Paul Giamatti

Also Credited As:

Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti
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Biography

Prior to becoming one of the more unlikely leading men in Hollywood, actor Paul Giamatti made a career out of playing comic foils and repressed loners constantly on the verge of exploding with rage. Giamatti first grabbed the public's attention with his vitriolic performance as Kenny - a.k.a. Pig Vomit - Howard Stern's nemesis in "Private Parts" (1997), before quickly developing into the go-to guy for a director looking for an everyman-type …
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Job Title

Actor, Producer, Music

Born

Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti on June 6, 1967 in Connecticut, USA

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Prior to becoming one of the more unlikely leading men in Hollywood, actor Paul Giamatti made a career out of playing comic foils and repressed loners constantly on the verge of exploding with rage. Giamatti first grabbed the public's attention with his vitriolic performance as Kenny - a.k.a. Pig Vomit - Howard Stern's nemesis in "Private Parts" (1997), before quickly developing into the go-to guy for a director looking for an everyman-type actor who could convincingly project simmering intensity. His sour yet endearing performance as bitter comic book writer Harvey Pekar in the offbeat biopic, "American Splendor" (2003) did much to put him on the mainstream moviegoer's radar. But it was with his highly-lauded performance in the surprise hit "Sideways" (2004), that Giamatti vaulted to the A-list as a kind of unlikely leading man, a leap that made the comfortable character actor a bit unsettled. With award-worthy performances in "John Adams" (HBO, 2008) and "Barney's Version" (2010), Giamatti became one of those rare actors capable of excelling in both leading and supporting roles, allowing him the freedom to oscillate between big budget fare and small indie films, while developing a reputation as one of the most mesmerizing performers of his time.

Giamatti was born on June 6, 1967 in New Haven, CT, the son of Angelo Bartlett "Bart" Giamatti, a former president of Yale University, and later the commissioner of Major League Baseball who was most famous for banning Pete Rose from the sport for betting on games. But his mother, Toni, was no slouch - she was a prep school English teacher and a former actor. So Giamatti grew up awash in academia, particularly Renaissance literature which was taught by his dad at Yale prior to him becoming president. Giamatti attended Choate Rosemary Hall, a preparatory school in Wallingford, CT, before studying English at Yale and graduating in 1989. The ink on the degree was barely dry when Giamatti's father - a heavy smoker for many years - died of a sudden heart attack at 51 (an actual photo of Giamatti and his father at the graduation was displayed prominently onscreen years later in "Sideways"). An avid collector of comic books and reader of science fiction, particularly H.P. Lovecraft, Giamatti moved to Seattle after his father's death to try his hand at animation. But with little to no success, he returned home to attend Yale's famed School of Drama; a move that shocked his unsuspecting family

After graduating Yale a second time, Giamatti cut his acting teeth in regional theater before moving on to bigger stages both off- and on Broadway, appearing in Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" and David Hare's "Racing Demon." He began the segue into film and television, playing a heckler in the made-for-ABC movie, "I'll Take Romance" (1990) and making his feature debut as Kissing Man in the Gen-X hit, "Singles" (1992). After his series debut as a man in a sleeping bag on "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005), Giamatti landed meatier roles in "Sabrina" (1995) and "Mighty Aphrodite" (1995). He had a memorable role as an FBI technician in "Donnie Brasco" (1997), followed by small parts in "Deconstructing Harry" (1997) and "My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997). Giamatti burst into the spotlight with a hilarious turn opposite Howard Stern as Kenny "Pig Vomit" Rushton, a virulent radio executive at NBC who tries to intimidate the irrepressible Stern, in "Private Parts" (1997). Hollywood suddenly stood up and took notice of the odd character actor.

