Paul Giamatti ‘terrified’ to be himself as star tipped for Oscar

Entertainment

He’s one of the finest character actors of his generation but Paul Giamatti says he’s “terrified” at the prospect of having to be himself as praise is heaped upon him this awards season.

So far his new film The Holdovers has won him a Golden Globe, seen him nominated for a Best Actor at the BAFTAs and he’s widely tipped to be a frontrunner in the same category at the Oscars.

Speaking to Sky News, the US actor admitted: “I’m terrified, I dread having to speak in public and having to be myself… but because I really like this movie it’s been easier to do.”

The movie sees him reunited with filmmaker Alexander Payne whom he last worked with 20 years ago on the film Sideways.

Giamatti’s portrait of middle-aged disappointment back then was as funny as it was painful to watch as his character embarked on a road trip through California wine country.

Paul Giamatti stars as Paul Hunham in The Holdovers. Pic: Seacia Pavao/Focus Features
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Giamatti plays a boarding school professor in The Holdovers. Pic: Seacia Pavao/Focus Features

Two decades on, the pair seem to be repeating that cinematic success. The film’s premise centring around a professor at a prestigious boarding school in the early ’70s who reluctantly has to take care of those children whose parents don’t want them home for Christmas.

“The timing,” Giamatti explains, “it feels like the right movie at the right time, you know, this kind of nice movie about empathy and connection in times that feel pretty fraught and divisive.”

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“I went to a school like that and I was raised around environments like that, I was stunned at how authentic it felt.”

Remarkably Giamatti has only ever been nominated for one Oscar, back in 2006 for Cinderella Man. While there’s speculation that this film could be the role that finally secures him an Academy Award, he is self-deprecating about whether he’s been overlooked in the past.

“I’m amazed that I was ever nominated for anything,” he insists.

Director Alexander Payne and actors Paul Giamatti and Da'Vine Joy Randolph on the set of The Holdovers. Pic: a Focus Features/Seacia Pavao
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Giamatti with co-star Da’Vine Joy Randolph who plays Mary Lamb. Pic: Focus Features/Seacia Pavao

For Giamatti, whose family were all teachers, there is a meta aspect to the role in acting out the career he almost embarked on.

“It was very much something I could have done. I’m glad I didn’t, I don’t think I would have been any good at it. So, you know, I had a moment when I dodged that bullet.”

While Giamatti says working with filmmaker Payne after all these years “felt like coming home” audiences hoping the pair will produce a third movie anytime soon could have a wait on their hands.

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Da’Vine Joy Randolph on awards buzz

“I hope it’s not another 20 years,” he says, “although it’ll be interesting. We’ll both be very old so it could make for an interesting movie.”

Whether this turns out to be Giamatti’s year or not in terms of awards, with its humour and pathos cinematically speaking The Holdovers has all the makings of a modern classic.

The Holdovers is in cinemas from today.

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