For months, Paul Giamatti has repeatedly refused to explain how he managed to give his character Paul Hunham in The Holdovers an incredibly realistic-looking lazy eye. The Oscar-nominated actor chalked it up to “movie magic” and said he was sworn to secrecy.
The conversation began by Stern telling the actor that as he watched the film, he thought to himself, “Wow, Paul has a really fucked-up eye, I hope he’s OK,” joking that he was so “narcissitic” he must have never noticed it before.
Giamatti said he received similar reactions from people he’s known all his life. “How fucking stupid are you? It’s a thing in my eye!” he admitted. “But I guess it worked really well.” After a bit more pressing from Stern, he explained, “It’s a lens. A big soft contact lens.”
As someone who has always been “squeamish” about putting things in his eyes, Giamatti said it was “a lot to get used to.” But beyond that, he said that since the lens was opaque, he was actually “blind in one eye” for the entirety of the shoot—including the scenes where he had to drive a car.
Even Giamatti’s co-star Dominic Sessa didn’t quite know what was going on with the eye, as he told The Daily Beast last fall when the film was released.
“It was a great frustration of mine! I was not made privy to any of that information. I don’t know if it was pure acting, I don’t know if they had an eye contortionist, I don’t know what they did,” Sessa said. “I would see him on set, and his eye would be messed up, and then I’d see him when we wrapped and his eye would be… not messed up? If I asked him, he would just say, ‘It’s acting.’ I guess I’ll just take his word for it.”