“BIG FAT LIAR” PAUL GIAMATTI (part 3)

There are quite a few scenes in Big Fat Liar that may have been a bit uncomfortable for you to do take after take — for example, the scenes where you are covered in blue paint or the scene where you are dancing pool side in a Speedo. Was it hard for you to visually humiliate yourself not just once, but time and time again? ^ It’s funny, there weren’t a lot of take after take after take on this thing. We did an unbelievable amount of stuff everyday, but they shot this movie really fast. If the character is well written though it can sustain itself in a way. I can turn it off and when it has to be there that guy’s energy will take over. Marty was so well written and it was so clear what he’s supposed to be doing that it was always easy to do– or at least it felt like.
What was it like to be covered in blue paint for a fairly large portion of the film? You always hear horror stories about actors who underwent hours of make-up for a role, like Jim Carrey in The Grinch. ^ It was fine. The stuff was hard to take off though. I had to really scrub it off. And when it was all over my body it was kind of a weird experience. You can suffocate a person by completely covering them in something, so you have to leave some of the skin exposed. Obviously my mid-section was exposed, but nonetheless, when you take that stuff off your pores… The guy had said to me, ‘you might feel a weird, tingly sensation’ cause your pores kind of go into shock. When they get that stuff off they are opening up. My whole body started vibrating wildly, it was really weird the first couple times I took it off.
Would you ever do such a thing again? ^ This stuff was smelly, sticky and got in your nose and your mouth. It was really kind of gross. But you get paid to run around and be painted blue, so how bad could it be?
This isn’t the first film where you’ve been covered from head to toe in make-up. You recently starred in the remake of Planet of the Apes. Did you go back and study the original film to see how your character was handled in the past? ^ Yeah. The idea was for me to be kind of the comic relief guy in that, so it seemed to work. Or from what I saw at least. That was a humorous experience because a lot of people (viewers) thought I was a much older guy. A lot of people thought I was an old man even.
Back to Big Fat Liar. The film within the film, the one that Wolf steals from Muniz’s character, focuses on a little lie that keeps growing and growing until it can’t be stopped. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? Have you ever told a lie you couldn’t get out of? ^ A little lie that grows and grows and grows? No, I don’t think so. I’m a bad liar. People can see right through me so I get caught a lot. I’m really not very good at lying so I will just keep my mouth shut rather than lie.
Now, the closest you’ve come to a family film like Big Fat Liar would probably be Big Momma’s House. However, Marty Wolf, though greatly tamed down, is a lot like other characters you have played in the past — especially Pig Vomit in “Private Parts.” Are you at all worried about being typecast in Hollywood as the evil, rude, jerk of a boss? ^ That guy was kind of a manic guy too, I suppose. I’ve been lucky though that I have been able to do so many different things. I don’t worry too much about the stereotyping. I figure it’s work and something different generally pops up somewhere. So for my own sake, for my own piece of mind, when something pops up I take advantage of it. But it doesn’t really bother me though. I try to make them different in my own mind, whether they come off being different I don’t know, but I try to make them different for myself.
Speaking of “Private Parts,” when you play real-life characters like Pig Vomit or Bob Zmuda in Man on the Moon, do you research the people they are based on? ^ For something like that? For Bob? No because that guy isn’t very well known, so no one really knows who he is. As for “Private Parts,” I didn’t even know that the guy was a real guy. But either way you aren’t playing the person. You are playing a character based on the person so everything you should need to know should be in the script. And I feel that for me, I get tangled if I start knowing too much about stuff from a guy’s life. It will get kind of irrelevant and confusing. I can only keep simple thoughts in my head at one time. I can’t have too much stuff.
A lot of people are looking at Big Fat Liar as the film that marks your departure from supporting roles to leading roles since your character gets a lot of on-screen time by himself. Are you at all worried that the abundance of scenes where it’s just Marty Wolf will effect viewers’ opinions on who the film is about? ^ It’s a big worry. I actually said to Shawn when I first read the script that I didn’t think he should be in that much of the movie. They actually cut a lot of it out, I think. I feel that in a way it just tends to work better for the villain if you see less of him.
But the villain should be on-screen a lot in some way so that viewers truly grow to hate him, no? ^ I guess so. Originally he was in it a lot more and it felt like it was too much. I have to see it. Unfortunately I haven’t seen it yet though.
Finally, it seems like a lot of movie actors are going over to television these days and visa versa. You have dabbled a bit in TV yourself, doing guest spots on “NYPD Blue” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Do you think TV is more of a challenge for feature film actors and that’s why so many are drawn to it? ^ I haven’t done that much TV, but TV seems to move faster, which is nice. The guy who directed this (Shawn Levy) did TV stuff so it moved really fast, which was nice since with film most of the time there is so much sitting around. But I really haven’t done too much TV stuff so I don’t know what it would be like doing the same character week after week. It sounds like a killer schedule. My brother is on the show “Judging Amy” and he’s like a semi-regular guy and it still sounds insane. But it’s a hour-long show, too.
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Posted on February 14, 2001 in Interviews by
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