Paul Walter Hauser reveals how he transformed himself into Richard Jewell: Booze and bread baskets

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·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Starring in a Clint Eastwood movie frequently requires embarking on a strict training and diet regimen intended to transform an actor into a soldier (Bradley Cooper in American Sniper), a rugby player (Matt Damon in Invictus) or a boxer (Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby). But when Paul Walter Hauser — who previously had scene-stealing appearances in films like I, Tonya and BlackKklansman — landed the title role in the filmmaker’s latest movie, Richard Jewell, he was essentially told to do anything but exercise. “I put on 25 pounds,” the actor reveals to Yahoo Entertainment in our extended interview with him and co-star, Kathy Bates. “I lost 35 pounds before I did I, Tonya and then I had to put it back on for that. And I was down about 13 pounds for BlackKlansman and then I got the call about this and put 25 on.”

So what’s his secret? Easy: booze and bread. “I was pouring liquor into my ice cream bowls — I was having a deconstructed booze milkshake! So I would say add some booze to your ice cream and get a bread basket at every restaurant. And stay the heck off that treadmill.” (Watch our full interview with Hauser and Bates above.)

Naturally, Hauser’s preparation for the part went beyond bread binges. The actor threw himself into researching the life of the real Richard Jewell, who made national headlines in 1996 when he discovered a bomb while working security in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park and aided authorities in an evacuation that prevented more casualties. In the days after the bombing, the FBI designated him as a suspect, and the subsequent media coverage took an enormous toll on his professional and personal life. Cleared after an 88-day investigation, he continued to pursue his dream of working in law enforcement until his death in 2007.

While Hauser wasn’t able to speak with the man he was portraying, Jewell’s mother, Bobi (played by Bates in the film), was an invaluable resource, providing him with details about her son’s favorite snacks and favorite films. “He watched a lot of war movies,” Hauser says. “I think that was the duty and service nature of him. And then he watched a lot of action films, too, because I think he really did dream of [doing that].” The Michigan-born actor also worked hard to master Jewell’s Southern drawl, as well as his physicality, which he likens to Winnie-the-Pooh’s put-upon donkey pal, Eeyore. “I tried to play the lowly Eeyore of it all. There are moments where he feels like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood ... but there are only a couple of minutes in the film where he really stands tall. I tried to capture those little things and hope that it was amounting to a big thing.”

Eastwood helped Hauser along by encouraging improvisation on set, although not every unscripted moment ended up in the finished film. Bates recalls one scene where Eastwood let the cameras run as Bobi tries to encourage Richard to put his cares aside for a little while and eat something. “There was a bag of groceries with all the stuff I’d like to eat if I wasn’t on a diet — hot dogs and Oreos,” she remembers. “Paul came over behind the counter and the bag was empty by then. I don’t know what possessed me, but I put the bag over his face!” That’s one way to keep him from chowing down on carbs and dairy.

Richard Jewell is playing in theaters now.

Related Video: ‘Richard Jewell’ - Trailer

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