Paul Giamatti On ‘The Holdovers’ Oscar Nom, His Love Of Zach Cregger’s ‘Barbarian’ & A Missed Opportunity To Collaborate With David Lynch

After landing his second Oscar nomination on Tuesday morning for his starring turn in Alexander Payne’s dramedy The Holdovers, Paul Giamatti spoke with Deadline about the reasons horror is currently at top of mind for him, the filmmakers active in that genre today that he’d most like to work with, his viral In-N-Out moment following the Golden Globes, a missed opportunity to work with David Lynch, and more.

Speaking to the genre filmmakers he admires, Giamatti named Hereditary‘s Ari Aster and Nope‘s Jordan Peele, though he gave particular focus to Zach Cregger, who caught his attention with his 2022 breakout feature, Barbarian. “I thought that movie was really, really well done, and that’s kind of one of my favorite horror movies I’ve seen recently,” the actor said. “That movie really struck a chord with me, and it stuck with me.”

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While out on the awards circuit, Giamatti has often spoken about his desire to work more in horror, following a creatively gratifying experience with HBO’s Spanish-language horror series, 30 Coins. But the actor’s love of the genre is nothing new. “I’ve always loved horror… I’ve just always had that thing, since I was a kid, and I think also, it’s such an amazing genre,” he reflected. “You can do so much in it, and get away with so much that you can’t in other things.”

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Giamatti’s fellow nominees in this year’s Oscars Lead Actor category include Maestro‘s Bradley Cooper, Rustin‘s Colman Domingo, Oppenheimer‘s Cillian Murphy and American Fiction‘s Jeffrey Wright. Previously nominated for a supporting role in Ron Howard’s boxing drama Cinderella Man, he secured his second nom after winning Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes.

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Following that ceremony, Giamatti was photographed at In-N-Out, celebrating with a burger. To his surprise, he saw the pic go viral, later poking fun at the moment while on stage to accept a Critics Choice Award. “It was a funny experience. I’m glad people enjoyed it,” Giamatti shares of his five minutes in the online spotlight. “I’m fascinated by the whole idea of what goes viral and what doesn’t, and I’m sort of puzzled as to why that did. But I’m happy that people enjoyed it, and you know, I love In-N-Out Burger, so it’s always a good plus to plug In-N-Out Burger.”

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While Giamatti says a third season of 30 Coins is “in the offing,” and that he would “love to do a play” sometime soon, he plans to take a moment to breathe after getting caught up in the whirlwind of awards season. If there’s one thing on his mind now, though, as far as a bucket list item he’d like to cross off, it would be to find the right project to work on with David Lynch. “I had a chance to work with David that didn’t happen, and I wish someday that would come around again, that chance,” Giamatti shares. “It was that Twin Peaks, the recent one, the one on Showtime, and it just couldn’t work out logistically. It was really, really frustrating and I was like, ‘You’re kidding me. We can’t figure this out?'”

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Looking to the future, Giamatti would also of course jump at the chance for another reteam with Payne, who in addition to The Holdovers, directed him in one of his most iconic performances, in the wine country dramedy Sideways. “I would do anything that guy wants me to do, anytime,” he says. “He’s the best director I’ve ever worked with. I think he’s one of the greatest American directors alive, and so hopefully, yes, we’ll do more. I’ll do anything he wants.”

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The Holdovers today scored five Academy Award nominations, including Supporting Actress for Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Original Screenplay for David Hemingson. Others recognized included editor Kevin Tent and producer Mark Johnson who is repping the pic in the category of Best Picture.

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Released by Focus Features in October after premiering at Telluride, the film follows Paul Hunham (Giamatti), a teacher at a prestigious academy who nobody likes — not his students, not his fellow faculty, not the headmaster, who all find his pomposity and rigidity exasperating. With no family and nowhere to go over Christmas holiday in 1970, Paul remains at school to supervise students unable to journey home. After a few days, only one student holdover remains — a trouble-making teenager Angus (newcomer Dominic Sessa), whose bad behavior always threatens to get him expelled, despite the fact that he’s an exceptional student.

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Joining Paul and Angus is the school’s head cook Mary (Randolph), who caters to sons of privilege and whose own son was recently killed in Vietnam. These three very different shipwrecked people form an unlikely Christmas family sharing comic misadventures during two very snowy weeks in New England. The real journey is how they help one another understand that they are not beholden to their past — that they can choose their own futures.

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Sharing that he was “flabbergasted” by the love that both the film and his performance have gotten, he says he knew that people would like the pic, but was surprised by the extent of the response. “I think it’s such a basic story of connection,” he said. “It’s a very, very simple story about human connection, people helping each other, and I think people just are responding to it. It’s very warm, in its way.”

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