Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize (April 23, 1943 – September 4, 1993) was a French actor who achieved worldwide recognition for his role as Mr. Roarke's assistant, Tattoo, in the television series Fantasy Island (1978–1984). He was also well known for playing the evil henchman Nick Nack in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun, and was an acclaimed painter.
Villechaize suffered from proportionate (as opposed to achondroplastic) dwarfism due to a thyroid dysfunction, despite his surgeon father's attempts to cure the disease in several institutions. In later years, he insisted on being called a midget, rather than "little person", irritating activists like Billy Barty.
Villechaize was born in Paris, France to English-born Evelyn (Recchionni) and raised there by her and his stepfather André Villechaize, a French surgeon who adopted him. He also had Filipino ancestry. Villechaize was bullied at school for his condition and found solace in painting. After studying art at Beaux-Arts college, he left for the USA in 1964. He settled in a Bohemian section in New York, taught himself English by watching television, and continued his career as an artist, painter, and photographer. He began acting in Off Broadway productions, including The Young Master Dante by Werner Liepolt and a play by Sam Shepard, and also did some photo shoot modeling for National Lampoon, before moving on to film.
His first movie appearance was in Chappaqua in 1966, which was followed by several films including Christopher Speeth's and Werner Liepolt's Malatesta's Carnival of Blood, Crazy Joe, Oliver Stone's first film, Seizure, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, and The Forbidden Zone. He was then asked to play a part in the film Dune, which had originally begun pre-production in 1971; however, the project was canceled. Herve also was a minor character in "Airplane 2"
His big break was getting cast in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974, by which time he had become so poor he was living out of his car in Los Angeles. Prior to being signed up by Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, he made ends meet by working as a rat catcher's assistant near his South Central home. From what his co-actor Christopher Lee saw, The Man with the Golden Gun filming was possibly the happiest time of Hervé's life: Lee likened it to honey in the sandwich between an insecure past and an uncertain future. In addition to being an actor, Villechaize became an active member of a movement in 1970s and 1980s California to deal with child abuse and neglect, often going to crime scenes himself to help comfort abuse victims. Villechaize's former co-workers recalled that despite his stature, he would often confront and chastise spousal and child abusers when he arrived at crime scenes.
Full article ▸