Steve Carell, actor
ShoWest 2007 comedy star of the yearSince breaking out in Universal's 2005 summer blockbuster "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," Steve Carell has been clocking in some serious overtime. Besides working his day job as the well-meaning yet oblivious Michael Scott on NBC's hit series "The Office," the former correspondent for Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" appeared in 2006's Oscar-nominated "Little Miss Sunshine" and has more than half a dozen films penciled into his day planner through 2008: He's set to play Maxwell Smart in Warner Bros. Pictures' "Get Smart," he's headlining Universal's slated summer release "Evan Almighty," and he's starring alongside Oscar winner Juliette Binoche in Touchstone's "Dan in Real Life" -- just to name a few. The actor recently set aside some of his valuable time to speak with The Hollywood Reporter's Michelle Grabicki about keeping his cool amid all of this activity.
The Hollywood Reporter: How do you feel about receiving this award?
Steve Carell: (It's) incredibly flattering, shocking and overall, wonderful.
THR: In "Evan Almighty," you're reprising and expanding the role of Evan from 2003's "Bruce Almighty" and carrying the film. What specific challenges did you face?
Carell: More lines. (Laughs) The challenges that anyone would face with an expanded role -- just having essentially more work to do. But I made a pact with myself long ago to try to never complain about being given work -- ever -- because you try for so long to become employed, and then when you do, the last thing you want to do is not be appreciative.
THR: You're reteaming with "Evan" director-producer Tom Shadyac, who has a history of working with top comedians. What do you think Tom brings out in comedians?
Carell: I think he is a very generous and gracious man. And I also think he's incredibly well suited for a movie like this because he's spiritual. He cares about what he's doing .... He encourages his actors to have fun and to have a sense of play, and I think that comes through on the screen.
THR: You've worked repeatedly with several comedians, including Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey. What do you get from that collaboration? What have you learned from them?
Carell: I don't learn from them. I just try to steal from them and to then take all of their best traits as my own and hope nobody notices. I think somebody like Will -- and the brief time I had to work with Jim Carrey -- it really is a learning experience because you watch how they go about it .... There's a sense of discipline to those guys and a true sense of caring about every frame -- that they just want it to be the best that they can possibly make it at all times.
THR: You and your "Sunshine" co-star Alan Arkin are reuniting for the big-screen version of "Get Smart." What is it like working with a fellow alum of the Second City's Chicago Theatre?
Carell: Well, he is even more than that to me. I would describe him as my idol. Truly. I'd always wanted to meet him, let alone work with him, and when Valerie (Dayton) and Jonathan (Faris), the directors of "Little Miss Sunshine," said that he had been cast, I was jumping for joy.
THR: You have seven movies coming out in the next two years, in addition to starring in "The Office." How are you juggling all of it?
Carell: Well, I think that's also on paper -- all of that stuff sounds like that's what's going to happen. I tend to take things one day at a time. And I am naturally somebody who is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So, I never assume that everything will come to fruition, and I sort of believe it when I see it -- or at least when I'm working on it. But it sounds great. It sounds like I am incredibly busy and that I can't take a breath for two years.
THR: You often play characters that lack self-awareness and are just not in on the joke. What is it about that approach to comedy that appeals to you as an actor, and why do you think it works so well?
Carell: I think as soon as you start to deconstruct comedy, it's immediately not as funny. I think it's always funnier for a character to not realize that he or she is in a comedy .... For example, Peter Sellers was a master at that, even within the broadest parts that he played. He never winked at the camera. He never let on that he himself as an actor thought anything he was doing was funny. I think there is just something intrinsically funnier about that.
THR: Although it was a comedy, "Sunshine" showed off your dramatic side. Are you interested in more dramatic roles?
Carell: Never again. And I never want to direct, and I never want to do all of the things that everybody always says they want to do. (Laughs) I am so wary of falling into that cliche of, "I want to be respected as a serious actor." I am so happy to be employed that if the way to do that is to continue to do comedies or whatever I am paid to do -- I will go into adult films if that's what it takes, just as long as I can remain employed. I don't have any sort of precious notions about that. Obviously, actors love to try things that are different and are exciting and are challenging, but I definitely don't want to take on any sort of attitude about that. If they come along, that would be great -- but I'm not banking on it.
THR: Who makes you laugh?
Carell: Will (Ferrell) definitely makes me laugh. Jim Carrey. Kind of the people who I think make most people laugh: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn. I think Alan Arkin is incredibly funny ... Sarah Silverman ... Rachael Harris. The women we have on "The Office." There are a lot of people who really make me laugh.