Dane Cook, actor/comedian

ShoWest 2007 breakout performance of the year

Prior to being awarded ShoWest's Breakout Performance of the Year prize, Dane Cook already had two platinum albums, had hosted NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and been named one of Time Magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World." Now, thanks to the three films he has bowing this year -- including MGM's psychological thriller "Mr. Brooks," with Kevin Costner, Demi Moore and William Hurt; Lionsgate's "Good Luck Chuck," with Jessica Alba; and Buena Vista's dramedy "Dan in Real Life," with Steve Carell -- Dane Cook will be more ubiquitous than ever. With 17 movies now under his belt, the comedian from Massachusetts appears poised to make himself a force on the big screen. The funnyman recently sat down for a serious conversation with Dion Rabouin for The Hollywood Reporter about being named ShoWest's Breakout Performance of the Year and what he's got in store for the future.

The Hollywood Reporter: You've been chosen as the Breakout Performance of the Year. How does it feel to break out?
Dane Cook: It feels great to be, at this point, acknowledged for film work. Despite the fact that I've had the chance to act in a few features here and there, to now be in a position with films like "Good Luck Chuck" and "Mr. Brooks" and "Dan in Real Life" -- you know, three very different kinds of performances -- yeah, it feels good to be breaking through. Yet again! (Laughs)

THR: Are you interested in taking on more dramatic roles?
Cook: I'm not sitting here saying, "Now, I have to do a Western. Now, I have to do a Merchant Ivory (Prods.) film." I'm basically open to whatever comes down the pipe. If it challenges me and it's something that even scares me a little bit, I'm interested. I've had a chance to kind of stick with comedies, but (the ideas) didn't excite me. I think my fan base knows that I'm interested in doing things that keep them guessing and keeps them feeling that things are fresh and new. I'm not looking for one thing or the other or telling my agents, "Oh, I'm a serious actor." I'm a comedian first, and I act as well. So, we'll have to wait and see what comes next.

THR: You worked with ShoWest Comedy Star of the Year Steve Carell in "Dan in Real Life." Tell me about that collaboration.
Cook: "Dan in Real Life" is a movie that (has) comedy in there, but it comes from a real place. It's not broad comedy. And if we approach this thing correctly, and if everything went right, it'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry. Working with Steve was almost effortless because we both come from a comic background first, and we feel comfortable on a set, comfortable with the comedy. But then we can both challenge each other and bring out the other side .... Steve is definitely the breakthrough comedy star of the year. You learn when you see a movie like "Dan in Real Life" -- and you work with him -- how he's so not the guy from (NBC's) "The Office." This is a guy like a Robin Williams or a Jim Carrey. He's that caliber. And I think Steve Carell could do anything. I'm really stoked that I got to do a very, very different kind of performance with this guy.

THR: What summer movie are you most excited to see?
Cook: (Paramount's) "Transformers."

THR: Somehow I knew you were going to say that.
Cook: And the thing that really blows is that I was supposed to be in it. I met with (director) Michael Bay -- and he knew that I was a fan -- and we sat down and talked about this scene, and I kind of helped write (it). So, I was set to do it, and once they were deep into production, they had to cut some scenes and budgets. So, they came back with another scene that was very different, and I said, "You know, man -- I just can't believe I'm gonna do this -- but I really just don't want to be a guy that walks through and says, 'Oh, there he is.'" So, it's the movie I want to see, and it's also the movie that I'm shaking my head because I had a chance to be in it.

THR: You've got three movies coming out this year. You're not giving up on stand-up are you?
Cook: No. If anything, I've been on the stand-up grind for so many years and putting myself out there because I love doing it. There were literally years where I was in a club every single night. Unless the club was closed for a holiday, I was at a club. So, if people seem to think, "You're spending more time doing films," it's just because I really had spent so much time developing that that it felt good to step away from it for a little bit .... Then, when I went back to doing stand-up -- I shouldn't say back -- but to really step back into touring, I had a fresh perspective on so many different stories and bits. Definitely not giving up the stand-up, and if anything I'm right now in the throes of putting together a pretty massive tour for this summer into the fall.

THR: What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
Cook: Phew. I don't know. Some people like to open up an engine and rebuild it, and I love to try bring something new to my performance in comedy and in acting that challenges me. I have something that, if I have the time this year, I'm going to direct. (It's) very independent, very kind of small scale. But it's a story, and it excites me; it wakes me up in the night, and I think of scenes for it. So, if we're thinking best-case scenario, then I'd love to be able to write, produce, direct films. That would be the deus ex machina right there. I'll take it. If not, if nothing else, I'm going to be making people laugh at a club, at a theater, at an arena somewhere.