Back on Broadway, Giamatti sank his teeth into Anton Chekhov's "The Tree Sisters" at the Roundabout Theater Company at the same time "Private Parts" hit theaters. In "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), he was again memorable in a small part, playing a bumbling paratrooper sergeant who helps Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and his small team of Army infantrymen on their mission during the Allied invasion of Normandy to find the last surviving son (Matt Damon) of a family deprived of all its male offspring as war casualties. After appearing in "The Truman Show" (1998), Giamatti turned in a scene-stealing turn opposite Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson in the hostage thriller "The Negotiator" (also 1998). He was impressive as Bob Zmuda, longtime, long-suffering collaborator of Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) in the Milos Forman biopic "Man on the Moon" (1999). Following the forgettable "Cradle Will Rock" (1999), Giamatti returned to Broadway to play Jimmy Tomorrow in Spacey's revival of "The Iceman Cometh," a role that earned him a Drama Desk nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

After serving as the perfect foil for Martin Lawrence in "Big Momma's House" (2000) and portraying a down-and-out karaoke aficionado in "Duets" (2000), Giamatti showed his diversity in balancing two roles - one intensely realistic; the other wildly absurd. First, he played a down-and-out shoe salesman and aspiring documentary filmmaker who focuses his first project on a dysfunctional family, particularly their slacker son (Mark Webber) who wants to be Conan O'Brien, in the "Non-Fiction" segment of writer-director Todd Solondz's bitter "Storytelling" (2001). He was then oddly convincing as the untrustworthy orangutan Limbo in Tim Burton's silly remake of "Planet of the Apes" (2001). In 2002, Giamatti took the stage opposite Al Pacino in a Broadway production of "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui," Bertolt Brecht's play about a fictional Chicago mobster ruthlessly disposing of his competition while trying to corner the cauliflower market. Giamatti turned in a compelling, though cartoonish performance as duplicitous Hollywood executive Marty Wolf, who steals a young boy's (Frankie Muniz) movie idea in the family-oriented "Big Fat Liar" (2002).

Following a standard supporting turn in the noirish "Confidence" (2003), Giamatti wowed audiences with his performance as the angry and embittered indie comic book auteur Harvey Pekar in the independent biopic, "American Splendor" (2003). Peppered with documentary-style interviews with the real Harvey Pekar, as well as the artist's grittily unusual artwork, the film followed the curmudgeonly misanthrope's rise from a file clerk at a VA hospital to a comic book writer whose depictions of working-class life turned him into a cult celebrity. Giamatti managed to capture Pekar's essence so perfectly, that the sporadic interviews with the real man seemed at times to be out of place. While he was honored for his performance by the National Board of Review for Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actor and nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead, Giamatti was wrongly snubbed at both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

After follow-up turns in the above-average telepic, "The Pentagon Papers" (2003) and the disappointing John Woo thriller "Paycheck" (2003), Giamatti delivered a tremendous performance in Alexander Payne's wildly praised, seriocomic "Sideways" (2004). As Miles Raymond, the failing writer and wine connoisseur who embarks on a revelatory wine country road trip with his soon-to-be-married college roommate (Thomas Hayden Church), he discovers both the darkest and most promising elements of his nature. Giamatti's poignant and affecting performance was both heartbreaking and hysterical (often both at once), and was hailed as one of the best of the year. Although many were shocked when Giamatti was overlooked for an Oscar nomination - though his co-stars Hayden Church and Virginia Madsen both received nods - the actor reveled in his share of accolades, including the Best Male Actor trophy at the Independent Spirit Awards, the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and other regional critics' honors, as well asnominations for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. He also did share a SAG ensemble award with his cast mates. Truth be told, he received more ink than he had in his entire career for not being nominated. That Giamatti "was robbed" was a common refrain - heard not just in Hollywood, but from moviegoers around the world.

Meanwhile, Giamatti provided the voice of Tim the Gate Guard in the well-reviewed animated feature "Robots" (2005), which depicted a world similar to earth but inhabited entirely by mechanical beings. His next big screen role - lensed before the phenomenal success of "Sideways" - was in director Ron Howard's uplifting "Cinderella Man" (2005), playing Joe Gould, the loyal manager of Depression era boxer and folk hero James Braddock (Russell Crowe). The role earned him the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role and a long overdue Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Giamatti next nabbed an opportunity to work with M. Night Shyamalan on "Lady in the Water" (2006), a child-like fantasy that focuses on Cleveland Heep (Giamatti), an apartment superintendent who discovers a wistful water nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) living in a strange world beneath the building's swimming pool. The nymph is in danger of being destroyed by demonic creatures from her secret world, as Heep and his building's motley tenants band together to help her get back to her world. Though "Lady in the Water" was both a critical and financial disaster, Giamatti did receive kudos for his affecting and wounded performance.

