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Paul Giamatti has the best baboon story

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‘I had to have special time with the baboon’

On Thursday night, actor Paul Giamatti video conferenced into Late Night with Stephen Colbert for a quarantine-approved interview. Very little of the conversation had to do with Billions, his Showtime show set to return on Sunday. A lot of the conversation had to do with primates.

The extremely wholesome conversation began with the actor showing off several wacky sketches produced in self-isolation. (Giamatti once aspired to be a cartoonist, and his love for comic books prompted him to campaign for the role of Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Knowing he had a veteran on his hand, Colbert then asked Giamatti about his most memorable co-star. Giamatti was quick to answer: the baboon from Rock of Ages.

Giamatti didn’t come out and name the musical adaptation, possibly because the addition of a baboon to the script was entirely Tom Cruise’s idea. But playing the manager of Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx meant Giamatti had lots of screentime opposite the baboon.

They wanted to spice the film up with a baboon ... I had a lot to do with the baboon. The problem was the baboon was scared of me. The first scene I had with the baboon I had to be yelling a lot and that terrified the baboon, so he was very [scared baboon face] and then he would show me his ass, which is a submissive thing baboons do. So I had to have special time with the baboon. The baboon was supposed to punch me at one point.

Giamatti emphasized that the baboon was actually great. At least one of the baboons.

They had two of them. They had a female one who was scarier that they had for close-ups. She was scary. But the other one was scared of me. But they did teach him to load a revolver.

As Colbert noted, Giamatti’s baboon encounter was 11 years after the actor played an orangutan in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake. He had monkey story from that set, too.

I had trouble with a lot of the actual simians on the set of that. One of the chimpanzees was attracted to me and had to be kept separate.

Baboons love Paul Giamatti, and so do we.