This week in theaters prepare for Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike to blow you away in director Richard J. Lewis’ adaptation of the novel, Barney’s Version. Giamatti’s stellar performance as a fickle, drunkard with a chip on his shoulder is the main reason to see this film, but Rosamund Pike is not far behind. Though she’s not the typical actress you would cast to play as a subtle, 50-some-year-old (after all she is a 20 year-old, Bond babe) yet she doesn’t fail to impress and intrigue in every scenes she’s in.
The two had amazing chemistry on screen and off when we had a chance to sit down with them and find out more about what it took to make Barney’s Version…
What was it about this film and especially what was it about Richard J. Lewis, both, just have to do this film?
Paul Giamatti: Well I knew of the book, sort of, but I kind of had an idea of what the script might be like, but it was nothing about the script, it was great, you know, the stretch of time, everything I was potentially going to be able to do, all of other characters, an unbelievable sort of life to it, fantastic characters. I didn’t know Richard at all. I knew he’d done a lot of the CSI stuff, I saw his other movie, which I like a lot, did you see his other movie?
Rosamund Pike: Nope.
PG: I started working with him and he’s excellent with actors right off the bat, and he also seemed to implicitly trust us which is actually more rare than you would think it is. Complete confidence in what we would do and he was great.
What freedom did he give you guys that helped you guys both bring your characters to life?
PG: He rehearsed us.
RP: We rehearsed a lot.
PG: He gives you freedom.
RP: His lived with this book for like 10-years and he was obsessed with this novel and obsessed with these characters so he thought about the so much, to give us the roles was a tremendous vote of trust really.They’ve probably been living inside his head, nobody could probably embody them like he imagined them.
PG: He knew them thoroughly.
RP: The first time I read for him, he kind of sat right forward and he was immediately straightened with things that are very specific and I think that’s a great relief in a director. It’s collaborative. It’s much more easy to create a character with a director who is engaged than someone who just wants you to try everything randomly with no guidance, I think.
PG: He’s very attentive and sharp, and would see when I was in trouble and he offered me a way out. He always helped me. I was doing it baldy or pushing something, he always released the pressure and found a way. and I was always like, oh well, that’s a smart way to do blah, blah blah. Thank god, you’re here.
RP: It’s a strange relationship between actor and director.
PG: It is.
RP: And you’ve got this character that you’re both sort of carrying this other person, character along. But he also gave us the option to do some of the most profound moments between Barney and Miriam in single takes.
RP: Two-shots. That are not cutaways from at all.
Elaborating a little on that, the one things that stuck with me the most was watching his one good relationship, the one between you two, dissolve. What was that like for you two to shoot and have it be such a long shot with no cuts?
PG: And he had told us before that that’s how he shoot it. He always knew he was going to do that. So did we. It was greta to know that. So we knew that that’s the way it was going to happen and it was never — that was going to be the venue that it was going to happen in was a two-shot.
RP: And you’re both living it, for real, together, because obviously it does happen, when you’re doing multiple takes, multiple angles, but certain actors will reserve. But it’s wonderful when those big moments of the character are both happening here and for real. It’s not manufactured in any way.
Did the book inspire your characters at all?
PG: I eventually did. I didn’t read right off the bat. I read the script first. Then I realized that that was what I was going to have to stick with because you can see it’s pretty different. I got weary of getting too involved in the book so I didn’t really read it until it was done.
RP: I had read the book before even before I had seen the script. Just because I didn’t know the Canadian film. The producer put it in my hand because the other film was a film he produced many years ago.
What did you think of the character that you ended up playing?
RP: Well I thought she was the most astonishing character but I knew that I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of playing her because I thought it would be insane for them to cast someone in their late 20s to play this woman. So I was sort of looking at Clara and thinking well this is an interesting creature, and I had quite an interesting take on Clara.
PG: She’s an amazing character in the book. Clara.
RP: She is a really extraordinary character, sadly a lot of those scenes got lost because of the time. She has so much detail and strangeness.
PG: Very strange.
RP: She’s sort of cruel, she pushes away.
Beyond the hair and makeup, what are more subtle things you had to pay attention to, to convey the passage of time?
