If you have read my review of Little Tin Man, then the name Aaron Beelner should be familiar. He is the star of Little Tin Man and has had many other parts in other shows and movies. He also has a one-man show called Short & Sweet that you can find on YouTube. I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Beelner prior to the big premier of his movie.
Little Tin Man is about an actor who is tired of being typecast. He is a Little Person, a man with dwarfism, and, being short generally means that he is selected for rolls of elves or dwarves or some other short person. In this film he, with the help of his friends, tries to break out of that mold and wants to be the Tin Man in Martin Scorsese’s remake of The Wizard of Oz. This is a funny movie with a great comedic cast and some very solid story. The emotions and the struggles are things that everyone deals with, and make the story so much more real for any viewer.
Comic Booked: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about Little Tin Man and your career. We loved the movie and thought the acting was great. What was your favorite scene?
Aaron Beelner: Any of the walk-and-talks. I never thought it would be so hard to walk and eat ice cream at the same time. And not just eating ice cream, but taking the same bite at the same point in every take of the scene. If you said a line on that bite, it had to be on the same bite every time. It was tough.
CB: One of the funny ideas of the movie was that Martin Scorsese was going to remake The Wizard of Oz, such a classic film. While it would be interesting to see what sort of spin he put on the movie, it is pretty unrealistic. Did you get any sort of response from Scorsese about this part of the movie?
AB: Yeah, we actually did. Matthew Perkins, the director, reached out to Martin Scorsese’s people and did an amazing thing. Scorsese’s assistant had requested, in order to give any kind of approval, the entire film. Matthew sent all that and then he had a brick painted in gold and inscribed with shadows of all the characters from the movie and the line, which has come to be the catchphrase for the film, “If you are going to have one regret please don’t let it be that you never tried”, and had it carved on the brick. He had it taken to Scorsese’s office on a Tuesday and on Friday Perkins called and said that Scorsese gives his approval.
CB: It would still be interesting to see what Scorsese would do with the Wizard of Oz.
AB: The film itself for the storyline was not necessarily the impetus of this film, it was just a way for Herman Mitchell to conquer his objective and so when we started writing it, the question was what if he auditioned for anything else. Basically, they resolved that it would be the Tin Man. Then the question was who would direct it, and we were throwing names around and it was mentioned that Martin Scorsese was going to do a remake.
CB: So, if you could choose a role, any role, to play in a film, what would your dream role be?
AB: I would like to play one of the Ovitz’s. The Ovitz’s were a family of Little People who were captured and held in Auschwitz during World War 2 and Mengala had run them through these horrific experiments and there is a book about it, but there is no screen play. I am actually in the process of creating that. So, there are tons of films about the Holocaust, but there are no mentions of the Ovitz family. The all survived, there were seven of them, 2 males and 5 females, and they were traveling entertainers before the war broke out. They were captured in Austria, I believe, and kept in Auschwitz for like eight years. Mengala ran them through these tests because he was intrigued with difference like twins, skeletal dysplasia, he was intrigued by women’s reproduction, and he went berzerk with them. No body knows this story, and I think it would make an amazing film.
CB: Any other types of roles that interest you? Or other challenges you have dealt with or want to deal with in your acting career?
AB: I always wanted to be in a horror film, as well. Because it takes a certain intensity to play those roles and to maintain that. And costumes, I read that when Jim Carey played the Grinch he talked about the worst part of playing that part was the costume. He became like a zen master where you could like punch him in the face and he would just say “Good morning. How are you?” And I’ve been in costumes. I did three years with Radio City. I was part of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and played a principle role in that. The bear costumes were unbelievable because you can’t see out of them and you are on stage in front of a giant pit.
CB: Would you say the costumes were un-bear-able? Haha, sorry. So, how much of this film was actually based on things from your life?
AB: A lot of the film is based on my one man show, which is about life as a Little Person, but a lot of things in the film came true after the fact. I would say that the final cut of the film was finished in 2008. My mother passed of an aneurysm in 2009, and we write about in the film that Herman’s mother dies. In 2010, I left my full time work to pursue acting full time and in the film that happens to Herman, he leaves his job at the restaurant to throw caution to the wind and pursue his dream. Also, in that same storyline he is interested in Miller, and hopes for much more, and in that same light, I found my Miller, so to speak. It was just interesting how these things happened after the fact. I had a friend say that I should have written in there that I won the lottery.
CB: Some interesting experiences. How about the folks you worked with?
AB: We had a small budget and only 18 days to film the movie. The first day, we had a miscommunication, we had a location, it was an apartment, it was pulled and we lost that location. So, we were on an 18 day film shoot and already 7 hours behind. What came from that, though, was that I got to know Kay Cannon, and got to know Jeff Hiller and Chris Henry Coffey better. Also, Emanuel Maldanado who plays Juan. I think the chemistry is better because of that time we got to spend together.
CB: I could definitely see that you all had a close relationship and worked well together. It made the movie that much more believable. Shifting gears, as the Little People of America has declared October National Dwarfism Awareness Month, let’s talk about being a Little Person. As a Little Person, whether in acting or in real life, you probably have heard a lot of statements directed to you that are derogatory or painful. How was it to work with on this film? Any incidents that you want to share?
