Paul Giamatti

Paul Giamatti
Paul Giamatti
Real name:
Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti
Who is:
Birth date:
(56 y.o.)
Place of birth:
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
5'9 ft ()
181 lb (82 kg)
Birth Sign:
Chinese zodiac:

Paul Giamatti Biography

Paul Giamatti is a distinctive American actor whose popularity was boosted by his roles as Miles in the dramedy "Sideways," the titular character in the biographical drama "John Adams," and Barney Panofsky in the tragicomedy "Barney's Version."

Some of the supporting characters brilliantly portrayed by the actor have earned him well-deserved awards, such as Joe in the sports drama "Cinderella Man." In 2024, Giamatti received his third Golden Globe and his second Oscar nomination for his role as Paul Hanema in Alexander Payne's Christmas comedy "The Holdovers."
Actor Paul Giamatti
Actor Paul Giamatti

Childhood, Youth, Family

Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti was born in the summer of 1967 in New Haven, Connecticut, to parents Angelo Bartlett Giamatti and Toni Marilyn Smith. His father was a respected literature professor at Yale University and became its president in 1978. His mother, an English teacher, became a homemaker after giving birth to Paul, the youngest of three children.

The couple also raised two other children: their son Marcus, who also became an actor, and Elena, now a jewelry designer. On his father's side, Paul's ancestry includes Italians and English; on his mother's side, Irish.

Reflecting on his school years, Giamatti shared:
I was just like any other teenager. I had no idea where I was going, except that I was heading towards the grave and that sooner or later I would end up there. Believe it or not, I was into wrestling at school and even showed some promise. But then one guy beat me good, and I immediately lost interest in sports. I only became an actor because I watched 'Planet of the Apes' as a child.
At the same time, Paul noted that he was a strange child in his early years. For example, he would wrap himself in toilet paper and run around the neighborhood pretending to be a mummy, not out of a desire to demonstrate his talent for transformation, but simply out of boredom.

The boy studied well to avoid "disgracing" his intellectual parents. After graduating from Foote School in his hometown, he went to college and then to Yale University. It was there that Giamatti became passionate about theater and appeared on stage in productions alongside Edward Norton and Ron Livingston, who would also become actors.

Consistently pursuing his desire to become a professional on stage and in film, Paul first graduated from university with a Bachelor's degree in English and then enrolled in the Yale School of Drama. He studied under the famous teacher Earl Gister and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. Recalling his service in Broadway theaters, Giamatti candidly stated:
There's nothing worse than being in a bad play. It's truly awful, really. If you're in a bad movie, you can easily hide from the shame — just don't go to the premiere. But there, when you're on stage, all those people are looking right at you. I've had some really tough roles. One time in the theater, I played a dwarf, and for the whole play, I had to run around on my knees, smashing them to blood.

Film Career

Paul first appeared in a movie in 1990 with a minor role in the comedy "She'll Take Romance." He followed this with roles in "Past Midnight" (Larry), "Sabrina" (Scott), and "Breathing Room" (George). Additionally, the actor appeared in several TV series.

It wasn't until 1997 that producers noticed him thanks to the biographical dramedy "Private Parts," where he played the central character Kenny Rushton, the antagonist to Howard Stern, the founder of a popular American radio show.

Of course, Giamatti wasn't immediately offered leading roles, but he managed to brilliantly play several supporting characters in prominent projects of the late nineties. For example, in Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" (1997), he appeared as Professor Abbot, in the thriller "The Negotiator" (1998) he played Rudy Timmons, in Steven Spielberg's war film "Saving Private Ryan" he masterfully portrayed Sergeant Hill, and in the famous "The Truman Show" (1998) by Peter Weir, he appeared as the camera operator Simon.

In the first year of the new millennium, the science fiction film "Planet of the Apes" by Tim Burton with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role was released. Paul played Limbo, an orangutan who trades humans on a planet conquered by apes. Recalling how he got this coveted role, the actor said:
The idea that I could play in one of these films was overwhelming for me. I didn't audition for it. Tim Burton approached me with this because, I think, he said, 'You look like a monkey, so I'll ask you to do this.' It was one of the most fun things I've ever done. I was covered from head to toe, shoulders and legs in a thick suit, and my agents said, 'Don't you think you should play a human so they can see your face?' And I said, 'If you tell them I want to play a human in this film, I’ll kill you all. I want to play a monkey!'
While filming "Planet of the Apes," Giamatti also played several leading roles in other films, but they didn't make as much impact – all except for the role of the unsuccessful writer Miles Raymond in Alexander Payne’s comedy "Sideways" (2004).

The film won several significant film awards, and Giamatti himself was recognized as the best actor by the Independent Spirit Award. A year later, Paul received the Screen Actors Guild Award and an Oscar nomination for his role in the sports biographical drama "Cinderella Man."
Paul Giamatti Practiced His Speech in Case He Won an Oscar (2006)
Paul also gained notable attention for his role as Inspector Uhl and the narrator of the incredible story about the genius illusionist Eisenheim (Edward Norton) and his love for the noblewoman, Duchess Sophia von Teschen (Jessica Biel), in "The Illusionist."

