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Paul Giamatti: I wish I was a gunslinger in a spaghetti western [video]

December 6, 2010 |  7:32 pm

In a nearly 20-year career in movies, Paul Giamatti has perfected a certain kind of on-screen persona: cerebral, misfit-y, a little superior.

He's so convincing playing these parts -- which include anxious cartoonist Harvey Pekar in "American Splendor" and oenophile Miles in "Sideways" -- that the world sometimes confuses the man for the character. "People are surprised I don't know much about wine," he says with a laugh. (They're less surprised he doesn't know much about boxing, he said, alluding to his role as James Braddock's manager in "Cinderella Man.")

As the sharp, sleazy but sympathetic Barney Panofsky in the new film "Barney's Version," Giamatti adds another complicated but compulsively watchable character to his repertoire -- a part that serves as a companion piece of sorts to his Miles turn in "Sideways." "There is some similarity in them both being prickly guys who act out on people in ways that you envy but [are also] wary of," Giamatti said during a conversation at the Four Seasons, excerpts of which you can watch above.

Giamatti next plays a man with some complications of his own to deal with when he tackles the part of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in the HBO film "Too Big to Fail." But don't count on only seeing Giamatti as an egghead type, at least not if he has anything to say about it.

"I'd love to play Charles Bronson in 'Once Upon a Time in the West,' " he said, when asked what part he would choose if he could play any role in history. "Or one of these other movies I loved as a kid, like Lee Marvin In 'The Dirty Dozen.' " We suppose people would then ask him what it's like to be an ex-con fighting Nazis.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike chat about 'Barney's Version,' alpha males and beards