AB: A lot of the scenes, almost all of them, where there are some confrontations between Herman and whatever character, like the director in the very first scene where he was doing the Rocket Fuel commercial, all of them I was kind of caught off guard by the fact that they would all give apologies beforehand, saying things like “This is not me, I would never say something like this.” They were very polite and professional. The guy that plays the wine snob (Ben Remeaka) is one of the funniest people I have evern met. Very clever and a veteran of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade. Most of our cast is from that group and they are great at improv. Ben was also in the Wolf of Wall Street. I would say that 30% – 40% of the film is them doing their craft. It is hard to believe that in 18 days we would do two straight takes and then just bounce improv.
I will let you in on a little secret, the entire scene in the cellar or what would be Greg’s office, right after the wine snob uses the “M” word, and that is the third time you hear that word in there, that was intentional, to use the term “midget”, to get people to respond, to get a visceral response from the audience, and for it to be not only entertaining, but also informative and educational. So, that scene, right after he uses the term “midget” and Herman runs down to the cellar, all of that was improvised. That scene was really funny, but the editors looked at it and said we needed to cut out all the funny because this was a serious part of the film. Kay is hilarious, she writes for New Girl on FOX and used to write for 30 Rock, she wrote the film Pitch Perfect, and she is writing for a new show coming soon on ABC called Cristela.
CB: Just a couple of other questions here, moving away from Little Tin Man. How do you feel the success, or notoriety, of other LP actors, like Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Martin Klebba (The Cape, Left Behind), and Vern Troyer (Austin Powers franchise), has impacted your career?
AB: I think that it is a double-edged sword. What I mean by that is that I think there are times where the person being little and playing the role they are playing is very effective and reinforces that because we happen to be people with dwarfism or skeletal dysplasia, if you will, we happen to be just as capable of exhibiting, just as capable of breathing and living, we can be very plausible in roles. And, sometimes, and I love my agent for this, I will be sent to things that have nothing to do with a little person. The times I have the casting directors have said, “We never thought of this and this would be totally different angle or perspective on what we were thinking and so we are going to do this, we are going to go with this.” I’ve landed like three or four roles that way. It depends on the role. If any LP actor goes into a stereotypical role, we know why they are doing it, it’s because there is a check involved. They have to eat, we all have to eat. I understand that. What it doesn’t do, even in 2014, it doesn’t break those barriers. So, people think that if you see an LP actor, they are going to be in a freaky role. And not only that, but it may bleed into who they are as a person.
A lot of people question why “midget” is offensive. What people don’t know is that the word comes from midge, which is a little tiny fly, so it dehumanizes completely. Not only that, I have had people ask my girlfriend, “Hey, what does Aaron like to be called?” and she looks them right in the face and says “How about Aaron? His name.” Bottom line is we still have a long way to go.
CB: Let me ask you one last question. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. One of the main things that we do here at Comic Booked is comic book reviews. Do you read any comics?
AB: I have not read a comic in years, but I recently picked up Transformers, because I loved them when I was a kid, cars turning into robots, and Spider-Man, I was enamored by Spider-Man as a child.
CB: Funny that you should mention Spider-Man, because that was what I wanted to ask you about. The storyline for the last couple of years has been interesting, since Peter Parker and Doctor Octopus swapped bodies and Peter, in Ock’s body, died. During the time that Doctor Octopus was living as Peter, he finished his doctorate, dumped Mary Jane, and met a young woman who helped tutor him and assisted with his doctorate, Anna Maria Marconi, and she is an LP, and now they are dating. Of course, Peter Parker had to make his comeback, which means that Ock died, leaving things in turmoil. It is very interesting to see the writer, Dan Slott, writing this character, who has become a very prominent figure in the Spider-Man storyline, even now knowing his secret identity, and have her be an LP. I think that is very cool, because, as we talked about before, even in the comics, most LPs are only brought in for comedy relief or as some freaky character. Would that be something that you may be interested in reading?
AB: I probably would, because even in a comic book, I would want to know how they are being portrayed. Are they working with someone or spoken to someone or do they know someone who happens to be a little person? I want to know because I think too often when people guess they make it too pixie-ish or too cupid-ish. They don’t intend to, but it comes off as not very human. I would love to know what their homework has been. I think it is very pertinent that they are doing homework, because even though comic books are fantasy, Peter Parker is a real person, the average Joe, that morphed into Spider-Man. And Mary Jane, the loveable girl next door, and they make that very real. I would be intrigued to see how they portray Miss Marconi.
CB: I have been impressed that she is a doctor, a scientist, and even works with Peter in his company. I really hope that they are leading up to her becoming the new Doctor Octopus. If you are interested, it is Superior Spider-Man and the current run of Amazing Spider-Man. Great to hear that this might interest you. Again, I want to say that I really appreciate the time you gave to us today and what you have shared with us.
AB: It was a pleasure. I’m glad you enjoyed the film and I really appreciate it.
Big thanks to all the folks connected with Little Tin Man and especially with Aaron Beelner for spending all that time on the phone with me. You can check this film out on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Cable VOD and look for it on DVD near the end of the year.