Rosamund Pike and Paul Giamatti star as husband and wife (for a time) in “Barney’s Version,” the adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s novel about an older man reflecting on his successful but troubled life. The Times caught up with them to talk about their new movie, which opened in L.A. on Friday, the absence of character movies, changing notions of masculinity and the pros and cons of facial hair. A complete video sit-down with Giamatti follows below.
— Steven Zeitchik and Deborah Vankin
Why do you think we see so few character-driven films like “Barney’s Version” these days?
Rosamund Pike: “It’s because the smart intelligent adults who are its audience are not the people who are going to make box-office gold. There’s just not enough of them as there are teenagers who will go and see ‘Twilight.’ I also think people don’t observe people so closely anymore. And we’re not living in the 1970s, that’s the other thing. If we were living in the 1970s, ‘Barney’s’ would be a mainstream studio movie.”
Paul Giamatti: “A movie like ‘Barney’s Version’ doesn’t have a gimmick, which is tricky to pull off these days. It hearkens back to the 1970s movies like [Paul Mazursky’s comedy-drama] ‘An Unmarried Woman.’ I’d like to think there’s more room for things like that. My idea of having a production company is because I’m interested in doing these smaller things. I’d like to think there’s more room for things like that.”
This movie feels like it fits into a larger group of films about men who have the outward trappings of maturity but are really quite scared and childlike inside. What do you think that’s about?
PG: “At one point Rosamund’s character says to mine, ‘You’re still a child.’ There is a lot of that going on in movies. Certainly the guys in ‘Sideways’ are growing up uncomfortably. Judd Apatow has these child-men. There’s a weird refusal to grow up in movies. I don’t know generationally what that [means].”
RP: “I think the idea of the alpha male has gone out. Although I’m still looking for one.”
Paul, you’re clean-shaven today, even though your beard is your trademark! Have you changed your position?
PG: “If I wasn’t an actor I would have a beard all the time. I don’t like to shave and I kind of like having a beard…. There’s a whole politics of facial hair that’s very interesting to me. Movie guys get worked up about facial hair. I knew I reached some level of success as an actor when they didn’t bug me about having a beard.”
Rosamund, are you as partial to facial foliage?
RP:”It all depends on the quality of the hair. A nice, soft beard can be quite nice to stroke, but bristly stubble is always a bit of a cheese grater for the face. [On second thought…] men are obviously biologically meant to have beards, as hair grows out of their faces. … So who are we to say otherwise? ”
What’s on each of your iPods right now?
RP: “I’m listening to Koko Taylor, some old Townes Van Zandt. Neil Young. I am quite old school. Most of what I listen to was made before I was born.”
PG: “I don’t have an iPod. Those things just seem too complicated to me, and I don’t listen to anything particularly current, more Miles Davis and things like that.”
RP: “I wonder if Paul told you that I gave him his iPod…. So he does have one. But he doesn’t know how to use it.”