Every action movie needs a good bad guy. Clive Owen is pretty badass in Shoot ‘Em Up, but with his outrageous marksmanship and carrot-wielding precision, we’ve got to believe there’s some threat to him. Paul Giamatti plays a villain trying to kill a newborn infant, with personalized weapons and an endless array of henchmen he can call in. The always quirky Giamatti throws in a few humorous touches too.
CraveOnline: What was your inspiration for this character?
Paul Giamatti: My inspiration? Oh, god. I just thought the script was not boring when I read it. Even action movies are kind of boring when you read them and I just don’t know what the hell is going on in those things. And then I met the director and he just seemed like he was going to make it make sense. It just seemed like it would be fun. Good bad guy. These guys are great. I thought it would be a good time. I don’t think like I’ve ever actually played a really good guy. So, it’s like I guess I like playing more screwed up people or bad guys, probably more than good guys. I don’t think I could play a good guy like that. I couldn’t do that.
CraveOnline: How did he make it make sense to you?
Paul Giamatti: He was great. When I met him, he was what really sold me on the thing. He had all this stuff animated out. He was an animator, so he had animated all the action sequences which was really cool and gave you an enormous amount of confidence that the guy knew exactly what he was going to be doing. So, he was hyper prepared and really unbelievably great on the set and improvising stuff when he couldn’t get everything he wanted necessarily. They did an unbelievable amount of stuff everyday so he was just incredibly prepared, but he was really excited. I think because he was so excited, I have never worked with somebody who was more decent to everybody on the set, because I think he was just really happy to be there. He would go around every night to each department and thank everybody which I had never seen a director do. An incredibly decent guy. He’s a weird guy, he’s got a weird sense of humor and weird jokes he was always telling us. He kept it really fun. He was great. I hope I get to work with him again and he keeps doing what he’s doing because he’s really great.
CraveOnline: Was the line "F*** me sideways" a reference to the movie Sideways?
Paul Giamatti: Everybody has been asking me that. At the time he just asked me to say it and I said it. Then a week later I was like, "Oh, I get it. Oh, that’s funny." I didn’t even get it, but, whatever, I didn’t care. It wasn’t in the script so he must have fed it to me, because I never would have come up with it. He fed it to me at the time and I didn’t even get it, I really didn’t get it until later. ‘That’s funny. That’s good.’ Yeah, so…
CraveOnline: Did you get to go to the firing range for any training?
Paul Giamatti: We did a little bit, yeah. Mostly just shooting blanks and stuff like that. They wouldn’t let me shoot any live ammunition. I really wanted to shoot live ammo out of that thing. I wanted to hear that thing go. I wanted to fire that sniper rifle, but they wouldn’t let me fire anything for real.
CraveOnline: How was the training?
Paul Giamatti: It was great, I loved the sniper rifle! I could not get enough of that thing. Smooth action on that thing. That thing was amazing. I loved that. And I got to pick which one I wanted to use, so I picked the all black one, because I thought that cooler. But I loved that thing. It was amazing. That gun is just amazing.
CraveOnline: Did you have a favorite fight in the movie?
Paul Giamatti: Oh, I kind of enjoyed all of it. There is a crazy thing where I try to kill him with a piece of a mirror running down a hall screaming. That was fun. I liked getting shot. I got shot a bunch of times which was great. I liked getting hit, punched and knocked over. I mean, the stunting kind of stuff was fun. I didn’t have that much of it to do, but I really liked sort of getting hit in the head and stuff like that. It was great. I loved it.
CraveOnline: Did you ever get hurt?
Paul Giamatti: No. No, I’m amazed he didn’t get hurt. He didn’t get hurt at all. But, I’m more amazed, I mean, I’m not in any kind of good shape, so I’m amazed I didn’t get hurt. But he had all that kind of stuff.
CraveOnline: Did you have any reservations about playing a character trying to kill a baby?
