Michael Stuhlbarg talks quietly in run-on sentences, in a warm voice that’s like the light of dawn spreading into a bedroom. This marks a total change from the frantic, desperate Larry Gopnik he plays in the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man,” who wakes up from a contented middle-class slumber to find everything crumbling around him: his wife is leaving him, his kids ignore him, his job is threatened and he is tempted by a sexy neighbor, Mrs. Samsky. His comic spiritual quest for answers forms the backbone of the movie, but the flesh is Gopnik’s face, the way he moves through the scenes.
Stuhlbarg was born and raised in Long Beach, but his acting career took off in 1989 after graduating from Juilliard, and he’s been working in New York’s theater scene and elsewhere ever since. But it’s only now, in his 40s, that he’s come to Hollywood’s attention. He’s been nominated for a Golden Globe for “A Serious Man,” which itself has been nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture), and now he comes to SBIFF to receive a Virtuoso Award.