An American actor of short stature and abundant energy, Tony Cox has been featured in dozens of film and television productions, and is most widely recognized for his prominent role in the cult-classic comedy "Bad Santa" (2003). Inspired by acting legend and fellow little person Billy Barty, Cox decided to head to Hollywood in his youth. By the early 1980s, he was regularly appearing onscreen, albeit often in bit parts. His career picked up when he was cast as an Ewok in "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" (1983), and he later turned up in two Ewok-related TV movies. Although not all of his performances were in high-profile productions, Cox managed to essentially corner the market on African-American dwarf actors, leading to steady work, including his major role in "Bad Santa," a series of spoof movies, and a supporting part in the fantasy prequel "Oz the Great and Powerful" (2013).
A New York City native who was raised in Alabama, Cox initially pursued music, developing a childhood passion for drumming. However, he ultimately opted to try his hand at acting and relocated to Los Angeles in his late teens. Cox's size as a dwarf made him appealing to producers looking for little people, and he began landing minor parts, appearing in early 1980s episodes of the fantastical shows "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (NBC, 1979-1981) and "The Greatest American Hero" (ABC, 1981-83). In 1981 he was featured in the dwarf-centric period comedy "Under the Rainbow," along with his acting hero, Billy Barty, and two years later he suited up as a furry Ewok in "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi," as well as a pair of TV spinoffs: "The Ewok Adventure" (1984) and "Ewoks: The Battle for Endor" (1985).
Fittingly also appearing in Mel Brooks' cheeky "Star Wars" spoof, "Spaceballs" (1987), Cox remained most active in feature films, occasionally working on television. Although Cox's projects often involved magic and the macabre, as with "Beetlejuice" (1988) and "Willow" (1988), he also managed to stretch out a bit and play more realistic characters, particularly in his portrayal of real-life jazz figure Pee Wee Marquette in the Clint Eastwood-directed Charlie Parker biopic "Bird" (1988). While the 1990s offered less distinguished parts for Cox, he bounced back significantly during the next decade, notably appearing as criminally-inclined mall elf Marcus in Terry Zwigoff's gleefully crass dark comedy "Bad Santa," which found him working closely with Billy Bob Thornton as the perpetually drunk and cranky title character.
After a guest stint on the Denis Leary-led firefighter series "Rescue Me" (FX, 2004-2011), Cox became a regular in the low-brow parody flicks made by filmmakers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, starting with "Date Movie" (2006) and including "Epic Movie" (2007) and "Disaster Movie" (2008), with the latter featuring him as a sarcastic, height-challenged Indiana Jones. Plenty of little-seen films followed, but Cox finally returned to the big time with a memorable role in "Oz the Great and Powerful" (2013), where he appeared as Knuck, a dutiful Emerald City citizen and an ardent admirer of the good witch Glinda (Michelle Williams).
Cast (Feature Film)
Played an Ewok in "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi"
Portrayed Pee Wee Marquette in the jazz drama "Bird"
Starred in "Bad Santa" with Billy Bob Thornton
Had recurring role on "Rescue Me"
Played Knuck in "Oz the Great and Powerful"