Paul Giamatti: Good times. [Laughs] It was great. My favorite thing was running over the baby with a car. For some reason they though that was the most f*cked up thing. They were like, "This is going to be the most f*cked up thing. People are going to hate this." I was like, "Yeah, it’s great. Why not?" I never really saw the babies at all. I was never around them. They kept them away from me. I loved the whole idea of trying to kill a baby. It was fantastic.
CraveOnline: What was the most difficult part of this film?
Paul Giamatti: It was all so tightly controlled you knew exactly what you were going to do, which is nice in a way. You just have to follow the map through once it’s drawn out, so never felt difficult particularly. Everything was fun and I was getting to do a lot of stuff I never got to do before. Break his fingers and stuff, it was great. I loved doing all that stuff. No, it never felt difficult. He really had a lot more of the difficult stuff. Those stunts have been a nightmare in a lot of ways.
CraveOnline: Have you seen the movie with an audience?
Paul Giamatti: No, I haven’t even seen this cut of it. I saw an early cut of it. So, I haven’t seen it in awhile. People like it, I’ve heard. People find it funny, which is good. It is really good, because it’s meant to be funny. It’s got a lot of tongue in cheek.
CraveOnline: Do you never watch your movies with an audience?
Paul Giamatti: I usually have to do at the premieres so I don’t know if that’s a real audience. It’s never really a real audience. Occasionally, I have gone and seen something just on at my own and walked in to see what it is like with an audience. I haven’t done that much though. I usually watch them once and that’s about it.
CraveOnline: Do you have any children?
Paul Giamatti: I have a son, yeah. Six-years-old. He’s way too young to see this. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this one to him. I’m worried about him seeing the posters with me and the guy with the gun. "Daddy, what are you doing to that woman?" Oh, boy. I’ll wait awhile till he’ll see this one. I’m sure he’ll like this though. He’ll like this one someday.
CraveOnline: Two more years.
Paul Giamatti: Two more years and he’ll be fine with it.
CraveOnline: You also did Fred Claus with Vince Vaughn. Was he very improvisational?
Paul Giamatti: Yeah, he was, really. Everything was basically.
CraveOnline: Do you have a preference?
Paul Giamatti: I had never done something like that. I had never done something purely improvised like that, but I figured that was what the thing was going to be and so it would be fun to go with it. It’s not my preferred way of working, because I’m too paranoid to do that, but it was fun. It ended up being a lot of fun. I mean, once I really got the hang of it, it was actually really enjoyable. I mean, he can just go, that guy, so you just kind of follow him around and you figure it out and then it was actually really fun. And I wouldn’t have known what to do if they’d given me actual lines to say. I wouldn’t have known what to do. So it ended up being good. I mean, that thing was fun. It was a big, giant thing with big sets and all that kind of stuff. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but we had a good time.
CraveOnline: What was your take on Santa Claus?
Paul Giamatti: Well, it’s Santa Claus, but just a kind of overworked, neurotic guy who is working too hard. A compulsive eater who has ulcers and stuff like that. The idea was to make him like a guy who is just running a giant company, atressed out and stuff like that. Just make him a real guy who happens to be Santa Claus. That was the idea. Prematurely white hair and stuff like that.
CraveOnline: You’re also playing John Adams for HBO. Is that a really big production?
Paul Giamatti: Yeah, huge.It was good. It’s giant. It was six months which actually wasn’t enough time to do this thing. It’s going to be like nine hours long or something. I mean it’s a mini-series, so it was epic, it was huge. It was ambitious. I think it could be really good. I was there every day all day long and I never shut up. I just never stopped talking, and so in a weird way it’s kind of like a blank to me. It was just like a shot out of a cannon and then it just stopped.
CraveOnline: What kind of research did you do for the role?
Paul Giamatti: It’s based on this David McCullough biography that won the Pulitzer Prize and was a big bestseller a couple of years ago. It’s based on that and it’s based on a lot of things obviously. I read that, but at a certain point I couldn’t read too much because it still has to be a character and I was getting too much information. It inevitably had to take off from the facts. It couldn’t cue to the facts really faithfully all the time. So it would get confusing. It would be like, "But wait a minute, this didn’t happen then." So, I actually had to stop doing a lot of that stuff. But I read some biographies and his letters. The stuff that he wrote himself was actually more useful than the biography. He was a weird character, and in a lot of ways we had just had to create a character out of it, because you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to recreate something that isn’t historically accurate.
