Paul Giamatti talks “John Dies at the End” and “Twelve Years a Slave”

Paul Giamatti stars in "John Dies at the End."

Most people think of Paul Giamatti’s characters as tightly-strung fussbudgets with sweaty palms. Paul Giamatti the regular guy, is quite a different story. As we meet to discuss the latest film that he both acted in and produced, Giamatti is every bit the relaxed, engaging professorly type anyone would be thrilled to grab a coffee with. But his taste in movies runs contrary to that appearance. “John Dies at the End” (“JDATE” for short) is a project he chose to produce. Based on the exploits of two young men who have a run in with a street drug dubbed “soy sauce”, the story – originally cult-favorite novel by David Wong — spans the space-time continuum and involves a monster made of meat products, aliens and a demon who calls himself S—tload. Clearly, this is not your average studio picture. We asked the award-winning actor to explain his choice of film to produce. And why it’s all for you, really.

I never realized you were a sci-fi fan.
I do like stuff like that, yeah. And I like horror stuff like that. [“John Dies At The End”] is totally like a Philip K. Dick book. I think it’s better than most of the movies they make from his books. This seems more like one of his books than a lot of the things they do. Those things shouldn’t be all glossy with movie stars in them. They take a lot of the weirdness out because they don’t want people to be weirded out by it. But what’s the point to doing it, then?

This was a tiny budget movie, but the special effects are great.
Well, [director Don Coscarelli] knows a lot of these guys — the prosthetic stuff and the monsters. He knows really good guys who do this stuff and they did a lot of it for free I think because they like him so much. And the other stuff, yeah that stuff has gotten really good, so you can pull it off and it looks fine.

Aside from a little movie called “Thunderpants” this seems to be the strangest movie you’ve ever done. Would you agree?
Have you seen “Thunderpants”? It’s worth seeing, actually. It’s kind of a great movie and it’s funny — it’s similar to this because it’s an amazing example of doing something with absolutely no money at all. I swear to God it’s worth seeing that movie … Weirdest movie I’ve ever done? I have some friends who are artists in Germany, like painters and they make weird movies. I’ve made some of those and those are weirder. They show them in galleries in Germany. They show genuine weird-ass art films. I don’t know what was going on in them, but they’re just super crazy.

What’s the difference between movies you’re interested in acting in and ones you’re interested in producing? Is there a difference?
Maybe. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think probably weirder stuff — I don’t get as many weird scripts to act in that I would like, so maybe I do get to executive produce weirder stuff. A lot of the stuff I get to act in is much straighter.

By getting such a niche film made, it almost seems like you’re trying to do film a favor—
[Laughs] That’s what my whole career is about. I’d love to do film a favor with my presence on screen. I think of it as a big favor to the world of film.  The couple of movies that I have been a part of producing have all been things that were really weird and probably wouldn’t have been made if I hadn’t given it some push, for whatever degree I can push something along.

You’re also starring in “12 Years a Slave,” which co-stars Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. Like “Django Unchained” it’s an epic film about slavery but with a very different slant, right?
The idea behind it of kind of showing slavery without any kind of — trying to actually orient yourself back in the period and not be looking at it retrospectively and depicting it as a completely normal thing, that this was just a fact of life. To try and pull that off — it will be interesting to see if he can pull that off, because I imagine it will piss people off in some ways and it’s freaky too. I mean the attitudes about it, even among the slaves, it’s interesting. I haven’t [seen ‘Django Unchained’] but it seems interesting in light of this movie. It’s a completely different-sounding kind of movie. It sounds like that movie, because of the guy who made it, there’s a certain amount of, probably a kind of distance you have on it, where the whole point with “Twelve Years a Slave” is that you don’t have any real distance on it. There’s no contemporary way of thinking about any of this between you and what’s going on.
I play a slave trader in it and we kind of developed it, to some extent, made up a lot of it when we shot it.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."