
Standard-Examiner staff

In a business known far and wide for its discriminatory hiring practices, Michael Anderson is an anomaly. The 3-1/2-foot-tall actor is the star of the a new movie, "The Great Land of Small."

Think about it. When was the last time you heard about an actor filing a lawsuit because his physical attractiveness was judged to be unsatisfactory? The movie business is tough, and actors get parts based on how they look as often as how talented they are. Anderson, a Denver native, decided his small stature wasn't a hindrance to an acting career -- it was a plus.

"The idea of trying to be normal isn't normal," Anderson said by phone from Denver last week. "I decided to take advantage of my unique appearance."

Before he began acting, Anderson worked as a computer operator. He was employed by a NASA subcontractor in Denver that developed support systems for the space shuttle Challenger.

During this time -- three years ago -- a friend of his who was working on a New York University Film School graduate project made a documentary about Anderson and his work. The resulting film, "Little Mike," won the Grand Prize in the Visions of America section of the American Film Institute competition, and later played on pay-TV and PBS.

Anderson said he was bitten by the film bug, so he quit his job and moved to New York to pursue a career in acting. Being small, he figured, was pretty unique, and he imagined that he'd be able to get lots of parts that called for small people.

"But in New York," he said, "being a midget wasn't enough." Every time he’d respond to a casting call for short people, Anderson explained, he was just one of many who showed up.

"Tha’s why I dyed my hair into a white stripe down the middle of my head," he said, laughing, "so that I'd stand out in those situations." Anderson got the part of the leprechaun in "The Great Land of Small" -- a children’s movie -- because he sent pictures and resumes to every agent, producer and director he could find.

Now, as the film enters release in the marketplace, he’s cautiously awaiting the public response while continuing to perform a cabaret act in New York nightclubs and record music in hopes of getting a recording deal.

Since his arrival in New York, Anderson has also worked with the late Andy Warhol and in a music video for Mick Jagger. He passes his leisure time, he said, with his newfound affinity for "disco dancing."

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