Being different, in one way or another, should be something to embrace, because it is the differences that make this world a beautifully diverse place. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. It is in the human’s nature to treat differences in manners that cause pain and bad feelings. Instead of acceptance, people who suffer from different conditions and somehow don’t fit in what many consider ‘normal’ are offered rejection. This is something that needs to change, but it would probably take a lot more years for that to happen.
For actor Verne Troyer, being different wasn’t an obstacle to reach fame and make a name for himself.
Namely, Verne had a rare form of dwarfism known as cartilage-hair hypoplasia and was raised in an Amish community. He is best known for the role of Mini-Me in the Austin Powers film franchise.
Verne was born in Sturgis, Michigan, on January 1, 1969, where he grew up with his parents. “We grew up Amish, but my parents left the religion when I was a child. The Amish have lots of rules and my dad thought many people in the faith were hypocritical because they’d tell others not to do something and then do it themselves,” Verne told The Guardian.
Suffering from a rare form of dwarfism, Verne was of short stature.
“People with cartilage-hair hypoplasia have unusually short limbs and short stature from birth,” according to Medlineplus.gov.
“They typically have malformations in the cartilage near the ends of the long bones in the arms and legs (metaphyseal chondrodysplasia), which then affects development of the bone itself. Most people with cartilage-hair hypoplasia are unusually flexible in some joints, but they may have difficulty extending their elbows fully.”
Growing up, Verne did what every other child does and he didn’t consider himself different, but when the time came for him to attend high-school he started thinking about his height, especially because his parents, and everyone else in the family, was of average size.
Thankfully, his parents were there to teach him to love himself the way he was. They assured him that no matter his height, he could do anything he would put his mind into and that helped him a lot with his self-confidence.
“I never got much trouble off other kids either, although there was one incident in third grade where a kid who was much taller than me called me the M-word [midget], which is very offensive. So without even thinking, I just jumped in the air and punched him in the nose. He never bothered me again,” Troyer recalled, adding that he was told off whenever he did something wrong.
“My parents were strict on discipline – if we did something wrong, we got the belt. I certainly learned right from wrong more quickly because of it. I get that it’s a controversial issue nowadays and I don’t necessarily agree with it – it’s just how it was back then.”
Until he was 21, Verne led an ordinary life and worked as a telephone company operator in Texas but one day in 1993 would change his life forever.
The producers of the film Baby’s Day Out were looking for a new stand-in stuntman but had a hard time finding one so when Verne’s friend, the president of Little People of America (LPA), got a call from Hollywood, he knew Verne could be perfect for the job.
“They were wondering if there was anyone close to a stand-in size, I guess they searched worldwide and couldn’t find anyone. I sent in my picture, and they flew me out to Hollywood to meet with them. Two days later, they offered me the job, and I quit my job at Sprint,” the actor said. After landing some minor roles, Verne was cast for the iconic role of Mini-Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. As we all know, he also appeared in the next movie, Austin Powers: Goldmember. His signature move of putting his pinky to the corner of his mouth became iconic.
Becoming a celebrity helped Verne fight against the stereotype about little people and he was very proud of that. “I’m not a very confident person, but I grew up with parents who’ve given me the optimism that whatever you put your mind to, you can do, and hopefully I show that to other people,” he said in 2002.
In the film, his character was supposed to die, but fans loved to see more of him so Mike Myers needed to rewrite the script and keep Verne’s character alive.
“When they did a test screening, Mini-Me died at the end. We had to go back and reshoot that because the crowd was upset that Mini-Me was no longer there,” he recalled to Oprah.
“In the beginning, Mini-Me character wasn’t in the film that much,” he said. “Once we started rehearsal, Mike kept adding more parts and more parts and more parts,” he added. “Working with Mike was great. He improv’d a lot. It just kept you on your toes.”
Mike Myers later said: “As written, Mini-Me is like almost a prop, but he brought it up off the page, made it better than written, and we ended up giving him more and more stuff to do.”
As his career advanced, his personal life suffered. Namely, Verne started drinking a lot and even experienced mental issues in the early 2000. He married model Genevieve Gallen in 2014 but their marriage was short lived. In 2017, the actor spoke openly of his addiction and said he was willing to brake his bad habits and even go to rehab.
“While it’s not always been an easy fight, I’m willing to continue my fight day by day,” he said at the time.
“I’ve been receiving treatment for the last week, and I am voluntarily checking into a treatment center later this week to continue to get the help that I need.”
Sadly, on April 21, 2018, Verne passed away. He was 49.
“It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today. Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible,” his family said.
Shortly after his passing, it was revealed that Verne Troyer took his own life.
“Over the years he’s struggled and won, struggled and won, struggled and fought some more, but unfortunately this time was too much,” the statement read. “Depression and [taking your own life] are very serious issues. You never know what kind of battle someone is going through inside. Be kind to one another. And always know, it’s never too late to reach out to someone for help.”
During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, Mike Mayers said of his dear friend, “He died at 49. He wasn’t supposed to live past his teens. You saw 150 years worth of life in this photo montage.
“Verne brought so much love to people. Every day you see him, you go ‘Wow! That is a small human.’ But by the end of the day, you just saw Verne. It just sort of went away….He was part of the cast and fantastic. I miss him.”
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