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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

You’re an accomplished actor trying to work with the director acting as an amateur actor?

Paul Giamatti: He was pretty good. I thought he was pretty good. He was very good at directing himself and he was actually really hard on himself which he shouldn’t have been because I thought he was good. I mean he doesn’t fancy himself any kind of grand actor he really enjoys actors and I think he’s fascinated by them so he’s not out there thinking he’s killing the world while he’s acting but I actually thought he was really good and he was perfectly great to work with but as I said he was really hard on himself to try and be better while he was doing it.

Did he get any advice from you?

Paul Giamatti: No, I can’t give that guy advice about anything especially not acting. I wouldn’t know what to tell that guy about acting. He really is actually pretty natural at it so he knew what he wanted.

Does this make you rethink anything about the faith of a group to do something or to tap back into that part of yourself when you were a kid and you listened so much to a story. Has this changed you as a person at all?

Paul Giamatti: I’m getting too old to change. No but I mean it was a very interesting thing to do I mean it was a very, very pleasant experience in that he really created a nice camaraderie with everybody. So there was this great sense of everybody participating together in the way that people are supposed to in the movie. And so cause it really is an ensemble movie I mean there are fantastic actors in it. And so you know he really smartly creates this amazing atmosphere on the set. I don’t know that it changed- I mean for the time I was shooting it I felt like it changed me and then I went to just being myself. (Laughs).

How was the dynamic between you and Bryce? Had you guys met before and what was the working experience?

Paul Giamatti: No, I don’t think I ever met her before. I am trying to think. No, I don’t think I ever met her before but she’s ridiculously good. She’s actually an incredibly sophisticated actress. Beyond my capabilities actually. She’s so expert and controlled- really, really good. And she’s great, she’s incredibly brilliant and a very sweet woman so she’s great to work with.

You worked with her father?

Paul Giamatti: I did work with her father right before this and he was great, he’s fantastic.

So did he call you up when he heard you were going to be in the movie with her and give you some advice or warnings?

Paul Giamatti: No, he was all concerned about her running around in a shirt, he was all worried about that. That was just one thing, is she gonna be wearing much in this movie? And that was about it. I mean he can’t have any worries about her I don’t think. She’s incredibly on the ball that woman way more so then I was. She’s not a kid but I mean she’s incredibly sophisticated though so professional in a way I hope I can be some day.

So the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree with that family?

Paul Giamatti: No it doesn’t seem that way.

In the Illusionist you see that as the flip side, I mean you are a caring, suffering person in Lady in the Water and you are an instrument of deceit in that film?

Paul Giamatti: Yeah, that’s true they are kind of different and that guy is meant to this kind of cynical but he’s actually not meant to be a bad guy underneath it all and he’s kind of attracted to Edward Norton’s character. But yeah it is sort of the inverse thing and there is this weird magical thing going on in both of them. That’s interesting.

How did you get involved in the Illusionist?

Paul Giamatti: People came to me with the script. Neil Burger and the guy who wrote it came to me with the script and they were interested in me for the part and I thought this was nice I haven’t done a period thing like this on film and I was really excited with the idea of going to Prague and I like that type of period thriller thing people don’t make much of it anymore. But it was pretty standard how they came to me.

And again did you do any special type of research?

Paul Giamatti: Well, the accent thing was the thing he really wanted for that movie. He was very concerned that there be this consistent accent because there were British actors and American actors and he wanted a heightened sensibility in it so he wanted us to do this German thing. And the accent was actually huge for my character at least; it kind of gave me the character basically.

Did you work on it with a vocal or dialect coach?

Paul Giamatti: Yes, I did they hired an amazing Irishman named Brendan Gunn who is one of the best dialect guys in the world and he worked with us and he was great. We didn’t have a whole lot of time I wish I had more time but he was great. And an accent for me always helps me, it changes everything, especially that kind of German thing for that kind of guy it makes me all kind of somber like a big German guy drinking beer.

Who were you in the Ant Bully?

