Martin Klebba Interview
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Martin Klebba interview
Some of his best-known films include Hancock and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and there are plenty more where that came from. When ABILITY’s Chet Cooper caught up with Martin Klebba, the popular actor was in preproduction for a new movie, in post-production for four more, and had just completed a sixth. Still, he finds time to romance his finace, ride his motorcycles and run a nonprofit foundation called Coalition for Dwarf Advocacy, which puts every dollar it receives towards helping little people.

Chet Cooper: What have you been up to?

Martin Klebba: I just finished some stunts up in Napa last week for an Adam Sandler movie. It was actually for another little person—an actress who didn’t want to do them herself. So I was actually stunt-doubling for her. Then, I’m shooting a short soon up in Portland where I play a drug dealer.

Cooper: And that wasn’t a joke when you said that, right?

Klebba: (laughs) No, a “short” is kind of like a pilot, maybe 20 or 30 minutes long. We’re gonna try to pitch it and sell it. “Get the right investors and a bigger budget and bring in some big names, juice up the plot a little bit more.”

Cooper: Do they pay you in shorts?

Klebba: You get a promise of deferred payment, so if the thing gets picked up, you either get the guarantee that you’re gonna play the part or you’ll get paid on the back end. I do a lot of these things and I get a producer’s credit as well. That way, no matter what, I’m gonna start getting some money out of it.

Cooper: Tell me about the new movie you’re doing?

Klebba: Apollo Thorne? We’re still in preproduction. From what I’ve read in the script, it’s going to be fun. Remember the movies Gremlins and Goonies?

Cooper: Sure.

Klebba: It’s kind of like Gremlins and Goonies meets 30 Days of Night. The story is about a father and daughter; they’re not related by blood, but their love is thicker than blood—literally. He’s overprotective and coping with his daughter becoming a woman, while she’s dealing with finding out that her father is a vampire slayer, and that she happens to be half-vampire. So what’s to become of her? How will Apollo reconcile this? Is there a cure? What powers does she possess?

All this and her father is four feet tall. There’s probably a lot you could say about Apollo’s height, but it’s a positive thing, given that he can outmaneuver anyone taller and he has the ability to fight evil no matter where it hides. I look forward to shooting it.

Cooper: Any shoot dates set yet?

Klebba: They’re thinking early 2009. The guy who wrote it is going to direct. This’ll be his third film. They want to get a big name for the vampire, too, so there’s box office draw. But I think the story’s unique in the sense that you don’t usually see a little person or somebody with a challenge get to play a role like that. That’s mainly what I do. Even in Pirates, I didn’t want to be the “dwarf pirate,” I just wanted to be a pirate who happened to be small. I mean, there are jokes that we play off of, but at the same time, I’m just as scrappy and bad-ass as the next guy.

Cooper: Your basic bad-ass dad…

Klebba: The funny thing about my character is that he’s a high school science teacher who’s so determined to keep his daughter from dating this one boy, that he totally misses the fact that there’s a really hot librarian who’s interested in him. So he puts his energies into fending off this boy, and at the same time has to deal with his vampire nemesis of many years.

Cooper: Sounds like it could be good.

Klebba: I think so. When they came to me about it, I was like, “Let me read what you have and see.” Because you don’t want to become attached to something just to become attached to it, but I read it and I was like, “Oh, yeah, this is great!” I could go out there and do the leprechauns and the elves and the goblins, like every other little guy in Hollywood, but there’s a few out there who are doing legitimate roles, trying to be taken seriously as real actors. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Cooper: You started an organization to benefit little people.

Klebba: It originally was called the Martin Klebba Foundation, but then upon further research I found out that you have to have a board of directors to get a 501(c) tax ID, so that way everything’s on the up-and-up. I don’t want anybody thinking that any donations were going into my pocket. One hundred percent of every dollar we get from donations goes to helping little people, whether it’s little-people couples or average-sized couples looking to adopt little people children from around the world, or maybe a little person who needs some accessibility features on a car or a home.

