Paul Giamatti interview

Paul Giamatti talks about his latest role opposite Scarlett Johansson

Known for playing loveable losers, from American Splendor to Sideways, Paul Giamatti, 40, returns as Mr. X, a malodorous stockbroker – and employer of Scarlett Johansson’s long-suffering child-minder ? in The Nanny Diaries.

The Nanny Diaries is by Robert Pulcini and Sheri Springer Berman, the same directors as American Splendor. Do you see the films as similar?

Not exactly. It?s a romantic comedy about a woman who takes care of this rich couple?s kid in New York. I play the husband, who is basically never around. It?s a bigger budget movie but they [Berman and Pulcini] are putting a lot of their weird touches in it. They took a very smart tack on it, to tell it in this funny way as if it?s an anthropological report.

Given Mr. X and your recent psychopath in Shoot ?em Up, do you prefer playing bad guys?

To play extremely good without becoming insipid or vapid is hard. Or at least it is for me. It?s easier to be a bad person, it seems like. It?s hard to be a good person. You feel like a schmuck most of the time too. You feel like you?re missing out – like, ?Why am I not a bad person like everybody else? It?d be easier.? It feels like an uphill battle.

You?re also in The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. What?s that about?

It?s an adult cartoon. It?s very funny and really dirty! I play this weird, pathetic super-villain, that?s neurotic and masturbates a lot. There are a lot of masturbation jokes, which is funny to me!

What was your first ever paid role?

My first meaningful paycheque of any kind was maybe $200 at an experimental theatre in downtown Manhattan. I did a weird play in which I played a leg-less, leper monk?it was an opera about a saint in Ireland! I had to drag myself around, and I hung myself at one point. It was completely crazy.

The Nanny Diaries is released on 12 October

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