For the second time, an Alexander Payne film changed Paul Giamatti’s life.
The first, “Sideways” (2004), established the actor as a leading man with a particularly compelling screen presence. The second, “The Holdovers”, released last fall, earned him his first Oscar nomination in the best actor category, announced early Tuesday morning.
For Giamatti, 56, the news caps a busy awards season in which he has already received BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild nominations and won a Golden Globe. In a phone interview from his home in Brooklyn hours after the announcement, the actor explained how he was processing the news. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
How do you feel?
I don’t know! I don’t really know what to think. It’s a strange thing. It’s very, very nice. I’m very happy, but I’m also a little stunned.
What’s strange about that? What leaves you stunned?
I don’t know, I never imagined this kind of thing. It’s just that I never really imagined it. I think it’s a great film; it’s a wonderful film. But I didn’t imagine, for me, that it was something that people would take to so much. It’s good. That’s really nice.
What was your game plan this morning?
(Laughs) I didn’t really have any! I’m a bit of a night owl and I thought, “I’ll just sleep late tomorrow.” Someone tell me what happened. I don’t even want to look. My manager called me, woke me up and told me.
Nearly 20 years ago, you were nominated for Best Supporting Actor for your role in “Cinderella Man.” You are now nominated in the main category. I think you could have a future in this city.
Maybe! Maybe! (Laughs) There’s a bit of this feeling of, “Okay, maybe I’ve done the right thing in my life.” Maybe I did the right thing. This is a statement that really takes me a second to digest.
How different was this experience last time?
It was very different. I don’t remember doing that many things, nor their intensity. I remember it was a lot more discreet last time. There’s a lot more now than there used to be with all this stuff on social media. There are so many places to contact and spread out for people to advertise, I think.
You have already won the Golden Globe. What does it mean to you that all of this is happening now, at this point in your career?
This is a very interesting question. And I think that’s one of the things that makes me a little flabbergasted. What does this mean for my life? I don’t know. It’s super rewarding. I’m not young anymore and there’s a certain feeling of, “Oh, maybe I can take it easy a little bit.”
The other thing that excites me is the sense of history. It is a link in a chain of this American tradition that dates back to the beginnings of cinema. As a history buff, it’s a really cool thing to be a part of.