It was the biggest hit at Sundance and since last January, word of mouth has just been getting better. Now, with the theatrical release of American Splendor, movie audiences everywhere will be able to enjoy the true-life adventures of filing clerk turned comic book writer Harvey Pekar.
Paul Giamatti plays the underground comic book artist and he took a few moments with us to talk about his experience.
What’s strange about American Splendor is that you’re not just playing a character out of a comic book, it’s a character out of an auto-biographical comic book, a real person. Did you actually work with Harvey Pekar?
Oh, yeah, a little bit. I mean, I’m playing a character based on a character based on a guy. It’s very weird. Yeah, I got to spend some time with him, but I also watched a lot of tape of him. I mean, I only had about a week and a half to prepare the whole thing, which was probably good because we couldn’t really think very much about it. But I mean, it made me nervous because I felt that I had to mimic well because he’s in the movie. I had never done something like that before. So, yeah, he was around while we were shooting it and that helped a lot cause, you know, I could listen to him and watch him and stuff like that and he’s a really interesting guy physically and…in the way he talks and stuff. He’s a very interesting guy.
What attracted you to playing this part?
Well, I’d known about him already. I mean, I’d read his books when I was in college and so I already knew who he was and, you know, he’s a real interesting guy and there’re certain things about him, about the character based on him, that I feel I understand in certain ways and I’ve never gotten to play a character quite like this before. These people wrote a really good script and it’s got cartoon and documentary stuff in it and I thought it was a really neat way to do one of these bio pics, but it wasn’t like a bio pic. It really is a movie that becomes about a lot more than just this guy’s life, actually.
And this is kind of different for you because you’re really known for playing a lot of character roles in movies. This is a leading man role.
Yeah, but it’s a character role…I mean, he’s a character. It’s an ensemble thing, though. He’s the central guy, but everything’s happening around him. It’s a very ensemble thing. All the other characters are just as interesting and just as important and all that kind of thing.
What do you hope people get out of the film?
Mostly, I hope that people find out who he is. I mean, the main thing is that people know who he is and maybe book companies will republish his books and stuff like that. Maybe he’ll get a job out of it and make some money and I hope the guy does cause he really deserves to, I mean, he’s a really unique artist and he deserves people’s attention, so that’s the main thing. I hope people find out who Harvey Pekar is.