Keenen Ivory Wayans’ 2007 directorial ‘Little Man’ is a rib-tickling comedy movie that follows Calvin “Babyface” Simms, a jewel thief with dwarfism freshly released from prison. However, his attempt at stealing a precious diamond with his accomplice, Percy, goes awry, and he hides it in a woman named Vanessa’s purse. When the duo follows her to retrieve the diamond, they realize that her husband, Darryl, is desperate for a baby. Hence, Calvin hatches a plan to use his dwarfism to fool him and get back the jewel.
Posing as a baby, Calvin arrives on the unsuspecting couple’s doorstep for adoption, leading to hilarious consequences. Featuring memorable performances by actors like Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Kerry Washington, John Witherspoon, and Tracy Morgan, the crime comedy movie entertains with its slapstick humor, the chemistry between the cast members, and well-delivered punchlines. Besides, the bizarre concept of a fully-grown man pretending to be a baby makes one wonder if any such incident happened in reality. So, if you are curious about the inspiration behind ‘Little Man,’ here’s what we found!
Is Little Man a True Story?
No, ‘Little Man’ is not based on a true story. Instead, its unique concept can be credited to the brilliant sibling trio of Keenen, Shawn, and Marlon Wayans. Interestingly, the brothers took inspiration from the 1954 Bugs Bunny cartoon, ‘Baby Buggy Bunny,’ written by Michael Maltese. In it, a former convict named Finster hides in Bugs Bunny’s hole, and the latter is fooled into believing that the criminal is a baby due to his dwarfism. Interestingly, the Bugs Bunny cartoon is not the first time such a concept has been explored in animated media.
For instance, the 1925 silent movie, ‘The Unholy Three,’ and the 1939 ‘Little Rascals’ TV short, ‘Tiny Troubles,’ have also depicted adults with dwarfism masquerading as infants or toddlers to engage in criminal activities. Yet, ‘Little Man’ differs from all these in how the actor portrayed the baby on screen. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Alex Bicknell, the movie’s visual effects supervisor, shared how instead of using an actor with dwarfism to play Calvin, they hired a 9-year-old child actor to do so. “If you didn’t know Marlon well, you might well believe, in the majority of shots, it’s just a small actor,” shared the VFX expert.
According to Bicknell, they spray-painted the child actor, Linden Porco, to match Marlon Wayans’ skin tone. Using the head-replacement VFX technique, they superimposed Wayans’ head onto Porco’s through computer graphics. In fact, the Keenan Ivory Wayans directorial is the first movie to use this technology so extensively, specifically for lingering close-up shots of the protagonist. While the film portrays an adult pretending to be a child in a comical way, such instances are surprisingly not unheard of in real life.
In 2013, a harrowing incident came to light in Indiana when couple Kristine and Michael Barnett were accused of child neglect. According to court records, they adopted a six-year-old Ukrainian girl named Natalia Grace in 2010, who was diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism. However, the Barnetts soon accused her of being a 22-year-old adult pretending to be a child and exhibiting sociopathic behavior threatening their lives. Thus, they allegedly abandoned Natalia and left her to survive alone in an apartment.
Eventually, the couple was acquitted of the charges against them, and another family adopted Natalia. While this entire real-life ordeal is rather heartbreaking, it has been heavily fictionalized and portrayed in the 2009 psychological horror movie ‘Orphan,’ and its subsequent prequel. Nevertheless, though the situation and characters in ‘Little Man’ bear some resemblance to such true incidents, it does not change the fact that they are not rooted in reality. Rather, they result from the Wayans brothers’ imagination, writing skills, and the talent of the cast members and VFX crew, making them look so convincing on screen.