I recently attended the national convention for little people in Detroit, which happens to be my home, so this year CoDA [Coalition for Dwarf Advocacy] did two things. We sponsored an athlete to attend the conference, paid for the hotel, the conference registration and the flight. Without our help, he wouldn’t have had the money to get there. We also gave a $5,000 scholarship to one of the applicants who’s finishing up a graduate degree.

We’re doing a fundraiser in Salt Lake City, UT, and my friend Lee Arenburg, who played Pintel in Pirates, is going to come out to do some TV and radio to promote it. We’re going to sign autographs and take pictures to raise money. I’ve got my career, and at the same time I’ve got this other thing on the side where I can help people.

Cooper: How long has CoDA been around?

Klebba: About two years. One of my great friends, Matt Roloff, who does the show Little People, Big World, is president, because he had prior experience as president of Little People of America. I’m the vice president. Sometimes I go out on movie shoots and I don’t have time to hold the reins, but he’s generally home filming the TV show and can be around a lot more than I can.

Cooper: Where does he live?

Klebba: Portland, OR, and that’s where we’ve made his office. Have you ever seen the show Little People, Big World on TLC?

Cooper: Yes I know about the show. I think they are doing well.

Klebba: They’ve done well. With a lot of additions to the house, it’s tripled in size since I visited.

Cooper: It’s filmed in his house.

Klebba: Yes. It’s about his family. He’s married to a really old friend of mine, Amy, from Michigan.

Cooper: She’s really old?

Klebba: (laughs) I’ve known her a long time. They have four kids. They’re both little people, and their first set of kids were twins. One was average height and one was small, and then there are two other kids after that, who are both average size. So you’ve got three little people in the family and three average size people.

Cooper: I always hear good things about the show.

Klebba: I’ve been on it quite a few times. The one thing little people don’t like is the “M” word, “midget.” To us it’s like calling a black person the “N” word. The show has enlightened and educated people who might not know that. Or they get some insight into what it’s like to be a little person as far as the daily routines you go, whether it’s driving or doing laundry and dealing with the counters. You go into a hotel and you see that things are really high for a little person.

Cooper: What are some of your pet peeves in the sense of universal design? Do you ever look at certain things and think, “Wow, if that was designed differently.”

Klebba: I do, and yet I’m different from a lot of other little people: I’ve always been physically able to do a lot of stuff, so if I have to get something off a counter above me, either I use a small stool or I’ll just climb up on the counter and grab it. My fiancée’s average size, and my son’s average size, so I don’t want to alter my whole house, because the resale won’t be very good unless we sell it to another little person. So, for the most part, the only thing I really can’t do is probably go on some of the bigger roller coasters.

I’d love to drive a Lamborghini, but I think it’s hard when the pedals are way down in there, and you sit real low, but I’ve come up with some pedal extensions. I actually sit in a kids’ car seat that my old boss put this beautiful leather wrap around, and it looks just like a Corvette seat that sits on top of my leather Corvette seat. It’s black and not so noticeable.

Cooper: It looks more like a jet seat?

Klebba: Exactly.

Cooper: So with the different accommodations, it’s just been part of—

Klebba: —growing up. I played high school football. I was in the drama club. I think with challenges, you either overcome them or you fall behind and become a statistic. I don’t want to become a statistic..... continued in ABILITY Magazine

ABILITY Magazine
Other articles in the Lainie Kazan issue include Headlines — Colorful Wheelchairs; Aid For Medical Bills; Senator Harkin — Global Disability Rights; Green Pages — Solar Garden Lighting; Vegan Shoes; Humor — Get Off the Couch and Get a Hobby; Managing Pain — The Latest On Headaches; Mobility Issues? — Try A Trike; Cambodian Sports — Athletes With Disabilities Rule!; Looking For Love? — Try One of These Dating Sites; Spinal Cord Injuries — New Possibilities; Know Your Rights; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; DRLC — Got Cancer?; Events and Conferences...subscribe

More excerpts from the Lainie Kazan issue:

Lainie Kazan — Four Decades In the Spotlight

Cambodian — Disability Sport

Martin Klebba — Larger Than Life

Quid Pro Quo — A Film About the “Wannabe” Disabled

Kawasaki Teryx Accessible Fun

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