CraveOnline: Is this going to be a surprising take on John Adams?
Paul Giamatti: For what people know, I didn’t know anything about him. Most people don’t know much about him. He was a weird guy, so for anybody who knows anything about him, I don’t think it will be surprising. For people who come to these things expecting this sort of iconic Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, white, marble bust kind of thing, he was kind of a lunatic, Adams. He was a hypochondriac, a violent temper, he was constantly sticking his foot in his mouth. He was kind of a nightmare of a guy.
I was interested in the fact that he wasn’t one of these iconic guys. The idea was to kind of deconstruct that thing a little bit and show these guys as more human. I like period stuff and I’m a history guy and it covers a huge piece of history. They were trying to do a different version of the whole Birth of A Nation thing than people are kind of used to. It’s much more a kind of politically history because he sat the war out. There are no battle scenes in it. It’s all him wandering around begging for money. I don’t know how interesting that will be, but that’s what he did for the whole war. He kind of traveled around Europe trying to get people to give money to finance the war. And he was sick all the time and out of his mind and depressed. He was a really weird guy.
CraveOnline: Did you also do Rob Zombie’s animated movie?
Paul Giamatti: I did. I don’t know whatever happened to that thing, but I did yeah.
CraveOnline: What was your character?
Paul Giamatti: I played Satan basically. I played this guy named Dr. Satan. It was kind of like a James Bond villain. I mean, it was nuts, Hopefully it comes out soon, but it was a dirty cartoon.
CraveOnline: Are you doing a character voice or your own?
Paul Giamatti: Yeah, I think as I remember I did a kind of Vincent Price-y kind of thing. A sort of fey villain sort of thing. I mean, it was funny. The animation was funny too, but it’s all sort of sex and drugs and jokes. Which was good, which I like. We’ll see how it works out.
CraveOnline: What about ‘Pretty Birds,’ the next project you start on?
Paul Giamatti: We are doing that now. We are doing it in New Jersey unfortunately but it’s unbelievable to get over there. I thought it was going to be much easier. It’s like the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life. I thought this would be an easy job. But that’s based on a real story on these guys who invented a jet pack, a rocket belt and the three of them started stealing it from each other and one of them ended up killing the other one. It’s funny though. It’s very funny. Billy Crudup is in it, playing the other guy. I play the guy who actually built it who is a real guy who is in prison now for life because he killed the other guy.
CraveOnline: Did the belts work?
Paul Giamatti: The belts? The actual belts? People have them. We actually had a guy who flies them in Colorado for sporting events. They only go up for 30 seconds. They are the most useless thing in the world but we had him come out and actually fly in them. It’s insane. It’s the craziest looking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. So they exist and people do them, but they are dangerous as hell. You can burn yourself horribly. They can’t last very long. It’s impossible to make them fly for more than 30 seconds really. You can’t put that much fuel on somebody’s back. So they’re useless, but they are cool looking. They are really impressive, but dangerous.
CraveOnline: Are you going to do Bubba Nosferatu?
Paul Giamatti: I hope so! I would really like to do that. Did you ever see Bubba Ho-tep? Great movie. And that director, I love that guy’s movies. All the Phantasm movies and stuff. But we are trying to do it.
CraveOnline: Is Bruce Campbell still involved though?
Paul Giamatti: Well Bruce Campbell was waffling around about whether he wants to play Elvis or not again. So, that’s the problem. I mean, I’m playing Colonel Parker, which will be great, but you got to have Elvis and you really want him playing Elvis, so, hopefully we can get him to do it. If not, I’m sure they will try and find somebody else but I think it’s contingent on whether he’ll do it or not. It’s a great script, a completely insane script and I would love to do that because I love that other movie. It’s a great movie.