Character-Actor Paul Giamatti is always looking for his next project. It’s because of this motivation that Giamatti’s wheelhouse of characters has expanded throughout his working career. Equipped with a loud timbre and a frank delivery, Giamatti is known for his perceptive yet off-the-wall characters. What sets him a part from the rest is that he knows when to take a turn in the opposite direction. Refreshingly, for Giamatti, his decisions rely purely on instincts and not a devised strategy.
Up next for Giamatti is Phil Morrison’s dark comedy All Is Bright, which sees the actor opposite Paul Rudd. Giamatti plays Dennis, an ex-con just released from prison for attempted robbery. Devoid of the colorful tones that the actor usually pulls into his characters, Giamatti plays a sympathetic ex-con with a melancholy gait. Dennis’ set up is laid out within the first half hour when he comes home to find that his wife Therese has moved on with his partner Rene (Rudd), and told their child that he has died. Incredibly bleak, and tragically humorous, Giamatti and Rudd square off as ex-partners turned rivals that desperately want to achieve success a part from their criminal past. Toss in the men trying to make an “honest living” by selling Christmas trees in the dead of winter, and you have yourself a smart yet bittersweet tale with a hint of jingle bells thrown in the mix for good measure.
Paul Giamatti sat down to talk about the quirky holiday film, and what truly excites him about film these days.
On researching for the role of an ex-convict:
GIAMATTI: Did I talk to ex cons? Me? No! [Laughs] I felt imprisoned by the whole experience. No. I figured I could imagine what it felt like to be in prison. We had to work a little bit on the Canadian accent, which [Paul] Rudd does better than I do in the movie. It actually proved to be a much trickier accent than I thought it was going to be. I’d rather do a Russian accent than a Canadian accent. There were things like that. I was familiar with that part of Quebec and we worked around that.
On playing off of Paul Rudd:
GIAMATTI: The contrast is enough to get things going. He’s a way better actor than I am, and a way better comedic actor, so I just went with him. I have to react to him for the most part. It’s hard to say who’s the straight man from one moment to the next or who’s dumber than the other guy. It’s not clear. It changes a lot, which I thought was interesting. We had a lot of discussions, and we had a lot of rehearsal time. He’s more light on his feet, which he should be with this part. For me it was just to keep up with him. I’d like to think I’m okay.
On the key to looking for new projects:
GIAMATTI: Facial hair. What kind of facial hair will I have? I went to the school of follicle realism. If I have the hair, I have the character. [Laughs] I suppose if the story is more gripping than anything else. The characters are great, and that’s a nice thing, but I just have to find the story interesting. The person making it is also more important than anything else. I just need to be compelled to keep reading the script! It’s more rare to actually be engaged by a story.
On taking on The Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2:
GIAMATTI: It was great! It was kind of funny. People were like, ‘How are you going to do this?’ but I was like, ‘Man I was ready to play this since I was five years old!’ This is easy. I know how to run around with a machine gun and scream at people, and blow stuff up! That was so much fun. I don’t have any prosthetics. I have to wear tattoos. I have ‘a thing’ that I’m not supposed to talk about. They’ll kill me.
Switching from comedy to drama:
GIAMATTI: It’s what I’m supposed to do. Sometimes the more extreme the shift is the more pleasurable it is to catapult from one thing to the next. It’s easier to go to something even closer. That would be really difficult. To jump to something entirely different is kind of what I’m supposed to do. I try to seek it out. I like to do good things, and I don’t just do it for the hell of it. I have some funny notion that that’s what an actor is supposed to do. [Laughs] People are supposed to go, ‘Oh that guy again, but he’s playing that?’
ALL IS BRIGHT hits theaters Friday, October 4, 2013 and is available on VOD. DVD release is slated for November 18, 2013.