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People Top 5
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- October 19, 1998
- Vol. 50
- No. 14
With Simon Birch, 11-Year-Old Actor Ian Michael Smith Puts His Books Aside to Bring Dwarfism to the Screen
For equally obvious reasons, Smith's starring role in Birch has made him a target for autograph hunters. "I'm easy to recognize," he notes. Smith suffers from Morquio's syndrome, a hereditary disorder that causes dwarfism; he has already reached his full height of 3' 1½". He has had spinal surgery and two operations on his legs to correct misalignment and rides a scooter from class to class at his public school. But, says the 37-lb. sixth grader, "I've just been a normal kid."
Not to mention precocious. "He's an extraordinarily bright and perceptive child," says Judd. "He's into chemistry and is constantly reading a book." Smith—who lives in a Chicago suburb with brother Brian, 5, and parents Steve, a marketing consultant, and Gayle, a former teacher—dreams of becoming a lawyer. But he will always be proud of Birch. In past films, he says, dwarfs "have been portrayed as freaks. I hope [viewers] understand that we're just normal people."
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