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Lady In The Water - Paul Giamatti interview

Paul Giamatti in The Lady in the Water

Interview by Rob Carnevale

PAUL Giamatti talks about playing the role of Cleveland Heep in M Night Shyamalan’s Lady In The Water as well as why he feels drawn to “ life’s troubled souls”...

Q. How did you react to the script at first and come to get involved?
A. I was told that Night wanted to meet me, so I went and met him. He said he had a script that he wanted me to read, so I read it. And I thought it was really wild and ambitious. I was particularly struck by the idea of it being a story that’s aware it’s a story, a movie that’s aware it’s a movie and an allegory that’s very aware it’s an allegory. I thought he did that very well on the page and if he could pull it off on the screen it would be fantastic. So I was very excited.

Q. How did you deal with the stuttering side of your character’s make-up?
A. The stuttering was an interesting thing. It was always a tricky thing for me because I didn’t want it to get in the way of telling the story or the plot points. I drew mostly on somebody I remembered from my childhood who had a particular kind of stutter. Then I tried to vary it so that it would be interesting. I did some work on it but I didn’t want it to become an obstacle for the audience. So it was mostly just thinking about a guy I knew who stuttered when I was a kid.

Q. How difficult were the swimming scenes because I understand you did them yourself? Was it hard to become as proficient as you looked on-screen?
A. The swimming was really fun, actually. I just dove into the pool and, sort of like a Manatee, just wallowed around – and I actually really enjoyed that. I also had to learn how to breathe an air bubble out of an upside down beer glass, but now I can do that I should be able to survive. It was one of the things that I was looking forward to doing in the movie.

Q. Why do you think it’s so easy for you to play life’s troubled souls?
A. [Laughs] Sad, really. Well, I had a troubled life when I was a child… no, I guess I suppose I just enjoy it even though I have played lots of different kinds of things. There’s a certain pleasure to be taken in playing self-torturing kind of guys that see themselves as failures – it’s kind of fun.

Q. But you play them so well…
A. Well I get a lot of practise at them! A lot of people have seen me playing that type of role so they’ve asked me to do it more, which is fine. I actually find playing a happy, together person much harder. I actually think that’s a difficult thing to do as an actor. But I actually think of Cleveland Heep as fairly positive and hopeful. He’s a good, good man and that was actually hard. He’s the hero of a fairytale and I found it hard to play somebody so decent. Hopefully it doesn’t become insipid. But to answer the original question, I don’t know why I’m good at playing sad tortured people but I really enjoy it.

Read the review

M Night Shyamalan interview