Paul Giamatti is one of those actors who has enough of a global following, thanks to Sideways and HBO mini-series John Adams, to help get certain movies made. Barney's Version is one of them. You can see why he'd want to dive into the best Mordecai Richler character since Duddy Kravitz. The movie is worth seeing for how the actors run with their roles--from doting Dad Dustin Hoffman to Jewish princess Minnie Driver, hippie girlfriend Rachelle Lefevre and dream wife Rosamund Pike. Sony Pictures Classics is giving the film a qualifying run this week in New York and L.A. before a January 11 release.
Up next is Tom McCarthy's Win Win, "a very smart movie," he says, "about a small town attorney in New Jersey who gets drawn into a high school wrestler's life." Fox Searchlight will premiere the film at Sundance. (Here are early reviews; and trailer, below).
Barney's Version meanders from one decade to another, but Giamatti commands the screen as brainy, womanizing, boozing, out-of-control, charming TV producer Barney Panofsky. Paul Mazursky would have known how to direct this movie. (Here are some early fest reviews.) I caught up with Giamatti with my flip cam (below--it cuts off because it ran out of juice!). A small movie like this can easily get lost in the year-end shuffle, he says. "I'm hoping it doesn't. It's the kind of movie that doesn't get made very often. It's a grown-up character study."
Giamatti is currently working on HBO's adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail, as bearded Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Directed by Curtis Hanson, the film co-stars William Hurt as former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Billy Crudup as Timothy Geitner, and Ed Asner as investor Warren Buffett. Giamatti just landed a part in The Hangover II, but had nothing to do with Mel Gibson's ouster from the cast. "At one time in our lives we wouldn't have known about that stuff," he says. "It would have happened behind closed doors. I wouldn't have a problem employing the guy, personally. I get it, understand it. People are not used to having people express that level of rage publicly. I don't want to punish the guy."
Part One: Softening Mordecai Richler's crazy character.
Part Two: Shooting film, watching Dustin Hoffman rip scenes apart. Working with King's Speech's Tom Hooper on John Adams.
Barney's Version Trailer:
Win Win Trailer: