“It was funny working with him on this movie because I couldn't stop asking him about 'Papillon,’” Giamatti told PopcornBiz with a laugh.
In the upcoming film “Barney’s Version” – based on the Mordecai Richter novel, and a Golden Lion nominee at the Venice Film Festival – Giamatti has the juicy leading role as a too-blunt, much-married TV producer whose adoring, retired-cop father is zestfully played by Hoffman.
Both actors have long reputations for breathing rich, believable life into quirky, off-kilter characters, and Giamatti tells PopcornBiz he was captivated by the opportunity to share scenes with an actor he’s long found to be a role model.
“That was the thing about him: that he played really wonderful characters,” said Giamatti. “He played very eccentric, strange characters, and all these things were very, very resonant to me as a little kid, because he was so odd-seeming as opposed to a lot of those [Hollywood] guys. There was something really wonderful about his eccentricity actually – and he's an eccentric guy, as I found out, but he's a really sweet, wonderful guy. It was really easy to feel warmly towards him. You feel like he was a dad.”
“What I actually liked when I first read the script was the relationship between Barney and his father,” added Giamatti, whose real life father was former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bartlett Giamatti. “That was the thing that struck me more than anything – It was a couple of the scenes with the two of them that I really liked, because it's not a typical father/son thing that you see in movies a whole lot. We're very affectionate with each other and we're very kind of fun together and it's not something that you see.”
Director Richard J. Lewis likened the actors’ scenes together to watching two professional athletes put each other through their paces. “It's like if you're a tennis player and you get to work with [Roger] Federer and [Rafael] Nadal,” said Lewis. “You get the cream of the crop and there's nothing that you can't try with those guys. You just keep working things and the process becomes so enjoyable and so fantastic and I learned so much from them as we went through the process. It was fantastic.”
Hoffman extended to metaphor to basketball terms. “You feel like you're passing the ball to him and then he's passing the ball to me,” he told PopcornBiz. “We're each allowing the other to make a lay up.”