INT: Sideways, Pt. 2
Paul Giamatti, by his own admission, is not Tom Cruise. But he may well be the King of the character actors. And with his latest film, SIDEWAYS, he takes a leap into uncharted territory with a role as...a leading man? It was more than once that his co-stars and director Alexander Payne referred to him as "dashing" and "romantic" so perhaps it's just a matter of time before Giamatti sheds his King's robe and joins the ranks of the leading men. Can you imagine a Paul Giamatti/Kate Hudson romantic comedy? Hmmm.... Here's Paul:How much fun is it to play a character like this whos perpetually depressed? Its a lot of fun actually. The whole thing was fun. It was fun getting to work with Tom (Haden Church). The whole thing was fun. Its a great part. The whole thing is well-written. And the guy is so depressed its fun to play. The depression is a fun part of it. Is it hard on you, as a person, to be that depressed guy for the duration of a shoot? Nah. I get to go home so its not a big problem. And like I say, its meant to be funny too. It was fun. The more depressed I could be, the funnier it was. Can anyone who makes their living in a creative field identify with your character? I think so, sure. Ive never had that experience of playing a character where I feel like I really understand what this guy is going through. This is the first time where I had an overlap with the character. I could sort of understand a lot of the frustration and the sense of failure and all that stuff. Totally. This is a rare film in the sense that youre in practically every frame. I am. I literally was. That was an interesting challenge. Everybody was so great I never felt like I had to carry anything alone though. It was more of a physical toll of everyday work. Everybody else gets to go home and Im like, When the hell do I get to go home? Thats a little scary but it was fun.
How does Alexander Payne differ from some of the other directors youve worked with? Alexander is really good at what he does. Its hard to say how he differs. Hes good in the way that the really good guys are good. He knows how to talk to actors the way they need to be talked to. He knows when to say things and when not to. Hes very good with people. He really knows people. So I think he could tell that Im a guy who shouldnt talk about things a lot so I think he knew when not to talk about something. Which is a hard thing to read off somebody, when to do things like that. One of the most important things that a director can do, I think, is to know what people need and when they need it. Otherwise youre talking to everybody the same way. To be that skilled a psychologist is a really important part of it. Hes also incredibly relaxed. Or seemingly relaxed. He gives the illusion on the set that nothing could possibly go wrong and you feel that it wont. Things do all the time but you never read it off him. You know, hes also very intimately involved in what youre doing. He doesnt use a monitor, which most directors today use. No monitor, he sits right next to the camera like very old school. He talks to you while things are being shot and you can hear him and its very connected to what youre doing. Hes just a very decent guy which sets him apart from most people in Hollywood. Do you think that aspect of his personality is a big part of why his scripts are so good? Absolutely, yeah. Hes also got a sick sense of humor, which comes across. Hes got a weird sense of humor but its great cause its very unique. That relaxed nature also comes through in a lot of the way he just puts the movie together. That controlled-but-relaxed thing comes through in this movie really well. Both of those things serve the movie well. Had you met Thomas before the movie? I hadnt met him before but I knew who he was. And I knew he was great. I remember him from Wings and I kinda liked that show. Id always watch it and think, these people are funny and then Id see him and think, What the hell is up with that guy?! That guy is so bizarre. What a weird character he created. I always really liked him. So when I first met him it was effortless to get along with him cause hes a very funny guy. It was really easy. The fact that you are such opposites worked well in the movie. And he and I are opposites in real life too. The way we work is opposite. All of that worked to the advantage of the movie. Can you talk a little bit more about what you and Thomas did together to help cultivate that chemistry? We sat around a lot. We did read through the script slowly but it was almost more about sitting around and going out to dinner and having some wine. And Alexander would show us hes a big movie buff stuff that was sparking off his imagination. Hed say, Theres this Italian movie I want you guys to look at a bit of. It was great. It was really just us hanging out. That was very smart on his part. Cause it was really all about getting together and having a decent time.
How much of the wine stuff did you have to learn? I had to get the behavioral stuff down. It was tricky. Some of that stuff is hard. Swirling that stuff in the glass is actually tricky. I had to actually just practice that cause the wine, Im a spaz, the wine would just end up flying all over the place. That was the trickiest thing. All the wine stuff I didnt bother with cause that was all in the script. I had that done for me. I just had to get the behaviors down. And those were hilarious because theyre so serious and weird. That was the fun part of that. Even the slurping is real? The slurping thing they really do. Its just ridiculous. They look like idiots doing that. I shouldnt say that (laughs) about people whose lives are dedicated to wine. Its that thing thats so serious and you just lose all sense of self-consciousness about it cause youre so passionate and involved in this idiotic thing that youre doing. Its fun. What is it about road trips that help reveal things about characters? Youre taking people out of their natural habitat and putting them somewhere where they dont belong. So I suppose its you know, its interesting. The guy, especially Jack, feels that hes Im taking (Miles) to a place where I think is his secret special place feeling this sense of, Im free and Im on another planet, or something. It definitely unleashes him. Its a place where Ive created a fantasy world too. Its all about getting hit by reality on the road I guess, but its all about creating fantasy too. Youre right, that is something interesting about people. You spent a lot of time acting in that car in this movie. A LOT of car acting. I like car acting though. Cause youre just sitting all the time. You dont have to do blocking or anything. You just sit and say the words. A lot of car acting. And it was a great car. We had three or four of those. Those bad Volvos. I think its a Volvo. No wait, its a Saab. And that particular shade of red, cause Alexander was obsessed with it being that exact shade of red. And the windows would shatter when I shut the door. When we did the naked man scene we shattered the window, he didnt even hit it that hard. They were the worst cars. In terrible condition. The Saab people are gonna kill me. They were in bad shape! Its not cause they were Saabs!
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