'Cold Souls' Star On Being Paul Giamatti

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Cold Souls star Paul Giamatti has made a career out of playing tetchy characters. Matt Carr/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Matt Carr/Getty Images
Paul Giamatti

Cold Souls star Paul Giamatti has made a career out of playing tetchy characters.

Matt Carr/Getty Images

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In the film Cold Souls, Paul Giamatti plays ... Paul Giamatti. And this version of Paul Giamatti is every inch what movie audiences might suspect from the actor's most frequent screen persona: an anxious, neurotic mess.

Cold Souls is set in an alternate-universe America in which souls can be put into deep-freeze to relieve their human bearers of psychological torment. Giamatti (the character) undergoes the procedure when his onstage role as Chekhov's Uncle Vanya cripples him emotionally. He plans to restore his soul when the run ends, but then a smuggler spirits his spirit off to Russia, and Giamatti-the-character has to go to St. Petersburg to try to win back his soul.

Giamatti — the real Giamatti — studied English at Yale before beginning his career in the theater; he eventually appeared on Broadway in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and the 1999 revival of The Iceman Cometh.

He began to take on film roles in the early '90s, but his first leading role came only in 2003, when he starred as illustrator Harvey Pekar in the biopic American Splendor.

Since then, Giamatti has a played an oenophile enduring a mid-life crisis in Sideways (2004), an Austrian police inspector in The Illusionist (2006) and the eponymous Founding Father in HBO's 2008 miniseries John Adams.

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