Paul Giamatti says his ‘The Holdovers’ character may smell bad, but he doesn’t


Paul Giamatti plays curmudgeonly Professor Hunham – a boarding school teacher from the ‘70s – in director Alexander Payne’s latest film, The Holdovers.

The character gets on his students’ nerves without a care in the world. He also deals with some pretty poor body odor, but Giamatti told ABC Audio he didn’t torture his co-stars by showing up and smelling bad.

“It’s for the other people to subtly have to play,” Giamatti said. “It’s like the thing they say, ‘You don’t need to play the king, everybody around you needs to play that you’re the king.’ So this was, ‘I don’t need to play I smell like fish, everybody around me needs to play I smell like fish.’”

While he briefly considered the possibility, Giamatti decided against showing up with BO after he recalled an experience with a former co-star.

“He put fish in his pockets, and cheese, and stinky cheese to put people — very method — to put people off,” Giamatti said. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to do that, actually,’ because that was really off-putting when that guy did that. So, I’m not going to do that to people.”

And while Professor Hunham has his quirks, Giamatti says that is exactly what he enjoyed about playing him.

“It was a very fun role to play,” Giamatti said. “He’s not a fun guy to other people, but he thinks he’s hilarious. And he thinks he’s really smart and he takes a certain pleasure in being a jerk and then sort of coming up with these really sort of like elaborate putdowns, that kind of, you know, he’s pleased by his own intelligence and stuff. So that was fun to do.”

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