Minute With: Paul Giamatti on films about JFK assassination and slave trading

Wed Oct 2, 2013 6:54pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It's been almost a decade since actor Paul Giamatti introduced himself to the world as the hapless and neurotic but lovable wine aficionado Miles in "Sideways."

Since then, he's played a U.S. president (John Adams) and a Federal Reserve chairman (Ben Bernanke) and this fall he has two more roles based on real-life characters to add to the list.

In "Parkland," a drama about the aftermath of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, he plays Abraham Zapruder, the Dallas businessman who accidentally shot the famous 26-second film of the event on his Super 8 camera. The film opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.

In "12 Years a Slave," a grueling tale of a free black man sold into slavery, Giamatti is a slave trader who puts the naked slaves on display and negotiates prices and packages. The film, which critics consider a serious Oscar contender, opens October 18.

Giamatti, 46, spoke to Reuters about playing a man wrestling with the decision to sell the JFK footage and the difficulties of making ruthless slave trading look like acceptable behavior.

Q: Your "Parkland" character Abe Zapruder fills in an information gap most of us have. Apart from the script and the book "Four Days in November" by Vincent Bugliosi, how did you find out more about him?

A: I didn't know anything about him really. There's footage of him, not a lot, but some of that was very useful. I met his family. They said some things in the course of just chatting with them that were really interesting. You play a real person and sometimes you meet the family, that's great. But in this instance I felt like they had had enough people stomping around their lives. So I didn't want to get too all over them about stuff.

Q: At the beginning we see this is a good man. What most worried you about getting the balance right?   Continued...

Actor Paul Giamatti arrives for the film screening of "12 Years a Slave" at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch