Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti (born June 6, 1967) is an Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning American actor. He began acting in films during the 1990s, appearing in several supporting performances, and came to fame in the early 2000s after his roles in the well-received films American Splendor, Sideways, Cinderella Man, and John Adams.
Giamatti was born in New Haven, Connecticut
. His father, A. Bartlett Giamatti
, was a Yale University
professor who later became president of the university and commissioner of Major League Baseball
. His mother, Toni Smith, was a homemaker and English teacher who taught at Hopkins School
and had also previously acted. He is descended from Massachusetts Governor Thomas Dudley
. Giamatti's mother was Irish American
, while his paternal grandfather, Valentine Giamatti, was an Italian American
, of parentage from Telese
; his paternal grandmother was Mary Claybaugh Walton, whose ancestors lived in New England
. He has a brother, Marcus
, who is also an actor.
He attended The Foote School, then the elite boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall. He attended Yale University, where he was active in the undergraduate theater scene and worked alongside actors Ron Livingston and Edward Norton, who were also Yale students. He graduated from Yale in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in English. He went on to earn a Master's degree in Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama. He performed in numerous theatrical productions (including Broadway) before appearing in some small television and film roles in the early 1990s. In Giamatti's junior year at Yale he was "tapped" to enter Yale's elite and clandestine Skull and Bones secret society.
Giamatti's first high profile role was in the film adaptation of Howard Stern
's Private Parts
as Kenny "Pig Vomit" Rushton, Stern's antagonistic program director
at WNBC. Stern praised Giamatti's performance often on his radio
program, calling for him to be nominated for the Academy Award
for Best Supporting Actor
. That did not happen, but Giamatti's career received a boost and when he was eventually nominated for an Academy Award he claimed he would have thanked Stern in his acceptance speech, had he won. He appeared in a number of supporting roles in big-budget movies such as The Truman Show
, Saving Private Ryan
, and The Negotiator
(all 1998). In 1999, he played Bob Zmuda
(and Tony Clifton
) in the Andy Kaufman biopic
, Man on the Moon
. Giamatti continued to be featured in major studio releases such as Big Momma's House
(2000) with Martin Lawrence
, the Planet of the Apes
remake (2001), and in Big Fat Liar
(2002) opposite Frankie Muniz
and Amanda Bynes
In 2006, he was the lead in M. Night Shyamalan's supernatural thriller Lady in the Water, followed by the animated film The Ant Bully, and Neil Burger's drama The Illusionist co-starring Edward Norton. He is the voice behind the audiobook of the novel A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, released in the summer of 2006.
Most recently, he played Mr. Hertz in the action movie Shoot 'Em Up and Santa Claus in the comedy Fred Claus (which also stars Kevin Spacey and Vince Vaughn). Giamatti will also play noted science fiction author Philip K. Dick in the semi-biopic The Owl in Daylight, which he is producing through his production company, Touchy Feely Productions.
He also played a role in the 1996 video game Ripper, where he portrayed the character of Dr. Bud Cable. He is working on Pretty Birds which is a fictionalized retelling about the drama behind the invention of a rocketbelt. He was allegedly going to play Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Parker, in the now-defunct film Bubba Nosferatu.
Giamatti has commented on the fact that he often plays Jewish characters, but is almost never cast in Italian American roles.
Giamatti has starred in three films (Private Parts, American Splendor and Man on the Moon) that feature real-life figures who actually appeared on Late Night with David Letterman during the film and a fourth, StoryTelling, which starred Conan O'Brien, who hosted "Late Night" after Letterman moved to his own show on CBS.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music asked Giamatti, its "2007 BAM Cinema Club Chair", to pick films for an eight-movie series called "Paul Giamatti Selects" and shown at the Academy in August and September 2007. His selections indicated a taste for paranoia and "the darkest of dark comedy", according to a writer for The New York Times. Giamatti chose: Frenzy, Dr. Strangelove, Brewster McCloud, The Big Clock, The Seventh Victim, Dawn of the Dead (1978 version), Seconds, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version).
Giamatti's most acclaimed performances were in lead roles in American Splendor
(2003) and Sideways
(2004). He was nominated for a Golden Globe
and won an Independent Spirit Award
for the latter. Giamatti received his first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
in 2005 for his role in Cinderella Man
. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe
and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
for the film. However, George Clooney won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Syriana
. (Upon winning the Golden Globe, Clooney commented in his acceptance speech that he had expected Giamatti to win the award that evening.) Giamatti has also been nominated for and won several critics' awards. He received his first Emmy Award
for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie" in 2008 for his title performance
in the HBO
miniseries John Adams
He has been nominated for 38 separate awards between 2001 and 2008, and has won 25 of them. All of his nominations except one were for American Splendor, Sideways, Cinderella Man, or John Adams; the exception was a Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination for Big Momma's House.
A resident of the Brooklyn Heights
neighborhood of Brooklyn
, New York
, Giamatti has been married to Elizabeth Giamatti since 1997 and they have a son, Samuel, born in 2001. Giamatti is an atheist
. In a 2006 interview with totalfilm.com, he answers the question: Do you get the big star treatment at home now?
"No, no. My wife treats me worse now. She has no tolerance for that sort of behaviour! She’s Jewish and my son will probably be raised Jewish. I’m an atheist, so I’m waiting for my time to step in and tell him how things really are but I’ll do that when he’s a teenager. I figure he’ll be ripe for atheism when he’s a teenager." He has proclaimed that he is still a New Haven boy, and upon his death would like to be interred in New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery, among signers of the Declaration of Independence
but more importantly near his father.