Why Scrooge In Verizon's 'Tis The Season: Free 5G Phone' Commercial Looks So Familiar - Looper (2024)

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ByJulie River/

Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most iconic characters to ever come out of fiction. A lot of people have played him, from Rupert Julian in the 1916 silent adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" called "The Right to Be Happy," to the new Netflix computer-animated adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" where Luke Evans voices the old miser.

In a 2019 interview, University of Colorado English instructor Jody Thomas explained why the nearly-200-year-old story still endures to this day. "When Dickens was writing A Christmas Carol, English society was rapidly changing in response to the Industrial Revolution. England was changing from an agricultural society to one where many people were moving to the cities and working in factories,"she said."And there was an uncertainty about how to celebrate Christmas in the cities. ... It showed them what the Victorian, urban, industrial version of Christmas could be, and that version is still very much how we celebrate the holiday today." Thomas went on to explain that it's likely that a new Christmas story is on the near horizon with all the changes going on in modern society.

With "A Christmas Carol" being so popular that it's inspired episodes of everything from "Doctor Who" to "Family Matters," it's hardly surprising that the character of Scrooge would ironically be used to sell products around Christmas. In the latest commercial for Verizon, "Saturday Night Live" star Cecily Strong runs into a particularly familiar-looking version of the famous "A Christmas Carol" antagonist, and there's a reason he looks so familiar: it's actor Paul Giamatti, and there are lots of places you've probably seen him before.

He played Pig Vomit in Private Parts

One of the first roles that brought Paul Giamatti to prominence was as the loathsome corporate stooge Kenny, known more popularly as "Pig Vomit" in Howard Stern's autobiographical film "Private Parts." According to an article in the New York Daily News, Pig Vomit was based on Kevin Metheny, a programming director that Howard Stern, who worked with in the '80s and nicknamed "Pig Virus" in real life. When Metheny died in 2014, however, Stern spoke somewhat fondly of his former boss. "He was the villain in my life," Stern said on his show. "It's like Batman and The Joker."

In an interview on, of all places, The Howard Stern Show, Giamatti admitted that he never looked up what the real-life Metheny looked or sounded like, something that Stern and his staff said was incredible because Giamatti got the character, in their opinion, exactly right. "I didn't know he was a real guy," he explained to Stern. "I was familiar enough with your film career that I knew there was a guy, but I didn't realize it was that guy." Giamatti explained that he thought the character was an amalgamation of real people, and the only direction he had really been given for the role was to do it in a thick Southern accent.

But while that small role may have established Giamatti as a character actor, his first starring role would really get his career started.

He was Harvey Pekar in American Splendor

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HBO Max

The 2003 dramedy film "American Splendor" told the real-life story of Harvey Pekar, the comic artist behind the stark, working-class comic "American Splendor" that became a cult classic, leading him to ultimately find the love of his life in a comic book store. The film became a cult classic in its own right, and it was Paul Giamatti's first starring role.

In an interview with Ain't It Cool News in 2003, Giamatti talked about what got him involved with a project about Harvey Pekar. "He epitomizes this kind of angry outsider thing that sort of appeals to me, and ... there's a certain romance I have about things like that," he said. "There's a great tradition of the angry outsider scourging the world... but there's a lot more to Harvey than that. But, at the basic level, *that* kind of thing (appeals to me). I mean, there's a fine line between a genius and a lunatic walking around with an 'End is Nigh' sign, and that kind of thing is interesting."

In the previously mentioned interview on The Howard Stern Show, Giamatti called "American Splendor" his first big role, saying that the film was what really got him to start getting better roles. It wouldn't be too long before he starred in bigger-name projects.

He was Bob Zmuda in Man on the Moon

In the 1999 film "Man on the Moon," Jim Carrey turned heads by playing iconic comedian Andy Kaufman in a stunning biopic. Fans of "Man on the Moon" will likely remember Paul Giamatti for his role as Kaufman's frequent sidekick, Bob Zmuda.

