Born in Connecticut in 1967, Paul Giamatti got his big acting break in 1997's Howard Stern biopic Private Parts. Accolades and bigger parts became regular elements of his career, and after the turn of the millennium he starred in American Splendor and Sideways, both to great praise. As the decade progressed, so did his career, and he starred in a slew of critically loved films, with more than a dozen in the works leading into 2013. That same year, Giamatti was announced as the newest castmember of PBS' popular series Downton Abbey.
Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on June 6, 1967, the son of A. Bartlett "Bart" Giamatti, a former president of Yale University and commissioner of Major League Baseball (who perhaps became most famous for banning Pete Rose from baseball). His mother was a prep-school English teacher and former actor. Paul Giamatti attended Choate Rosemary Hall, a prestigious prep school in Wallingford, Connecticut, before heading to Yale University to study English. He graduated in 1989 and soon after moved to Seattle. Not finding what he was looking for out west, Giamatti returned to Connecticut to attend the Yale University School of Drama.
As the 1990s rolled around, Giamatti moved from stage into movies and TV, making his feature debut in 1992 in the grunge-inspired film Singles. He was soon landing larger roles in such movies as Sabrina (1995) and Donnie Brasco (1997, the year in which Giamatti also was married; he and his wife had a son, Sam, in 2001), but his true breakout part was still to come. Giamatti really hit Hollywood hard with the role of (often enraged) media executive "Pig Vomit" in the Howard Stern biopic Private Parts. As Stern’s nemesis, Giamatti played one of the livelier roles in recent memory, and the viewing audience embraced him wholeheartedly.
Hitting His Stride
From this point, Paul Giamatti's acting plate became very full, with supporting roles in such high-profile films as The Truman Show, Saving Private Ryan, The Negotiator—all released in 1998—and Man on the Moon (1999), in which he reunited with his Truman Show co-star Jim Carrey.
Starring roles in the HBO movies If These Walls Could Talk 2 and American Splendor soon followed. Giamatti was nominated for several awards for American Splendor, as he was for 2004’s Sideways, a film that proved to be a second breakthrough role for him. For Sideways, he earned a SAG nomination for Best Actor and won the Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Performance, along the way revealing himself to be a nuanced performer with a range that any actor would envy. Much to the surprise of fans of Sideways, Giamatti would have to wait until 2005 for his first Oscar nomination, which he received for the Russell Crowe feature Cinderella Man (for which Giamatti won nine other awards).
An Established Actor
With his career in full swing, Giamatti could choose any role he wanted, and his choices over the next few years were as diverse as his previous roles. He appeared in the animated Ant Bully, the comedy Fred Claus, the fantasy Lady in the Water and the heady drama The Hawk Is Dying.
Setting the bar high once again, Giamatti took the lead in the seven-part HBO miniseries John Adams in 2008, for which he won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and a Television Critics Association Award. Barney’s Version (2010) and Too Big to Fail (2011) would also mean awards gold for Giamatti, as between the two he would walk away with another Golden Globe and another SAG Award.
As the new century evolved, so did Giamatti’s career, and his diverse roles no longer came as such a surprise. In films as varied as Win-Win, The Hangover Part II and Rock of Ages, Giamatti continued to draw from deep within to build one stellar performance after the next, and his career shows no signs of slowing down.
In June 2013, Giamatti was announced as the newest castmember of PBS' popular series Downton Abbey. The actor appeared as Harold, Cora's playboy brother, in the season four finale alongside actress Shirley MacLaine, who plays Martha Levinson, Cora's mother, on the show. On the big screen, he appeared in Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave (2013) based on a real life experience of a Northern free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Giamatti also portrayed Abraham Zapruder, a businessman who filmed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in Parkland that same year.
Giamatti continues to tackle a range of projects, from the 2014 big budget action film The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to the 2015 literary adaptation Madame Bovary. In 2015, he also played music icon Brian Wilson's controversial psychologist in the dramatic biopic Love & Mercy. That same year, Giamatti also gained an Emmy nod for his guest appearance on Inside Amy Schumer, lent his voice to the animated film The Little Prince, appeared the high action disaster film San Andreas and starred as Jerry Heller in the rap music bio pic about NWA, Straight Outta Compton, among other projects.
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