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'Cosmopolis' Star Paul Giamatti on Entering the 'Strange, Slightly Clinical' World of David Cronenberg

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire August 17, 2012 at 11:55AM

Paul Giamatti doesn't appear until late in David Cronenberg's latest thriller "Cosmopolis," but he leaves an indelible impression.
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"Cosmopolis"
eONE Films "Cosmopolis"

Given that you shot the scene in such a short amount of time, I’m guessing Cronenberg had you two rehearse it?

We didn't rehearse it at all, which made me a little bit nervous. But in retrospect it probably contributed a certain amount of spontaneity to it. I don’t know that David likes to rehearse much. I’m sure if I had been able to -- I couldn't because I was working on another movie -- he would’ve allowed us to.

Are you a fan of rehearsing when it comes to film?

I’m a fan of rehearsing whenever I can, but it doesn’t happen much. That's just the nature of it. And it can be frustrating. I would prefer to rehearse.

READ MORE: How the Robert Pattinson Vehicle 'Cosmopolis' Appeals to David Cronenberg Fans (And Nobody Else)

This marks your first time working with Cronenberg. How long had you been itching to collaborate with him?

As long as I’ve been acting professionally, he was a guy that I always thought, “Boy, I’d love to work with him someday." I had met him a few times when I worked in Canada, and he’s such a nice guy. He’s an incredibly personable, funny, warm, very free man. I kept thinking, “God, man, that would be awesome to work with him.” I didn’t think I’d actually get the opportunity, though.

How did the experience compare to the expectations you had of the guy?

He certainly seems like he’s going to be very meticulous and pay great attention to detail. I really only formed an idea about him by talking to an actor that had worked with him. I worked with William Hurt and asked him what it was like, and he said, "In some ways he’s meticulous technically, but when it comes to the acting he’s incredibly warm and helpful. But his attitude is, you’re in charge of the character, and he gives you an intimidating amount of freedom." I mean, he will direct you if he feels the need to, but he just says, "You know what you’re doing, go do it, and I’ll tell you if I need to tell you something."

"I think it has the potential to be extremely compelling." -- Giamatti on "Twelve Years a Slave"

In your upcoming comedy "Lucky Dog," you play a Canuck opposite Paul Rudd. Did you get any pointers from David on how to portray properly a guy from North of the border?

Oh, I didn’t get any from David [laughs]. I’ve worked a lot up there, and I’ve been around a lot of Canadians. I love it up there, and I enjoyed working with Canadians. For that movie, we actually put on a bit of an accent. But I think it was just years of working up in Canada that paid off in that way.

Do you speak any French?

No, I don’t. Paul’s character is the one that speaks French in it. I actually play an Anglo-Canadian and Paul's more the Canuck guy, he’s more the French-Canadian guy.

What can you tell me about your work on Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years a Slave?"

I just finished working on that. They are finishing today, I believe. I just shot for the last week-and-a-half or so, and it was great. I like his movies a lot, too. I like "Shame," and I really like "Hunger," even more than "Shame," I think. He was similar to David, in a funny way. He gave me a great amount of freedom, and he's a very warm, funny guy. Very meticulous about the technical aspects of it, and then when it came to the acting, he really likes actors.

It seems like the scope of it is larger, the energy of it seems a bit different. I think even the way he was shooting seems a little bit different to me; certainly the stuff I did seemed very different from "Hunger," actually. The stuff I did with him, there was a lot of movement with the camera that was different from what I've seen by him.

I think it has the potential to be extremely compelling. He’s trying to sort of tell this story in a historical moment rather than tell it with any kind of contemporary take. He’s trying to present slavery as a completely normal fact of life and not engage in any kind of retrospective idea about it. So it’ll be interesting.
 

This article is related to: Interviews, Cosmopolis, Paul Giamatti, David Cronenberg, Steve McQueen, Lucky Dog, Twelve Years a Slave





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