Paul Giamatti Eye in “The Holdovers”: A Mystery Unveiled

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Written By Drew Gomez






Paul Edward Valentine Giamatti, born on June 6, 1967, in New Haven, Connecticut, is an American actor with a diverse and accomplished career spanning over three decades. From his breakout roles in theater to his acclaimed performances in film and television, Giamatti has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. In this comprehensive article, we delve into various aspects of his life, achievements, and challenges.

Paul Giamatti, the versatile actor known for his compelling performances, recently captivated audiences with his portrayal of curmudgeonly teacher Paul Hunham in the film “The Holdovers.” One distinctive aspect of his character is the lazy eye that further alienates him from society. But how did Giamatti achieve this eye condition? Let’s delve into the mystery and reveal the truth behind his mesmerizing performance.

The Secret Revealed

Giamatti’s commitment to his roles is legendary. In “The Holdovers,” his wandering eye serves as a crucial part of Professor Hunham’s persona. Fans and fellow actors alike were left wondering: How did he maintain that askew gaze throughout the film? Giamatti playfully declared it a “state secret,” refusing to divulge details.

Director Alexander Payne joined the conspiracy, delighting in the curiosity surrounding this actorly flourish. Their response? “It’s the magic of acting in cinema. Just movie magic.” But the truth remained elusive.

The Contortionist or Makeup Magic?

In interviews, Giamatti teased that he trained with a Cirque du Soleil contortionist to achieve the eye effect, but it was now too dangerous to attempt. However, the credits of “The Holdovers” finally spilled the beans. There, in plain sight, was the name: Zach Ripps, contact lens tech. Yes, it was a special effect—a physical makeup technique, not CGI. Giamatti had never done anything quite like it before. The opaque lens, though challenging, allowed him to hone his craft and immerse himself in the character.

The Impact on Hunham

Professor Hunham’s comically askew eyes and his rare genetic condition, trimethylaminuria (also known as Fish Odor Syndrome), were integral to the character. The kids at fictional boarding school Barton Academy teased him mercilessly, emphasizing his marginalization. Giamatti drew from his own past, having attended a similar boarding school during his youth. His love for Roman antiquity, shared with Hunham, added depth to the role.

Eye Surgery and Transformation

Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of a teacher with a glass eye in the movie “The Holdovers” sparked curiosity about his own eyes. However, it’s essential to clarify that the glass eye in the film is not his real eye. Giamatti has not undergone any eye surgery; instead, the captivating look was achieved through makeup and visual effects. His commitment to authenticity in roles demonstrates his dedication to his craft.

Lifestyle and Background

Giamatti hails from an intellectually active family. His father, A. Bartlett Giamatti, served as Yale University’s president and later became the commissioner of Major League Baseball. His mother, Toni Marilyn Giamatti, was an English teacher and former actress. Paul attended Yale University, majoring in English, and later pursued an MFA in drama from the Yale School of Drama. His acting roots lie in theater, where he made his Broadway debut and participated in various productions.


Giamatti’s accolades include a Primetime Emmy Award, three Golden Globes, and nominations for two Academy Awards and a British Academy Film Award. His breakthrough film roles in “Private Parts,” “Sideways,” and “American Splendor” showcased his versatility and depth as an actor. Notably, his portrayal of Harvey Pekar in “American Splendor” garnered critical acclaim.

Challenges and Resilience

Despite his success, Giamatti faced challenges. His weight loss journey, which transformed his appearance, required determination and discipline. Balancing personal life with a demanding career, he prioritized family and maintained a strong work-life balance. His middle-aged persona has been a constant, and he remains grounded despite the glitz of Hollywood.

Social Media Activity

Giamatti’s engagement extends beyond the screen. His podcast, “Chinwag,” explores paranormal, esoteric, and downright weird topics. With guests like Tom Hanks, Billy Bob Thornton, and Natasha Lyonne, Giamatti fosters conversations that go beyond typical interviews. His passion for UFOs, Bigfoot, and metaphysics resonates with fellow weirdos and has tripled his podcast audience.

Family and Relationships

In 1997, Giamatti married Elizabeth Cohen, and they have a son named Samuel. Although he identifies as an atheist, they incorporate Jewish traditions like Hanukkah into their family life. Giamatti’s parents have sadly passed away, but their influence remains evident in his career choices and commitment to authenticity.


Paul Giamatti’s multifaceted journey reflects resilience, creativity, and a genuine love for his craft. From theater to Hollywood, he continues to captivate audiences with his remarkable performances. As he navigates fame, family, and the paranormal, Giamatti remains an actor who transcends conventions and embraces the extraordinary.

Paul Giamatti’s lazy eye in “The Holdovers” wasn’t just movie magic—it was a blend of skill, dedication, and the expertise of a contact lens tech. As we unravel the mystery, we appreciate the lengths Giamatti went to for authenticity. His commitment to storytelling continues to inspire both fans and fellow actors alike.

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