Director Alexander Payne credits MIKE NICHOLS' scathing criticism of JULIA ROBERTS' acting ability with giving him the words to praise his SIDEWAYS star Paul Giamatti.

The film-maker blasts Roberts' performance in his latest movie CLOSER, insisting she fought the emotion inside her rather than unleash it for the cameras.

But the damning review allowed Payne to orchestrate his admiration for Giamatti's technique - because the actor possessed the skills Nichols claims were missing in Roberts.

The 43-year-old told British magazine EMPIRE, "This morning I was reading The New York Times and Mike Nichols was in it talking about Julia Roberts in Closer.

"He said, 'You can see the thoughts as they go across her face, thoughts which are complicated with emotion, and you see her fight the emotion rather than just produce it, which is so boring.'

"Now, I don't have those thoughts about Julia Roberts but it made me think about Paul and how brilliant he is - and now Mike Nichols has given me a way to articulate that."

21/01/2005 13:46