After appearing as Mini-Me in the Austin Powers film franchise, Verne Troyer became a star. The actor was born with a rare form of dwarfism known as cartilage-hair hypoplasia, but though he wasn’t like most others around him, he didn’t let it affect him or his dreams. Instead, he used it to his advantage and inspired people worldwide.
Troyer was raised in an Amish community. Sadly, he lost control over the years because of his health problems. Ultimately, he passed away in what can only be described as tragic circumstances.
So what really happened to Verne Troyer? And how did he become a big celebrity in the first place? Here’s all you need to know about him.
Being comfortable in your skin is one of the most important things in life. Whether it concerns height, weight, hair color, or anything else, we should all respect each other without assuming someone is different because of their appearance.
The same rule applies to those with other “differences,” for example, short stature or neurodevelopmental or genetic disorders. Certain individuals may struggle with to be accepted in society as easily as their peers are, but it’s essential for the rest of us be open to learning – we all have a responsibility to continue educating others and ending prejudiced thoughts for good.
Verne Troyer – Mini-Mi from ‘Austin Powers’
Of course, all of us have dreams of one sort or another. But for those with various disorders or conditions, certain goals are even more difficult to achieve, especially when they belong to industry that has strict, often cruel views regarding how someone should look.
Perhaps that’s why we believe stories like famous actor Michael Berryman’s are amongst the most inspiring. The same goes for Verne Troyer, who became a worldwide star after starring in the Austin Powers films as “Mini Me.”
Despite being born with a rare form of dwarfism known as cartilage-hair hypoplasia, Troyer never let that stand in his way of fulfilling his dreams. Against the odds, he was able to become a Hollywood star, though his life took a tragic turn when he grew older.
Verne was born in Sturgis, Michigan, on January 1, 1969. He grew up with his parents and two siblings in Centreville, Michigan. His parents worked in a factory, and Troyer recalls there was never much money. They struggled – but always made it through.
“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.
But there was something special about Verne when he was born. He had a rare form of dwarfism known as cartilage-hair hypoplasia, a disorder of bone growth characterized by 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.”
“We only had a horse and buggy”
Of course, the condition presented challenges for Verne – he almost didn’t survive as a baby.
Apparently, his father had found him blue, and when he lifted Troyer’s blanket, the little boy’s chest was caved in. Doctors called it “cradle death”. He desperately needed oxygen, though since the family was Amish, getting to a hospital was difficult.
“I almost died as a baby. My parents found me unresponsive in my crib after being laid low with an infection. As we were Amish, we only had a horse and buggy [carriage] to get to the hospital, but that wasn’t going to be quick enough, so we borrowed my aunt’s car. My parents were told there was nothing that could be done, and Dad whisked me away to another hospital, where I was put in an oxygen tent, and thankfully I recovered,” Verne recalled.
As per Verne, a doctor at the first hospital delivered a grim prognosis. He said that nothing could to be done to save the young boy, though his father refused to accept that possiblity.
“I haven’t really told anybody about that,” Troyer said on the Oprah Winfrey show.
For the most part, Troyer grew up just like any other child. The Amish community was unique, but apart from that, nothing was different. He loved playing football, and it wasn’t just before high school that the actor started to think about his height. His family was all average-sized.
But his family didn’t care one bit that Vern was different.
How Verne Troyer became an actor
Instead, his parents taught him to be independent and optimistic about his future, which helped him immensely.
“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 got punished at home if he did something bad.
“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.”
By age 21, Verne was working as a telephone company operator in Texas. His brother had moved to the southern state, and one day in 1993 would change his life forever.
One of his friends was the president of Little People of America (LPA) and had just gotten a phone call from Hollywood. The producers of the film Baby’s Day Out were casting – and they were looking for a new stand-in stuntman.
“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,” Troyer said.
Because of his rare form of dwarfism, Verne was very short. He measured just 2′ 8, and according to IMDB, often portrayed animals or small children in his early days of working in the film and television industry.
Verne Troyer as “Mini-Me”
Initially, Troyer didn’t land the most prominent parts. But his legacy and celebrity status would change radically in 1999 when he was cast as Mini-Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
The film, written by and starring Mike Myers, was a huge success. Three years later, Troyer appeared in the next movie Austin Powers: Goldmember. Again, his appearance and signature move – putting his little finger to the corner of his mouth – became iconic. Troyer was suddenly a massive star.
Not only did the audience love Verne Troyer and his character, but Troyer felt his performances could help to change the stereotypes of “little people” in Hollywood.
“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.
Though the films were popular, “Mini-Me” became a standout star. In fact, Mike Myers had to rewrite the manuscript for Goldmember, as Troyer’s character was initially supposed to die.
“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.”
The sad truth about Verne Troyer’s life
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.”
Verne landed several other significant parts following the first Austin Powers film. He starred as the goblin Griphook in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and in 2008, he reunited with Myers in the 2008 film The Love Guru.
While Troyer’s career continued to see success year after year, his personal life was a different matter. All who knew him described him as a funny guy who made people laugh and was always the center of every party. But there was a darker side of him that few ever witnessed.
The actor drank a lot over the course of several years, and suffered from mental health issues in the early 2000s. He tied the knot with model Genevieve Gallen in 2014, though their marriage didn’t survive more than a year.
In April 2017, Troyer was hospitalized due to his problem with alcohol.
“While it’s not always been an easy fight, I’m willing to continue my fight day by day,” Troyer said in a statement 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, Verne Troyer’s habits didn’t change. A year later, he was once again hospitalized. On April 21, 2018, Troyer passed away at age 49. It was later revealed that the actor had taken his own life.
“Brought so much love to people”
“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.”
“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.
Verne Troyer’s ashes were sent home to Michigan after his funeral. Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel, his great friend and colleague Mike Myers delivered a tearful tribute to the “Mini-Me” actor.
“He died at 49. He wasn’t supposed to live past his teens. You saw 150 years worth of life in this photo montage,” Myers said.
He added: “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.”
Rest in peace, Verne Troyer. Please, share this article to honor him and his vision to change the stereotypes of “little people” in Hollywood.