In 2008, the actor played the role of the second President of America, John Adams, in the eponymous miniseries. For his remarkable transformation, Giamatti received his first Golden Globe and was honored with Emmy, Satellite, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Paul Giamatti as John Adams
The role of Tom Duffy in the political thriller "The Ides of March" by George Clooney was interesting for the actor. Speaking about his preparation and attitude towards what seemed to be a supporting role, Giamatti shared with a smile in an interview:
My role in this film is small, but my character is constantly being talked about by other characters. In particular, Hoffman's character, the manager of the Republican candidate, harbors fierce hatred for me. I think it’s very interesting to follow how the characters feel such animosity towards each other that they are literally ready to eat each other alive! These guys are all in the public eye, they all have their own TV shows in America! So I didn’t need to do in-depth research. I think in reality these people do things even crazier than our characters with Phil. I don’t know about your country, but in ours, political players try to come off as macho. Male charisma is the key to winning in the political game. And women have to behave like men if they want to succeed in politics. If she can't, they will use her and throw her out like garbage, as happens in our film with Evan Rachel Wood’s character.
An experience that stood out for Paul was participation in films related to Russian classics. Thus, in the film "The Last Station" (2009) about the life of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in the last year before his death, he masterfully played Vladimir Chertkov. It was he and the writer's secretary Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy) who were with Leo Tolstoy during his departure from this world. Another role, that of an actor preparing to perform in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," was landed by Paul in the film "Cold Souls" (2009).

Another project in which the actor was involved, created by Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin, the series "Billions" lasted seven seasons. Inspired by real federal investigations of financial crimes, the drama told the story of attempts to hold hedge fund manager Bobby "Axe" Axelrod (Damian Lewis) accountable. Paul played the role of prosecutor Chuck Rhoades, who made these attempts.
Paul Giamatti on Playing Chuck Rhoades
Giamatti later admitted:
This is the longest project I've ever worked on. Closer to the finale, I felt very comfortable and thought, 'Oh, I think now I understand this guy.' So in some sense... I would like to go back and start all over.
During the filming of "Billions" (from 2016 to 2023), the actor managed to work in other films, as he believed there was no such thing as too much work. He starred in the war biographical drama "The Catcher Was a Spy" (Samuel Goudsmit), the film "Private Life" (Dr. Sadler), and the action-adventure "Gunpowder Milkshake" (Nathan).

In "Gunpowder Milkshake," according to the synopsis, he played the ruthless boss of a bureau of assassins. However, the actor himself disagreed with this description of his character, saying he played a man with a moral dilemma in a difficult situation, simply the head of his own small business:
It seems to me that the real villain in the film is Jim, the Irish gangster played by Ralph Ineson. I liked my character: he heads a terrible bureau of assassins and was probably a mercenary himself once, but at the same time, he’s a quite nice, decent person who just wants to do his job well. He’s like a father to the main heroine. I wanted to show a good person with a bad job. Nathan is one of the negative characters in the film, but he’s a manager, a bureaucrat. He sends killers after Sam only because he sees no other way out.

Paul Giamatti's Personal Life

Paul Giamatti met his first wife, film producer and director of Jewish descent Elizabeth Ora Cohen, in late 1996. A few months later, Paul proposed to her. He was not bothered by the fact that she was five years his senior.

Cohen was born in Queens, New York, and is known for films such as "Cold Souls", "Birdman", and "A Woman Like Me".

In 2001, the couple had a son, Samuel Paul, and about fifteen years later, Giamatti and Cohen (who took her husband's surname when they married) divorced. They did not disclose the reason for their separation.

Speaking about his son, the actor stated that he considers himself an atheist and will explain his position to Samuel when the time comes:
My wife is Jewish. And I am fine with my son being raised Jewish. He is learning Hebrew, and he really likes it. I will talk to my son about my atheism when the time comes. But there is a great tradition of Jewish atheism: there are no better atheists in the world than the Jews.
At the beginning of 2024, it was reported that Paul Giamatti started dating American actress Clara Wong, whom he met on the set of the TV series "Billions".

It's hard to say how long they have been seeing each other since the couple kept their relationship secret for a while, but they appeared together at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony. And when Paul received his well-deserved award, he publicly thanked Clara and confirmed the status of their relationship.

Paul Giamatti Now

The year 2024 brought the actor several awards for his role in the New Year's comedy "The Holdovers." Paul Giamatti's fans eagerly awaited the Oscar ceremony - Paul was nominated for this prestigious award for the second time. However, the Best Actor statue went to Cillian Murphy for his leading role in the biographical film "Oppenheimer".

In addition, Alexander Payne, the director of "The Holdovers", has decided on his next project. Screenwriter David Hemingson announced that it will be a Western set in Nebraska in the year 1886. He also reported that Paul Giamatti has been offered a role in the film. If he accepts, it will be his third collaboration with Alexander Payne.
Ethan Hawke and Paul Giamatti Discuss THE HOLDOVERS

Interesting Facts

  • When asked by a journalist where he prefers to work – in films or on television, Paul Giamatti responded:
    Both have their pros and cons, but I enjoy movies more. I find it hard to concentrate on something for a long time. With TV, you have to focus on the same role for an extended period, and that's quite challenging for me. I like that in movies you can quickly take on a role and then leave it just as fast.
  • Analyzing the types of characters he often portrays, Giamatti noted that there are very few outright "bad guys" in his filmography. Mentioning two films – "Gunpowder Milkshake" and "Shoot 'Em Up," Paul also recalled "The Ides of March," where he played political PR manager Tom Duffy, and stated that he specializes in characters whose morals can be interpreted in various ways.
  • Jokingly or not, when Giamatti was asked how he would play a villain in the next James Bond movie, he immediately began to describe his vision of the antagonist for agent 007:
    I would like to have some kind of accent. I definitely want an accent. It would be great to have an animal with me. Not necessarily a cat, but something. ... Not a parrot or anything like that. Something real. I don't know. But I would have to have some sort of accent. Furs would be nice. A guy who's all in furs and stuff. That would be cool.