Even Paul Giamatti will tell you that Paul Giamatti doesn't have the debonair looks and suave charm of a prototypical leading man. In other words, he's no George Clooney.

Yet the 42-year-old actor has carved out a niche as exactly that unlikely leading man, thanks to his scene-stealing breakout in 'Private Parts' (he was Howard Stern's lovingly nicknamed adversary "Pig Vomit"), and subsequent above-the-title turns in 'American Splendor' and 'Sideways.'

His latest, 'Cold Souls,' like 'Splendor' and 'Sideways,' is a low-budget indie that has big-audience potential. In the metaphysical comedy, Giamatti plays -- get this -- an actor named Paul Giamatti, who, struggling from depression, decides to have his soul extracted from his body. We asked Giamatti about the inevitable 'Souls' comparisons to Charlie Kaufman fare and whether or not he does, in fact, drink any f***ing merlot.

5 Questions With the Indiewood Fave

Even Paul Giamatti will tell you that Paul Giamatti doesn't have the debonair looks and suave charm of a prototypical leading man. In other words, he's no George Clooney.

Yet the 42-year-old actor has carved out a niche as exactly that unlikely leading man, thanks to his scene-stealing breakout in 'Private Parts' (he was Howard Stern's lovingly nicknamed adversary "Pig Vomit"), and subsequent above-the-title turns in 'American Splendor' and 'Sideways.'

His latest, 'Cold Souls,' like 'Splendor' and 'Sideways,' is a low-budget indie that has big-audience potential. In the metaphysical comedy, Giamatti plays -- get this -- an actor named Paul Giamatti, who, struggling from depression, decides to have his soul extracted from his body. We asked Giamatti about the inevitable 'Souls' comparisons to Charlie Kaufman fare and whether or not he does, in fact, drink any f***ing merlot. -- By Kevin Polowy

1. How close is this character to the real Paul Giamatti?
No more or less than anything else I've done, actually. Sure, there's probably things I can identify with. He's an actor. But I played a boxing guy [in 'Cinderella Man'] and there were things about that guy that I actually felt like I connected to for different reasons. There's always a little bit of something that corresponds and then there's something that doesn't. I feel like if the character had a different name, we wouldn't even be having this conversation ... I've always envied actors who say, "Oh my God, this part was my story." I've never had that experience. I don't think I related any more to him than other things I've done.

2. So you related more to playing, say, John Adams, than to this role?
Well, there were definitely things about that guy [Adams] that I felt close to, yes ... [just as] I did [playing] a character in a movie called 'The Illusionist.' In a weird way, for some reason, I felt the closest to that character and I don't even know why I did. There's something about that guy that felt more like me than practically anything I've done, but most people would look at that and probably not think that.... There was something about that character that I remembered feeling very comfortable with for some reason. He's not an actor, but he behaves like one, he watches everything.

3. 'Cold Souls' is drawing so many comparisons to Charlie Kaufman-written films like 'Being John Malkovich' and 'Eternal Sunshine.' Do you think it's fair to call this movie Kaufman-esque?
I've actually never seen a single one of those Charlie Kaufman movies. I have somehow managed to miss those movies, which is kind of astounding. And as far as I'm concerned, no, it's not, because I've never seen one of them. What's funny to me is the associations I have with it, with some of the plot things and the way the movie looks, it's much more like the early, mid-period Woody Allen movies. And that I think was a very conscious thing on [director Sophie Barthes'] part, to do a kind of pastiche of a Woody Allen thing. The Charlie Kaufman thing makes sense to me, I can see why people are doing it, but I can't actually address it because I've never seen any of the movies ... which seems hard to believe, because it seems like a cultural phenomenon.





4. After 'Sideways,' do you get bottles of wine sent to you wherever you go?
[Laughs] A little bit less so now, but I did for a while. I had people sending me crates of wine, wine dealers and stuff. And I don't really drink wine, so I didn't know what the hell to do with this stuff. But people will send me a glass of wine in a restaurant and I don't really drink wine, so it's a little awkward.

5. Can you tell us anything about your potential reunion with 'Sideways' director Alexander Payne for 'Downsizing'? Word is Reese Witherspoon and Sacha Baron Cohen will also star.
I don't know that that's going to happen now. I think it may be a little while before that gets done, because it's a complicated endeavor. But it's a really great script, and it's a really great satire with this great satirical idea of people being shrunk down to four inches tall. So it's a movie that's literally about the shrinking middle class. It fits the times now even better than when he wrote it. There's all sort of people shrinking and one Big Mac can feed a family of five for a month. It's a very good political satire, and hopefully it gets done at some point.

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