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July 2006
LADY IN THE WATER: An Interview with Paul Giamatti

LADY IN THE WATER: An Interview with Paul Giamatti
By Melissa Walters
July 17, 2006

Paul Giamatti has been very busy indeed. Arguably appreciated in a new light since his Oscar nominated performance in Alexander Payne’s 2004 Sideways, Giamatti continued his momentum with Ron Howard’s Oscar nominated Cinderella Man. Giamatti also lent his voice to several animated films, including Robots, the soon to be released The Ant Bully and the Haunted World of El Superbeasto, currently in post production. Giamatti will soon be seen in Neil Burger’s The Illusionist. After completing production in Shari Springer Berman’s The Nanny Diaries, Giamatti is scheduled to begin production on Fred Claus, a film to be directed by David Dobkin. In the meantime, Giamatti currently steps forward as a leading man opposite Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, in M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in The Water. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Giamatti discusses the changes in his career since his Oscar nomination, what it was like to work with Shyamalan who was the writer, the director and an actor in this film as well as his upcoming projects.

You’ve starred in two major releases this year? You’ve got this and the Illusionist.

Paul Giamatti: Yeah, the Illusionist that’s a good picture too.

And the Ant Bully.

Paul Giamatti: And the Ant Bully right that makes me feel big. I am a cartoon character (laughs). That’s big. That’s big. I feel fine. It’s a very nice thing.

What is the difference between being a struggling person denied an Academy Award nomination a couple years in a row to being an Oscar nominee and a movie star?

Paul Giamatti: I feel exactly the same.


Paul Giamatti: Basically, I personally don’t feel that different. It’s nice. I get lots of nice parts in movies now, which is nice. Definitely I get more interesting stuff going on.

And in the excerpt from the Shyamalan book?

Paul Giamatti: Yeah, that’s the book huh?

The book that he wrote about his problem making this it said that he waited five months before you said yes?

Paul Giamatti: (Laughs) That’s not true it couldn’t have been five months it was probably five days he was anxious and I feel bad when I heard that I made him so anxious.

In the real word Paul has a lot of options to look at so Night didn’t realize that just because his script was there did you have other things you were considering?

Paul Giamatti: No I was kind of tired and I was at home and I forgot to read it (laughs).
I honestly don’t think when I heard that I felt oh geez I feel terrible I made the guy wait but I was slow that day I wasn’t really on top of it. I don’t remember there being a million things and once I read his script I though it was great. There was no question.

What made it so great in your opinion? I mean you’ve obviously seen his other pictures.

Paul Giamatti: Yeah. Well he’s an eccentric and he’s making eccentric movies that’s what I think is most interesting and I mean they are commercial movies he’s just a fascinating guy in and of himself what he’s doing and what he tries to do and he pulls it off. But they are eccentric movies. They are very strange and I though that was great. I thought this was a very weird idea and if he could pull it off that would be amazing I didn’t know if he could I think he does but it’s not an easy thing to pull off. It’s kind of an ambitious idea.

How do you see this movie? Is it a horror movie, is it a children’s movie?

Paul Giamatti: No, it’s a movie about children. It sort of aimed around children but I don’t know if it’s necessarily something I’d take my five year old kid to see it might scar him for life but its about children weird kids might like it, older kids that kind of thing. I would have liked it when I was a kid but actually but actually it falls more in the area of some kind of fantasy than science fiction its not horror there is a fantasy element to it. It’s a fairy tale or a bed time story or a myth or something but its being told all these normal people in an apartment building.

How does he work? Did anything change from when you read that first script and you get on the set and you make the movie does your character of Cleveland Heep go through is he any different?

Paul Giamatti: No, from the script that I read to the time we arrived on the set he didn’t change. He was pretty much exactly the same he’s real meticulous. And especially with this film, the plot is the star of the movie, the plot points if you are not getting them you are not going to get the movie so he was meticulous about don’t screw this up for me please just really, really stay on this stuff because the audience has gotta hear this stuff and so thank God he’s very meticulous and controlled but you have a really good time with him and he’s open to ideas but there wasn’t a whole lot of improvising.

Did your parent read you bedtime stories or do you read your children bed time stories?

Paul Giamatti: I read my child bedtime stories. I read him books. I try to make up stories but they fall flat. (Laughs). He tells me the story he wants me to tell him.

How old is he?

Paul Giamatti: He’s five he wants me to tell him a story about Superman and Mickey Mouse doing something together and I’m like well you know, I’m bad at that but I read him stuff. My parents yeah, they read me books and I have pretty strong memories.

Is there a favorite one?

Paul Giamatti: I can remember there was this just those stories. Remember those? Nobody remembers those but they were big in my house. Those were good. And I remember my mother always reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a big one.

Dr. Seuss was big.

Paul Giamatti: Dr. Seuss was big. Dr Seuss is still big he’s good.

Is it different being on a set where you’re the guy that’s in every scene driving the action and it’s a big budget movie?

Paul Giamatti: I try not to think about any of that. There was action stuff in it which was hard actually and on those days I felt the most pressure because I was like I could screw this up so easily and I hope I don’t. But that was the only thin.

How about swimming in the tank?

Paul Giamatti: Swimming in the tank was okay actually having to do some of the running around carrying Bryce was for me difficult and I was really crapping myself that day because I was like I’m going to look like such a loser if I can’t do this and I’m gonna slow the movie down if I can’t do this so but I pulled it off.

I noticed that the camera cut when you were first sitting down on the couch-

Paul Giamatti: That was the hardest thing was to stand up from the couch but I did it though, I did it and he just chose to cut there. I struggled a lot to stand up that’s really hard to do.

Did you prepare for this being the actor that you are by going someplace and being a superintendent for two weeks?

Paul Giamatti: No, I was a janitor. Actually one of my jobs I had a long time ago was a janitor at a huge gymnasium once. So I was actually familiar with cleaning toilets.

What was the significant of the name Cleveland Heep?

Paul Giamatti: I don’t know. You should ask Night that. The guy’s name was Cleveland and there’s something abut the name Cleveland. Ask Night I am sure he has some significant reason why he called the guy that.


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