HE may have been only 2ft 8in but Verne Troyer had a giant appetite for booze, controversy and Playboy models.
Verne, who shot to fame as Mini-Me, the clone sidekick to Mike Myers’ Dr Evil in 2009 Austin Powers sequel The Spy Who Shagged me, was battling depression and alcoholism before his death at the weekend aged 49.
Verne used to boast he could drink his own weight in booze — and there were periods where he would down six beers and a bottle of spirit every day.
More than once his small body could not cope and he ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning.
A statement on his official Instagram account last night read: “Over the years he’s struggled and won, struggled and won, struggled and fought some more, but unfortunately this time was too much.”
The post added: “Depression and suicide are very serious issues.”
While Verne projected immense confidence — his business card read “The biggest little man in show business” — it was often a front and he was plagued by doubts that the models he bedded didn’t really love him. One of his near-fatal booze-ups followed new wife Genevieve Gallen running off with a male stripper.
Verne rarely spoke about what was troubling him inside but it is known that he hated people staring at him and was self-conscious about his size.
“It is a sad day, but I hope he is in a better place. He will be greatly missed.”
His first major role was as a stunt double for a baby in Baby’s Day Out in 1994, but it was the Spy Who Shagged Me and follow-up Goldmember that got him the attention of the girls. He also appeared in 2001’s Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone.
A regular at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, he was chased by lusty women intrigued by this larger-than-life character.
Ex-wife Genevieve, a 6ft 2in model, praised his sexual technique, once saying: “Let’s just say make no assumptions. I’m a very satisfied woman. Verne was the most amazing to be held by.
“My biggest problem was other girls would come and just throw themselves at him and I would get pushed away.”
Bald Verne was more than happy to play up to his sex symbol image.
He claimed: “I may be short but don’t think I don’t know how to please a woman. I make up for it in other areas. I love beautiful women.”
And he was not shy about trying to get them into bed.
And after knocking back three glasses of champagne on the show, he told Sugababe Mutya Buena, “You look good”.
He did not succeed there, but his girlfriends included models Ranae Shrider and Yvette Monet.
Verne fell out with Ranae when a sex tape of them together was leaked online in 2008. And in 2009 Yvette claimed he bombarded her with abusive texts and emails after she dumped him.
His marriage to Genevieve in 2004 lasted less than two months. When she ran off with a male stripper, Verne asked for an annulment in the hope of avoiding a costly divorce.
Ranae accused Verne of being tight with his money — and lacking romance.
She claimed he treated her “like a slave” and bought her a “diamond” necklace which turned out to be the “type someone would get out of an arcade machine”.
Ranae said: “There are two sides to Verne. One is a fun and silly man with a great sense of humour.
“The other is a horrible, mean-spirited person who is angry at the world and drinks himself close to death to forget how depressed he is.”
But then Genevieve revealed: “He’s been under tremendous stress and he turned to other things to relieve that stress, like drinking.” Medics put him on a heart monitor and later he checked in to Wavelengths, the Malibu clinic that treated Robert Downey Jnr.
A year later, after he was warned about hitting the bubbly hard on a flight, he snapped back: “I can handle it, I know what I’m doing.”
Like all alcoholics, he could not admit the truth about his lack of willpower.
But it became clear in 2005 during his appearance on US reality show The Surreal Life, when he stripped fully nude and urinated on the floor.
Two years later he admitted: “It’s hard for me to watch that now because I was drinking so heavily back then. I’d pretty much drink anything available.”
Things had been so bad he would find himself being sick every 30 minutes or grabbing a beer when he got up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet.
In 2008, Verne admitted: “I drank my own weight in alcohol and it almost killed me. I was close to death. I was definitely in bad shape.”
His wild behaviour made him a popular guest on reality TV shows, and he was a favourite to win Celebrity Big Brother here in 2009.
He eventually came fourth after driving a scooter into the diary room door having knocked back champagne.
His upbringing could not have been further from the celebrity lifestyle he later had.
Verne was born with dwarfism in Michigan to Amish parents, whose religion banned the use of modern technology.
Verne said: “The Amish like to live a very plain lifestyle, the way they think God intended. It sort of brings you back to Little House On The Prairie days or something.”
His parents treated him the same as brother Davon and sister Deborah, getting him to “carry wood, feed the cows and pigs and farm animals”.
They later gave up the faith when he was still young, with his dad Reuben becoming a repair technician and mum Susan a factory worker.
Verne did not let his stature limit his school years. He was the star of his prom and partied hard, drinking more than he could cope with. He once recalled coming home at 15, saying: “The room was spinning and the only way to make it stop was to put my foot on the ground. Unfortunately, my legs couldn’t reach the floor so I just kept spinning.”
At 21 he moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked in a sweet wrapper factory before getting a job as a stunt man, doubling for animals and small children.
More recently he rediscovered his faith in God and was baptised.
That was not enough though to prevent him seeking solace in the bottle.
Last year Verne checked in to rehab for his alcoholism, telling fans: “I got this.”
Yet weeks before his death he was placed “under involuntary psychiatric hold” after suffering alcohol poisoning, after friends had to call the emergency services.
In the past few years the movie career that had made him smile had stalled, and he was more regularly seen here in adverts for BGO casinos.
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He once said: “I enjoy making people laugh.” He certainly did that with his turn as Mini-Me.
Few will forget his scene with Beyonce when he asks her character Foxxy Cleopatra: “Are you sure you don’t have a little clone in you?”
When she replies: “Yes, I’m sure”, he writes her a note saying “Would you like to?”
And for scenes like that, fans will always remember Verne Troyer as the little man who brought them big laughs.