RP: Shift of weight. Feeling heavier.
PG: Feeling heavier, yeah.
RP: Generally what people say when you talk about people about growing old, they say you feel the same in your mind, but you feel heavier.
PG: The guy smokes and drinks and that’s going to do things to your body and your voice and things like that. It’ll wear you down inevitably. Smoking and drinking, no matter how much stamina you have. the makeup actually helps with a lot of that. The guy did an amazing job because he makes me look like I’m bloated and gained weight and I didn’t. It’s all prosthetic that makes me look fatter than I actually was. It’s amazingly well done. Really good this guy.
I actually thought you went method acting for that…
PG: That’s what a lot of people have thought and no I’m not that dedicated. It would’ve also been possible. I also had a gut that got bigger than my own gut, then I got this amazing bloat that he did. No it was all makeup.
RP: They tried to give me some of that and I was like, back off.
PG: Really? Well yeah.
Did they use any technology to see what you would look like, in theory?
PG: They did.
RP: They used pictures of my mother and sort of merged them together.
PG: They took pictures of your mother for you?
RP: They used my mother.
PG: Yeah because you do look like her. Edward G. Robinson, I think for me.
RP: We both do have a face full of prosthetics and we were both in makeup for the same amount of time. I had as much on my face, it was a finer quality. Different product.
Almost every single character a start, middle and finish. Was it refreshing that it’s not just about your character and that these characters were made to be more “real”?
PG: Yeah, I love that about it. And there was even more of that a lot of it gets lost in the editing. There was a lot of that stuff.
RP: Every character changes.
PG: One of my favorite scenes oddly enough to shoot in the whole movie it kind of goes past in a funny way, there’s that wonderful Italian actor who plays the artist and we shot that stuff in Rome at the very beginning of the movie and then the thing I show up with him after he does the radio show with you and we say goodbye to him outside was one the last things we shot. I hadn’t seen him in three months. And he came back and I had this incredibly weird affectionate reaction when I saw him, I was just like oh my god. It was incredibly weird simulation of what I suppose to be feeling. I was like I love this guy. I was like, I fucking love this guy. We were both like oh my god, I love you. We both looked old. And still when I watch that scene I get like oh my god. I really choke up when I watch that scene. There’s something very lovely in that scene. It’s very quick and you don’t necessarily even notice it, but there’s actually a very genuine side to it. Two guys who are like oh my god, I really missed you all this time. It was fascinating. And he’s wonderful, that guy. He doesn’t even have much to do and he’s so great that guy. Colossal.
RP: It’s true. When you ban those memories. It’s almost like your body gets confused and you have a memory and you think something happen to you and then you remember that it actually happened in the film. [laughs]. Your youth, our youth.
Q: It sounds like a psychedelic film in an actor’s brain.
PG: I do remember when I did that when I was doing “John Adams” which was an even bigger stretch of time, there was a very weird moment when I was suppose to come off, I don’t remember what, but it was really funny. I was not supposed to see my kid for a really long time and the last time I had shot any scenes with the kids, they had been like 9-year-old actors and then I had not seen any actors who were playing them as adults and I got off the boat and I was like, who the fuck are you? These were the kids and it was an incredible simulation of what I was suppose to be feeling because I was just feeling like what happen to the little 9-year-old kid that was playing John Quincy Adams, now he’s like 25. It was really bizarre.
The movie had a shift in tone from comedy to very serious, what do you think was the purpose for going out on such a low note?
RP: Well he sort of fell in love with these people. And you have this love, so to see someone breaking down it’s sort of painful because this sort of perfection feel very real.
PG: It does. And it’s this inevitable darkening of guys getting old It’s really about a person getting old.
RP: He still has humor all the way. That’s what so endearing.
You said it was very painful, painful to shoot or to watch?
RP: Painful to shoot.
PG: It’s a bummer some of the stuff.
RP: It’s very sad seeing some of the people you love destroyed by Alzheimer’s is very painful. It’s not easy to imagine. And I think one of the bits that I really love is when she finds in his wallet that note that she wrote to him all those years ago and I think that completely stops her heart to realize that he kept that there for thirty years.
Check out the two in Barney’s Version, in theaters January 14th!