Who Was Hervé Villechaize?
Actor Hervé Villechaize was born in Paris, France, on April 23, 1943. Shunned by his peers because of his dwarfism, Villechaize committed himself to art. He began acting in New York, appearing in small films until his breakout performance in a 1974 James Bond blockbuster. Villechaize then starred as Tattoo on the television show Fantasy Island. He committed suicide in Los Angeles, California, on September 4, 1993.
Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize was born in Paris, France, on April 23, 1943. He was of English, French, Italian, and German heritage. At his adult height, Villechaize stood less than four feet tall due to a proportionate dwarfism condition. He was bullied at school and took refuge in the arts, attending art school during his college years.
In 1964, Villechaize departed France for the United States. He moved to New York, teaching himself English by watching television. He continued his career as a visual artist, focusing on painting and photography, before taking up acting. His first roles were in off-Broadway productions, including a play by Sam Shepard.
In 1966, Hervé Villechaize expanded his acting repertoire with a role in the film Chappaqua. Three years later, he appeared in Item 72-D, followed by movies including Malatesta's Carnival of Blood and Seizure, the first film by director Oliver Stone. None of these roles translated into substantial income for the actor. By 1974, Villechaize was living in his car in Los Angeles, lacking the steady work necessary to rent an apartment. In addition to acting he accepted odd jobs, including a position as a rat catcher's assistant.
Financial relief came in 1974 when Villechaize earned a role in The Man with the Golden Gun, a James Bond movie starring Roger Moore. The film boosted his career, yielding many additional film and television offers. In 1978, Villechaize joined the cast of the television show Fantasy Island as the character Tattoo. The show was a hit. Villechaize became a household name, known for his catch phrase: "The plane! The plane!"
Popular with the public, Villechaize was considered difficult on the set. Clashing repeatedly with producers, he was finally fired in 1983 over a salary dispute. Fantasy Island was canceled in 1984. Villechaize remained a well-known figure in popular culture after his dismissal from the show, appearing as himself in movies and on television. He also enjoyed some popularity in Spain due to his impersonations of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.
In addition to his film career, Villechaize was actively involved in a campaign to eradicate child abuse. He would often travel to crime scenes in the Los Angeles area, arriving with the first responders. Villechaize would then confront the abusers and make an effort to comfort the victims.
Villechaize shot and killed himself in Los Angeles, California, on the morning of September 4, 1993. He was discovered by his girlfriend and died at the hospital as a result of his injuries. His suicide note indicated that chronic health problems had driven him to suicide. Villechaize had attempted suicide a number of times before his death.
The actor had faced a number of legal problems toward the end of his life. In 1985, he was convicted of a misdemeanor for carrying a loaded weapon in a hospital. He was arrested again a year later over an altercation involving one of his ex-wives.
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