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Giamatti’s surreal ride

Paul Giamatti might not be a name that you instantly recognize, but chances are you’re very familiar with his work.

Paul Giamatti might not be a name that you instantly recognize, but chances are you’re very familiar with his work.

He’s a professional misanthrope, making a living out of playing depressed middle-aged curmudgeons in films like Sideways. He’s also absolutely hilarious, but never in a broad, stand-up comedian way.

“I don’t think of myself as a generally funny guy,” claims Giamatti. “I have a good sense of humour and I think I know what’s funny, but the only way I can really do it is to play it fairly straight. If I’m trying to be funny, I’m instantly not funny. That’s why I was never any good at sitcoms.”

It’s probably best he didn’t have that skill because instead of finding a spot on a short-lived sitcom, Giamatti has fashioned himself a reliable onscreen persona in films like Storytelling and American Splendor that has earned him a spot in the hearts of filmgoers.

In fact, Giamatti has created such a recognizable onscreen presence that he has been cast as himself in the new movie Cold Souls, which sees that sad-sack actor hiring a service that removes his soul from his body in an attempt to tone down some of his depressive tendencies.

It was a decision that initially caught the actor off guard when he got the script from first time filmmaker Sophie Barthes. “It was something that I was dubious about. I thought ‘do I really have that strong of a persona? Am I that identifiable a person to audiences?’” wondered Giamatti. “But that was what she wanted me to do and I got it. I think there’s something to it being me that gives the movie a slightly off kilter surreal quality, a dream-like quality.”