Birthday: April 23, 1943
Nationality: American, French
Died At Age: 50
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize
Born Country: France
Born in: Paris
Famous as: Actor
Height: 1.17 m
Spouse/Ex-: Anne Sadowski (m. 1970 – div. 1979), Camille Hagen (m. 1980 – div. 1982)
father: André Villechaize
mother: Evelyn Recchionni
Died on: September 4, 1993
place of death: North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death: Suicide
education: École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts
Hervé Jean Pierre Villechaize was a French-American actor, best known for his role of ‘Tattoo’ in the 1978 TV show, ‘Fantasy Island.’ He is also remembered as the villain’s assistant, ‘Nick Nack,’ in the 1974 ‘James Bond’ hit movie, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun.’ Born in Paris, France, he suffered from proportionate dwarfism condition, and faced many difficulties. He learnt painting at ‘École des Beaux-Arts’ and became the youngest artist to have his work displayed at the ‘Museum of Paris.’ Later, he moved to New York, USA, and initially worked as a visual artist. After appearing in a few off-Broadway productions, he began working in films and TV series. Villechaize found it difficult to make ends meet, till he got a break in the ‘James Bond’ movie, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun.’ Later, he achieved more popularity with the TV series, ‘Fantasy Island,’ but was fired due to some dispute with the series’ producers. He was an active member of a movement against child abuse. Villechaize committed suicide at the age of 50, due to his health problems.
Childhood & Early Life
Villechaize was born on April 23, 1943 in Paris, France, to Evelyn Recchionni and André Villechaize, who was a surgeon in Toulon. He was the youngest of 4 sons.
He suffered a proportionate dwarfism condition due to an acute thyroid disorder. His father took him to various medical institutions, including ‘Mayo Clinic’ in Minnesota and other institutes in England and Germany for treatment. He underwent many medical procedures, some quite painful, but his condition couldn’t be corrected.
Because of his dwarf stature, Villechaize faced bullying in the school so he took refuge in painting and arts. He joined ‘École des Beaux-Arts’ in 1959 when he was 16 years old. In 1961, his work was displayed in the ‘Museum of Paris,’ and he became the youngest artist ever to achieve this feat at the age of 18.
In 1964, he moved to the United States on his father’s advice, and resided in Greenwich Village, New York City. He learnt English by watching TV series and shows.
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Villechaize began working as a visual artist, doing paintings and photography. Later, he entered acting profession through off-Broadway productions, including ‘The Young Master Dante,’ and a play by ‘Obie Awards’ winner Sam Shepard. He modeled for American humor magazine ‘National Lampoon.’
Thereafter, he tried his hand in films, and his debut in ‘Chappequa,’ which was followed by, ‘Item 72-D: The Adventures of Spa and Fon’ (1969) by Edward Summer. Villechaize appeared in a number of films, including Carlo Lizzani’s 1974 crime film, ‘Crazy Joe,’ ‘Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood’ by Christopher Speeth and Werner Liepolt, American mafia comedy film ‘The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight’ (1971), Oliver Stone’s directorial debut ‘Seizure’ (1974), and a musical comedy ‘Forbidden Zone’ (1980), in which he essayed character of ‘King Fausto.’
Despite these roles, he was not able to make any substantial income, and by 1974, Villechaize was living in his car in Los Angeles as he didn’t have any steady work to pay the apartment rent. In order to make ends meet, he did odd jobs, including the work of a rat catcher’s assistant.
In 1974, he was signed by producer Albert Broccoli for the ‘James Bond’ movie, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun,’ starring Roger Moore as ‘Bond.’ Villechaize got noticed in this film as he portrayed the role of villain’s evil assistant, ‘Nick Nack.’ This proved an important break for his career as it brought some stability and more work.
He did the part of ‘Oscar, the Grouch’ in the 1970s educational TV series, ‘Sesame Street.’ Whenever the character of ‘Oscar’ was shown in some movement, Villechaize performed as a pair of legs peeping out of the trash can.
The TV series ‘Fantasy Island,’ which ran from 1977 to 1984, brought him fame and popularity. He played ‘Mr. Roarke’s’ (played by Ricardo Montalbán) assistant, ‘Tattoo.’ He joined the series’ cast in 1978 and soon became a household name for his catch phrase, ‘De Plane! De Plane!’ However, he was considered problematic on the sets, as he often clashed with producers and propositioned women on the set. He demanded a salary equal to that of his co-star Ricardo Montalbán, so he was fired from the series and was replaced with Christopher Hewett.
Villechaize featured as a vocalist in a single (‘Why’) by ‘The Children of the World,’ which was released in 1980 by ‘Cleveland International Records.’
In the later part of his career, he worked in the 1982 parody film ‘Airplane II: The Sequel,’ and also in the episodes of ‘NBC’ sitcom, ‘Different Strokes,’ and ‘Emmy Awards’ winner comedy, ‘Taxi.’ He also appeared in some commercials, including ‘Dunkin’ Donuts.’
In Shelley Duvall’s children’s anthology TV series ‘Faerie Tale Theater,’ Villechaize played the title character in the episode, ‘Rumplestiltskin.’ He worked in the TV show ‘Viaje con nosotros’ (Travel with us), wherein he impersonated Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González, which made him popular in Spain during the 1980s. His made his final appearance on an episode of ‘The Ben Stiller Show.’
Family & Personal Life
In 1970, Villechaize married Anne Sadowski, but the two divorced in 1979. Later in 1980, he married Camille Hagen, an actress whom he first met on the sets of ‘Fantasy Island’ pilot. The two lived on a San Fernando Valley ranch, but their marriage ended in 1982.
During the 1970s and 1980s, he was actively involved in a movement against child abuse. He often personally went to the crime scene and didn’t hesitate in confronting the abuser and tried to comfort the victim.
In 1985, Villechaize was convicted for carrying a loaded weapon in a hospital, and the next year he was arrested because of an altercation with his ex-wife.
On September 4, 1993, Villechaize shot himself in the early hours at his North Hollywood home. Apparently, he first shot through sliding glass patio doors to awaken his long-time girlfriend Kathy Self, before shooting himself. He was declared dead at a North Hollywood hospital. His suicide note stated that his chronic health issues had made him end his life. He had reportedly attempted suicide on a number of occasions. Apparently his normal size internal organs caused pressure on his small body, resulting into pain. His girlfriend reported that he often slept in kneeling position for comfortable breathing.
He was cremated after his death and his ashes were scattered over Pacific Ocean off the Point Fermin, California.
A week before he committed suicide, journalist Sacha Gervasi had interviewed Villechaize. Twenty-five years after his death, Gervasi paid a tribute to the late actor through his ‘HBO’ movie, ‘My Dinner with Hervé.’ Peter Dinklage played Villechaize in this film, which released on October 20, 2018.