Paul Giamatti, the guest on this episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, is one of the greatest character actors of all time.

Giamatti is an Oscar nominee and winner of Emmy, Spirit and Critics Choice awards, three Golden Globe awards and three SAG awards, with credits to his name including 2003’s American Splendor, 2004’s Sideways, 2005’s Cinderella Man, 2006’s The Illusionist, the 2008 limited series John Adams, 2012’s Win Win, 2013’s 12 Years a Slave and the drama series Billions, which ran from 2016 through earlier this year.

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His most recent credit is 2023’s The Holdovers, which reunites him with his Sideways director Alexander Payne; in which he plays a cranky boarding school teacher who is made even crankier by having to spend the 1970 Christmas break on campus with an aggrieved student; and for which he has already won best actor Golden Globe and National Board of Review awards; is nominated for pending best actor Critics Choice and SAG awards. He is also almost certain to be nominated for a best actor Academy Award, which would be only his second Oscar nom, and first in that category (he was a best supporting actor nominee for Cinderella Man after being egregiously overlooked in the lead category for Sideways).

Giamatti has been described by The New York Times as “the kind of actor whom directors rely on, if not to open a movie, then to bring it home,” “always pleasant to spend time with” and “in an age of stars and would be stars… a true character actor who can play drama, comedy or romance.” The Guardian called him “one of the most interesting figures in American cinema.” Strand magazine noted that he possesses “such striking presence and versatility that he elevates each character he inhabits into something completely unique and unforgettable, propelling some productions to timeless classics along the way.” And Payne has said, “I can’t really begin to tell you how good an actor he is. He is a huge star who is so watchable, charming and charismatic. He’s a bit of a freak.”

Over the course of a conversation at the Los Angeles offices of The Hollywood Reporter, the 56-year-old explained why the sudden death of his father motivated him to pursue a career as an actor; the challenges of playing smaller roles versus leads, the former of which he did for years before first getting a chance to do the latter on American Splendor and Sideways; his thoughts on making films versus TV movies versus limited series versus ongoing TV series; what it was like reuniting with Payne 19 years after their first collaboration; plus much more.

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