In the much more critically lauded period drama "The Illusionist" (2006), Giamatti played the shrewd Chief Inspector Uhl, a law-and-order man charged by the Crown Prince of Vienna (Rufus Sewell) to expose a gifted illusionist (Edward Norton) after the prince's fiancée (Jessica Biel) starts working on stage with him. After voicing the bug exterminator in "The Ant Bully" (2006), Giamatti returned to the low budget indie world to play an emotionally stunted man who finds a connection with a red-tailed hawk in "The Hawk Is Dying" (2007). He continued to be productive through 2007, playing the leader of a team of shadowy assassins trying to kill a baby protected by the hardboiled Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) in the ridiculously hyper-violent "Shoot 'Em Up." In "The Nanny Diaries," Giamatti portrayed the domineering Mr. X, who, along with his snooty wife (Laura Linney), hires a working-class nanny (Scarlett Johansson) and forces her to cater to the family's ever upper class need. But it was his portrayal as the dedicated, but irascible Founding Father in the seven-part miniseries "John Adams" (HBO, 2008), that earned Giamatti his greatest acclaim to date, winning the actor a slew of awards, including an Emmy, a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a television movie or miniseries and a Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance.

Giamatti kicked off the following year with a turn as a corrupt corporate CEO caught up in a high-stakes double-cross of his own making in the romantic thriller "Duplicity" (2009). Co-starring fan-favorite Julia Roberts and leading man Clive Owen, the smart and sexy film proved to be a moderately disappointing vehicle for its leads, but allowed him to shine at his vehement best. Once again jumping from mainstream fare to experimental indie projects, Giamatti next appeared as an alternate version of himself a la "Being John Malkovich" (1999) in the quirky comedy "Cold Souls" (2009), in which the depressed actor literally has his soul removed and placed in storage, only to later discover it missing. He capped off the year with "The Last Station" (2009), as the foil to the wife (Helen Mirren) of literary giant Leo Tolstoy. As Tolstoy's trusted confidant and disciple, Vladmir Chertkov (Giamatti) lobbies to convince the author to rewrite his will and leave all his worldly possessions to the people of Russia, much to the dismay of Mrs. Tolstoy. What followed was considered by many to be the most nuanced performance of Giamatti's already-impressive career. Over the course of decades, "Barney's Version" (2010) looks back at the life of the irascible Barney Panofsky: serial husband, TV producer and possible murderer. Giamatti's brilliant portrayal of the foul-mouthed, cigar-chomping, at times surprisingly endearing cretin earned him a much-deserved Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Back on the small screen, Giamatti joined an all-star cast for the cable movie "Too Big to Fail" (HBO, 2011), which chronicled the 2008 financial meltdown as seen from the eyes of its major players. Giamatti portrayed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, an academic who helped orchestrate a series of government bailouts of the banking industry that he felt were vital to saving the global economy. The role placed Giamatti back into Emmy Award contention after earning a nod for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.

After starring in the endearing indie "Win Win" (2011) as a lawyer and part-time wrestling coach, Giamatti popped up in the raucous sequel "The Hangover Part II" (2011) and George Clooney's political drama "The Ides of March" (2011), which also featured his equally formidable character-actor peer Philip Seymour Hoffman. The following year, he took on quirkier fare, with a small but notable part in David Cronenberg's coolly detached "Cosmopolis" and a supporting turn in the gleefully strange low-budget horror comedy "John Dies at the End," a passion project that Giamatti executive produced. Remaining as busy as ever, he lent his voice to the animated snail-centric dud "Turbo" (2013), was featured as Friar Laurence in a major movie adaptation of "Romeo & Juliet" (2013) and appeared briefly in the lauded historical drama "12 Years a Slave" (2013).