Sooner or later, when cruising late-night television, you’re going to catch a glimpse of a no-name character actor who looks an awful lot like the famous thespian, Paul Giamatti. That’s because before he became famous, Giamatti made his living playing parts like “Heckler #2” and “Kissing Man.” Characters with no names. But along came a romp through California’s wine country in Sideways and the Sundance hit American Splendor and suddenly the one-time bit player was a leading man and Oscar nominee.

Yes, the very guy who used to spend his days dancing around pools in his skivvies (Big Fat Liar) was now delivering inspirational speeches to Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man), resolving Edward Norton’s mysterious disappearance (The Illusionist) and fighting off monsters to save Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water). What a country.

The Yale-educated actor can now add “producer” to his resume as he returns to Sundance this year with Pretty Bird, the story of the lengths people will go to for the American Dream. Right now, audiences can catch him leading an all-star cast in the title role of the HBO miniseries “John Adams.” Here, Paul Giamatti answers the MovieMaker Ten.

1. What is your favorite movie?
Indestructible Man

2. What was the first moment you knew you’d be an actor?
Five years old. Watching Indestructible Man.

3. Which moviemaker, living or dead, inspires you most?
[Alejandro] Jodorowsky.

4. What’s the one thing you can’t live without on set?
My lines.

5. Of all the characters you’ve played, which was the most challenging?
I believe the character was called “man in sleeping bag.” A homeless guy. It may have just been “man.” Who knows. It was an episode of “NYPD Blue.” We were in a squatters village below the Manhattan Bridge. I was lying in real human feces. A real lunatic who lived there in a huge drainage pipe of some kind would crawl out occasionally and pelt me with debris, describing me to anyone who cared to listen as an “asshole Hollywood faggot.” He had a point. They had to pay him a lot to stay in his pipe. Good for him. I had one line. Something like, ‘I don’t know nothin’ man.’ I screwed it up. I sat around all day. At one point I got thrown off the set by a P.A. who thought I was a real “man in sleeping bag.” I was nervous; disoriented.

6. The most fun?
“Man in sleeping bag.”

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had about acting?
“Don’t listen to anyone’s advice.”

8. Which actor do you feel is the most underappreciated?
Warren Oates.

9. Which moviemaker would you most like to work with in the future?
My future or the future? Maybe in 3000 A.D. they can pull me and Walt Disney out of the icebox; he could put my brain in a 12-foot, lifelike simulacrum of Scrooge McDuck and we could tour the solar system with an ice show celebrating intergalactic capitalism.

10. If you were asked to describe your job in three words, what would they be?
It’s a living.