In Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers,’ the audience is transported to the winter of 1970, where Paul Hunham, a cranky classics teacher, is tasked with babysitting a group of students who didn’t go home for the Christmas break. One of the things that makes the film such a compelling watch is Mr. Hunham’s character with distinctive features that set him apart. He has a way with words, especially when it comes to chiding his students with Shakespearean profanities; he smells of fish, which he reveals is a medical condition, and he has a glass eye, but no one knows which one it is. Actor Paul Giamatti portrays Mr. Hunham with a sensibility that blurs the lines between the actor and the character, which might make the audience wonder about the actor’s eyes.
The Actor Does Not Have a Glass Eye in Real Life
Paul Hunham’s glass eye is one of the distinctive features about him, but it’s not something that the character shares with the actor who plays him. Paul Giamatti doesn’t have a glass eye in real life. When asked about how the movie incorporated that detail into his character, Giamatti preferred not to unveil the secret. He said he had been “sworn to secrecy” about it and said that it’s all about the magic of filmmaking and acting.
The most likely answer to Hunham’s glass eye is the use of contact lenses. What makes it even more interesting is that, throughout the film, the people around Hunham, as well as the viewers, are never really sure which one of his eyes is the glass one. At one point, Angus asks him which eye he should look at while talking to him because he can never be certain which one is the glass eye. Instead of quelling his curiosity, Hunham decides to keep it a mystery. It’s in the end when he and Angus have become more familiar with each other, that he reveals that he should look at his right eye.
To achieve this effect, it’s most likely that contact lenses were used while filming and were maybe even swapped at times, to keep the audience confused, like Angus and other characters. CGI is another thing that could have been used to achieve this effect, but it feels less likely, keeping in mind that the director wanted to shoot the film like they would have shot it in the 70s.
He refrained from using drones to get eagle-eye shots because that’s not something you’d see in a ’70s movie. He also preferred to film the movie on real locations rather than on sets, and the production crew painstakingly searched for the locations that would deliver that 70s vibe. Considering this, it seems unlikely that they’d have resorted to CGI.
Another possibility could be that Paul Giamatti has a secret talent for moving his eyes in different directions. He wouldn’t be the first actor to do that in a movie. Bill Skarsgård is known to have employed the trick while playing Pennywise in the ‘It’ movies. Still, it’s one thing to do it for a couple of scenes and entirely different to keep it up for the entirety of a film. With that in mind, we circle around to contacts as the most plausible explanation.