During the making of the film, Carrey insisted on staying in character as Kaufman even between takes, something that Giamatti told BuzzFeedabout in 2013. He told the outlet that he still remembers it as a very bizarre experience on set. "It was one of the weirdest experiences I've had making a movie, to be honest with you," he said of the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic, which starred Jim Carrey as the late performance artist/comedian. "It was just wacky. Jim was wacky during it. He did this whole thing where he was Andy Kaufman all the time when he was on set and when he was in the costume, and was Tony Clifton all the time when he was Tony Clifton." He went on to explain that, when Carrey was in character as Tony Clifton, he smelled awful due to the Limburger cheese he kept in his pockets at all times. But Carrey must have been doing something right, as the movie is still fondly remembered to this day.

He played the role of Miles in Sideways

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HBO Max/Fox Searchlight

In Alexander Payne's 2004 midlife crisis-themed film "Sideways," Paul Giamatti starred as wine snob Miles visiting wine country with a friend who's about to get married. The movie earned Giamatti a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Miles and won Golden Globes for both best screenplay and best picture – comedy or musical. When the Academy Awards rolled around, the film won for best adapted screenplay and earned nominations for Giamatti's co-stars Virginia Madsen and Thomas Haden Church (per IMDb), but somehow, Giamatti was not nominated.

In an interview with The Independent, Giamatti explained that he didn't mind not getting nominated for an Oscar for "Sideways," something that put him in an awkward position with others who thought he got snubbed. "​​That was an odd dilemma to be in," Giamatti said to The Independent. "I didn't expect to get nominated so it was like everybody else was way more disappointed than I was, so that was really weird, talking to these people and not knowing what to say to them to take their disappointment away that I didn't get nominated." Whatever awards "Sideways" did or didn't win, it still proved to be a big boost to Giamatti's career.

He was Santa in Fred Claus

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HBO Max/Warner Brothers

In the 2007 Christmas comedy "Fred Claus," Vince Vaughn is the disappointing younger brother of Nick "Santa" Claus, played by Paul Giamatti. Giamatti was added to the very long line of actors who played the role of Jolly Ol' Saint Nick.

Given the demands of his role, Giamatti talked a little bit about what it was like to step into the big red suit, which he admitted was uncomfortable on a physical level, but a huge help on another level. "The beard and stuff was itchy and it was hot," he explained to Tribute.ca. "But that stuff does all the work for you, so it makes your job a hell of a lot easier." He also explained how easy it was to work off of co-star Vince Vaughn, as it was pretty difficult to do anything wrong in response to Vaughn's improv. He also admitted that his favorite scenes with Vaughn never made the final cut because they were too dirty for a family film.

He played the titular character in the John Adams miniseries

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HBO Max

In 2008, Paul Giamatti took on the role of America's second president John Adams for the HBO miniseries of the same name. The film, based on David McCullough's biography, starts with the Boston Massacre in 1770 and follows the story of Adams' life until his death in 1826.

In a joint interview for HBO with Paul Giamatti and his co-star Laura Linney, who played first lady Abigail Adams, the two talked about how they studied real-life letters between the president and his wife. The two were highly complimentary of each other, with Linney saying, "What Paul has accomplished here is really unprecedented. He's spectacular in this." Giamatti, for his part, tossed the ball back over to Linney to give her credit. "I had a lot of help. Laura Linney was just fantastic." While the miniseries only had seven episodes, EW argued that the presidential biography miniseries set the stage for the popular Broadway musical "Hamilton."

He's Chuck Rhoades from Billions

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Showtime/YouTube

In 2016, Paul Giamatti took up his first major starring role on a television series as the conniving Chuck Rhoades in Showtime's money drama "Billions." The show is still going, with Variety reporting back in February that the show got picked up for Season 7.

In an interview with GQ, the actor explained why he enjoys playing the role of Chuck Rhoades, and Giamatti said it's all about how unpredictable the character is. "He has a built-in impulsive nature and so he has sudden switchbacks and turnarounds which are always surprising," Giamatti explained. "I never really know where he's gonna go. The language is fun. He has a kind of high-flown, oratorical way of speaking." He also talked about the way the speech patterns worked on the show and how it took some adapting to get used to it. "I sort of got the idea that it was a beefy, big show and there's not necessarily very heightened dialogue and stuff. It definitely fell into even more of a very distinct thing as time went on, and everybody grew with it. But I got the idea pretty clearly from the first episode where it was gonna live."

As such, it looks like Giamatti is enjoying his role on "Billions" for the time being.

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Why Scrooge In Verizon's 'Tis The Season: Free 5G Phone' Commercial Looks So Familiar - Looper (2024)

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