Peter Dinklage: Cyrano is more than 'a guy with a big nose' (exclusive)

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Watch: Peter Dinklage talks to Yahoo about Cyrano

Think Cyrano de Bergerac and one thing comes to mind: that famous nose. But, for Peter Dinklage, who takes on the role in the latest incarnation of Edmond Rostand’s 19th century play, there isn’t a prosthetic in sight.

For him, the story is 'not just about a guy with a big nose.'

Arriving in cinemas this week, Joe Wright's Cyrano is a musical version of the romantic classic, with Dinklage as the fearless swordsman with the heart of a poet who can never express his love for Roxanne (Haley Bennett).

Read more: Dinklage: 'I've had stares my whole life'

Instead, he uses his wordsmith skills to help fellow soldier Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jnr) in his attempts to woo her. Talking to Yahoo alongside the film’s director Joe Wright and writer Erica Schmidt, he revealed that getting rid of Cyrano’s trademark gave the story a much more universal appeal.

Haley Bennett stars as Roxanne and Peter Dinklage as Cyrano in Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)
Haley Bennett stars as Roxanne and Peter Dinklage as Cyrano in Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)

“It dominates the original Cyrano, because all we know is the nose and he talks forever about his insecurities because of being ugly with this big nose,” he said. “If you get rid of that, you’re able to get closer to the piece. It becomes a more universal story, not just one about a guy with a big nose who laments his differences.”

Dinklage also played the role in the 2018 original stage production and had seen other interpretations. “For me as an actor, I loved Gerard Depardieu, Steve Martin and all the stage productions I’d seen, but mostly what I saw was a handsome actor in a fake nose who got to take it off once the show was done. And you were very aware that it was fake, so it overtook the piece, for me.”

Cyrano De Bergerac, poster by Maurice George-Elie Lalau (1881-1961). France, 20th century.
Cyrano De Bergerac, poster by Maurice George-Elie Lalau (1881-1961). France, 20th century. (Getty)

Seeing his Cyrano was one of the reasons that inspired Joe Wright to bring a new take on one of his favourite stories to the big screen. “I really loved the Gerard Depardieu version from the 80s but when I saw Peter Dinklage play the role without the usual kind of fake nose, it seems to have an immediacy, an authenticity and an honesty that I hadn’t foreseen,” he recalled.

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“And I felt it was something that would make the film fresh and modern and relevant to today’s audience.”

Watch a trailer for Cyrano

Losing the famous nose was all the idea of Erica Schmidt, who initially wrote the musical version for the stage and then adapted it for the screen. “It was one of the first things I cut. I wanted to have a Cyrano without a big nose and I wanted him not to spend the show speaking about it,” she explained.

“I wondered what the character would be like if you didn’t know what he was physically insecure about. That was my approach to the whole piece.”

She also replaced one of the original’s centrepieces, the “nose speech” – which became the “20 nose jokes” scene in Steve Martin’s 1987 Roxanne – with a song where “he addresses what he feels about his own physical difference, but he never says specifically what it is.

Haley Bennett stars as Roxanne and Peter Dinklage as Cyrano in Joe Wright’s Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)
Haley Bennett stars as Roxanne and Peter Dinklage as Cyrano in Joe Wright’s Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)

"When I originally conceived the piece, I didn’t have Peter in mind and I’d dreamt of doing it on stage with actors who are six feet tall. I don’t think it matters what you look like. Everybody has that insecurity about themselves, whether you can see it or not.”

Originally due to open in January, Cyrano had its UK release delayed by six weeks because of the surge in omicron variant cases. It is nominated for four BAFTAs and one Oscar.

Cyrano is released in cinemas on 25 February.

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