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Is it too early to declare 2011 as the year of Ed Helms? On Jan. 23 the former Daily Show correspondent premiered to a warm reception the raucous comedy Cedar Rapids, his first starring role, for director Miguel Arteta (Youth In Revolt). Helms, who turns 37 on Jan. 24, executive produced the pic and plays Tim Lippe, an emotionally immature insurance salesman who comes out of his shell at a corporate convention by, among other things, smoking crack with a prostitute. That precedes May’s blockbuster sequel The Hangover: Part 2 and the still-undated Duplass brothers comedy Jeff Who Lives at Home. And Helms is sure to get more screen time on NBC’s The Office after Steve Carell leaves in the spring.
THR: This is your first lead role. How does it feel to be in an Ed Helms movie?
HELMS: It’s incredibly exciting and daunting. The insecurity kicks in. “Well, how’s the movie gonna do? How’s the gonna affect me in terms of the work I can get later? Will people give me a chance to carry movies?” All of these bullshit career questions star swirling around. But I’m just really proud of the movie. The people that I care about and whose opinions mean a lot to me, are liking it, and that’s all I can hope for.
THR: There’s a sense of naivite and an unwillingness to grow up about your character. It’s a little like Carell in 40 Year Old Virgin.
HELMS: Well, he’s not a virgin, to make a clear distinction (Laughs.) In some respects this movie is less broad, but Tim is oddly more naive than Steve’s character. I think it’s a real and poignant look at a real stunted man who has found a lot of self-protective mechanisms that have kept him in a very sheltered state.
THR: Important question: Is there a tiger in Hangover 2?
HELMS: No, no tiger. Let’s just say that the animal kingdom figures prominently in the movie, but I’ll put any tiger rumors to rest.
THR: The thrust of the sequel is your character’s wedding in Thailand, correct?
HELMS: Narratively, it’s a mystery, like the first one, but I wouldn’t say it’s Stu’s movie. There are some devices that we hang the story on that are centered around Stu, but every scene is all three of us. Every scene. We’re all in the shit all the time. So it’s really a team effort.
THR: You’re a big movie star now. How long will you stay on The Office?
HELMS: I have no plans to leave. That’s a once in a generation kind of show in terms of the life that it’s had. It’s incredibly time consuming and taxing but it’s not something that ever feels like a burden because I love it.
THR: Do you guys feel a new sense of challenge post-Carell?
HELMS: Yeah. That’s the cool part. I think the producers have done a good job, both publicly and in our little world there, of framing it as a little bit of a rebirth. He leaves a little bit before the end of the season so you’re gonna see a transition soon. I don’t think anyone knows what that will be yet. You’re gonna see a lot of experimentation, and that storyline is gonna be milked in a lot of fun, unexpected ways.
Cedar Rapids (Fox Searchlight) opens Feb. 11.
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