Verne Troyer on His Doctor Parnassus Role: 'I Didn't Think I Pulled It Off'

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Verne Troyer has been the butt of jokes so often -- whether it's in a Mike Myers comedy or in a stint on The Surreal Life -- that you have to wonder whether it's gotten to him. Here he is with a rare dramatic role in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, where the 2-foot, 8-inch actor actually gets to hurl the insults for once, and yet Troyer couldn't be more self-effacing and doubtful about his own ability. When I sat down to talk to Troyer for Movieline, intending to congratulate him for his performance, I ended up having to convince him it was worth the kudos.

What was it like to see the film for the first time?

I'm very critical of myself. I look at the film and I didn't really like what I did.

Really?

Yeah. It's great for me when people say "You did an amazing job." Thank God, because I just didn't see it.

Was it just that you were intimidated to be in the movie?

I was very nervous, because I've never gotten a role like this before. I just thought, "Wow, can I pull this off?" For me, I didn't think I pulled it off, but I guess I did! It's a dramatic role, a step in a different direction for me away from comedy. I do feel more comfortable in comedy, but surprisingly, I enjoyed doing this.

Are you hard on your performance because it's so different from the comedies you usually do?

It's hard for me to even watch comedies I'm in. I still want to redo it, I still want to go back and change something. It doesn't matter if it's comedy or drama -- drama is just new to me.

Are you the sort of actor who always asks for one more take?

I am sometimes, yeah. "I can get it better this time -- I promise!" I do ask, and some directors like that.

Hasn't it gotten any easier as you've become successful? C'mon Verne. You've got to have at least a little more confidence in yourself.

Probably. I just don't see it. I look at [my work] and think I could have done something else. I want to make it as good as possible. I don't think I'm ever going to be happy with it, so as long as the director's happy and the people around me are happy, than...I guess it's good enough.

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What's Terry's method for directing you?

He guides you to a place, it just depends on what's happening. When you're working on set and it's cold and you're in the fake rain and he wants to get that last shot, yeah, he's gonna be hard on you. Terry's great, though. I love working with him and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

You had been in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas briefly, hadn't you?

It was so quick -- I think I was on the set for a day and a half. I definitely didn't know what to expect. I had heard a lot of things. Coming from that and working on this film an getting to know him a lot more...it's a tremendous honor to be in his films.

How did you come to the role?

This is what I heard: I worked with him on Fear and Loathing and he had seen me in the Austin Powers films and wrote this part kinda with me in mind. He wanted to show people that there's other facets to me, that I can do other things. I'm so honored and proud that he did this for me. want to be taken as a talented all-around actor, and Terry's given me that opportunity.

That's got to have been flattering -- did it ease your insecurities to know that he wrote the part for you?

No, not at all!

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