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A Knockout Cast
Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Bruce McGill and Paddy Considine Fill the Roster

Joining Crowe and Zellweger in bringing the core of Jim Braddock's story to life are a group of lauded actors in key supporting roles, headed by Paul Giamatti, who won over critics and audiences with his performances in American Splendor and Sideways; the actor takes another diverse turn as Jim Braddock's savvy and loyal manager, Joe Gould.

As Braddock's long-time friend and manager, the colorful Gould continued to believe in him when everyone else said he was washed up. He managed the fighter's thrilling comeback with just the right touch to keep Braddock on his feet. The diminutive, fast-talking, Jewish Gould and the strapping, quiet, Irish Braddock made for a notably odd pairing, but their respect for one another became legendary.

Giamatti found their friendship to be especially fascinating because it was so completely unexpected. "In researching the role, I talked to a number of historians who said that Joe Gould wasn't really all that well-liked in boxing circles. He was known for being abrasive and obnoxious—and yet for some mysterious reason he and Braddock got along famously,” Giamatti explains. "Apparently, the one person Joe Gould wasn't gruff with was Jim. It was almost as if they felt like they were brothers way, way beneath the skin, no matter how opposite they were from one another. There was maybe an unspoken understanding between them of what it means to fight hard for what you've got.”

Giamatti believes that Gould was almost as devastated by Braddock's descent into poverty as the fighter himself and was determined to help him if he could. "Joe Gould was the man responsible for guiding Jim's career. Here he had this fighter who had been very much on the brink, who was building up to something and then he just crashed, his luck just fell apart at the same time as the nation fell into the Depression,” observes Giamatti. "It must have been very hard for him to watch. Gould couldn't be sure if Jim had what it took to win anymore but, under the circumstances, I think he felt he had to give him every last chance.”

With Braddock's miraculous rise to champion, Gould would become a minor hero in his own right during the ‘30s. There were even several dime-store type biographies published about Gould, though Giamatti found them more amusing than revealing. "They were all these old-style popular biographies that were completely glossed over and filled with all kinds of clichés and exaggerations,” explains Giamatti. "They weren't really all that helpful, except that they were a clear sign of what an incredible impact this story had on the country and the culture.”

Instead, Giamatti, whose own grandfather boxed for a brief period of time, got more mileage out of looking at footage of Braddock's fights and watching Gould's close-to-the-surface emotions and mannerisms unfold in real time. In addition, Giamatti says that working with the world-class boxing trainer Angelo Dundee was invaluable. "If it hadn't been for him, I could never have done this part,” he summarizes. "Basically, Angelo supplied me with all the knowledge, the phrases, everything I needed to know about boxing. Just watching and listening to him taught me a lot more about what Joe Gould must have been like, and how he would have helped Jim in the ring, than anything else.”

Just as Gould was blown away by Jim Braddock's performances, Giamatti felt equally awed by Russell Crowe's unflagging energy and commitment to the role. "I don't know how he did it,” says Giamatti. "After each of the boxing scenes, which were incredibly intense, I felt like I was going to pass out and all I was doing was standing in the corner screaming at him. Russell has incredible stamina, and I truly believe someone like Angelo could have made him a boxer. Yet, he's also one of the easiest actors I've ever wor

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