Paul Giamatti: I am the exterminator. I’m the guy who’s trying to kill all the ants.

Not very successfully?

Paul Giamatti: Not very successfully. My name is Stan Beals and I just play this really scummy guy and he’s more scummy than I thought he was going to be and I was a little disturbed about how scummy they made me they made me look. I said come on man. But yeah that’s a very interesting, very fun movie. I just saw it yesterday.

Was voice work fun?

Paul Giamatti: Yeah, it’s hard. I found it hard. I don’t think necessarily that my voice is my best feature. I’m not sure what my best feature is. It’s not my voice. But I find it hard because that disembodied thing I still find it hard to put all that expression only into my voice.

But did they do the thing where you recorded it and then they created this really scummy character?

Paul Giamatti: Well, they kind of had the guy already but then he got scummier after I recorded it which was weird. I mean he was less scummy looking and they made him fatter and scuzzier after I recorded it. But yeah, I don’t know how that process works. It seems crazy.

Well, they are supposed to be inspired by what you do in the recording room.

Paul Giamatti: They do. So clearly-make the guy really scummy. But it’s weird you stand in a booth and you never interact with the other people but it somehow works great which is always amazing to me.

You talked before about being a janitor, how long ago was that?

Paul Giamatti: That was a long time ago.

When you were in college?

Paul Giamatti: When I was in college. I was probably eighteen when I did that.

How long did you struggle before you got the big acting break?

Paul Giamatti: I still struggle; I struggle all the time. It’s a struggle getting out of bed every morning. No I don’t know I was a lucky guy in that I almost never had to have another kind of job I didn’t make necessarily a great living, I didn’t really care if I made a huge living but I managed to find work. I always managed to find work.

When did you give up being a janitor and doing those kinds of thing?

Paul Giamatti: Probably in my early twenties- I managed to find enough acting work. I lived in Seattle where the cost of living was a lot lower at the time and I could actually make a decent living.

Let’s talk about the making of the movie. I read the book. It sounds a lot more

Paul Giamatti: Does it really?

I was wondering what that process was like, having the writer around and he had this additional eye on you?

Paul Giamatti: Oh, having that guy who wrote the book around.

Yes, did people feel that third eye on the set, did it make a difference?

Paul Giamatti: I didn’t and I don’t think anybody else did. He’s a very, very nice guy that writer and he was incredibly unobtrusive. I mean all movie sets are harrowing to some degree or another but this was a very pleasant one. But the writer was- I didn’t feel there was some guy watching me all the time.

Was it weirder to be shooting a movie in Prague or in Philadelphia?

Paul Giamatti: Philadelphia. Definitely. And the part of Philadelphia we were in was really odd. There was strange- he’s got an amazing set up there. He’s got his own little studio but it’s a strange area, this very weird very desolate suburb of Philadelphia.

Are you currently filming the Nanny Diaries?

Paul Giamatti: No. I think they are done and I’m done.

And what do you do in that?

Paul Giamatti: Scarlett Johansson plays the nanny to a rich upper eastside family, Laura Linney plays the wife and I play the husband.

Are you clueless as the husband?

Paul Giamatti: No, no I am not clueless at all I am the scummy philanderer is what I am but you don’t see me very much I am never there and I’m kind of mean to the kid.

Did you work on another cartoon recently?

Paul Giamatti: Yeah, an R rated cartoon, called The HauntedWorld of El Superbeasto.. A real dirty cartoon.

Are you Superbeasto?

Paul Giamatti: No, I play Dr. Satan. It’s a thriller.

So Paul would you say you are getting a profile so people can say that’s a Paul Giamatti role?

Paul Giamatti: I hope not in a way. I would like to think that’s not going to happen. But I certainly hope that people will just hire me and I don’t get too squeezed into something.

Do you have a preference between playing good guys or bad guys?

Paul Giamatti: No, no. Not at all. It’s nice playing bad guys.

And are you attracted to projects by the director?

Paul Giamatti: Yes, most of the time it’s the director.

THE LADY IN THE WATER opens on July 21, 2006

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