A Mockumentary Makes the Case for Paul Giamatti's Enshrinement

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAR 6, 2020

Like the color beige, B-list actors are destined to just sort of be everywhere without really standing out. Paul Giamatti is about the most beige actor of them all, with appearances in over 70 movies, dozens of awards and an uncanny ability to be “that guy who was in that one movie.” But for a trio of comedy writers in New York City, the time has come to give Paul Giamatti the pedestal he deserves (quite literally). Val Bodurtha, Sophie Mann and Rebecca Shaw are three comedy writers and longtime friends living in NYC, and a fateful trip to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum sparked a social movement and subsequent mockumentary that aims to get Giamatti his own wax effigy in the oddly prestigious halls of Tussauds.

The story begins when the three amigas drop Giamatti’s name in the figurative suggestion box. They waited and waited, but Tussauds failed to respond. “We felt our voices weren’t being heard,” says stand-up comedian and author Bodurtha, “so we took our campaign to the web and the streets.” The campaign began with the hashtag #waxpaulnow and a series of sign-holding publicity stunts at the museum’s doorstep. “I don’t know if Tussaud’s ever really expected a fight like this,” says Bodurtha, but the fight came nonetheless and picked up enough steam to warrant a full-fledged film about the crusade. 

The film, titled Wax Paul Now, was written and directed by the three friends and follows their unwavering, whimsical journey that eventually received the wholehearted endorsement of Giamatti himself. “I met him on my college campus and got a chance to tell him about the movement,” says Bodurtha, “and he pulled me into a big hug; he was honored if a bit bemused.” The mockumentary has now been screened at film festivals around the US and makes its Sarasota debut tomorrow afternoon at the Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival, offering a bit of comic relief from the more serious films that explicitly address feminist and other social issues.

“It’s important to get different perspectives,” says Scott Osbourne, chair of the festival and president of the UN Women USA Gulf Coast Chapter. She refers not only to the overall aim of the festival in trying to champion underrepresented voices, but to the mockumentary specifically for its more subtle, implicit brand of feminism. “Not every feminist film has to hit you over the head with it,” says Osbourne, a sentiment echoed by Bodurtha. “There’s this pressure as a female writer to make everything you do a commentary on gender,” says Bodurtha, “our goal was to free ourselves from expectations and have the ability to choose our message.”

And with well-rehearsed gravitas, Bodurtha sums up the message eloquently. “Haven’t we all been overlooked at one time in our lives? Aren’t we all, in some way, wax statueless Paul Giamattis?”

The film screens at Hollywood 11 tomorrow at 2:35 pm, then returns for the Sarasota Film Festival later this month.

From left to right: Paul Giamatti, Val Bodurtha, Fake Paul Giamatti, Sophie Mann and Rebecca Shaw. Photo courtesy of Val Bodurtha.

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