Before reaching TV and film stardom, Steve Carell spent a lot of time moving around. He was born in a town west of Boston (Concord), grew up in a different town west of Boston (Acton), moved to Chicago to get his comedy training (The Second City), moved to New York (“The Daily Show”), moved to Los Angeles (“The Office,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love”), and now comes back to the South Shore of Boston (Marshfield) every summer with his family to relax and check in on the Marshfield General Store, which he owns with his wife.
Though he seems to have had trouble finding roots, Carell has stayed rooted in comedy, until now. In his newest film, “Foxcatcher,” based on the grim true story of the wealthy loner John du Pont and his involvement with members of the 1988 United States Olympic wrestling team, Carell distances himself from anything comic. With his face distorted by a prosthetic nose, his eyes often half shut and his emotional state unstable at best, the John du Pont Carell gives us is one creepy character. He spoke about playing the part at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Q. Was it a big challenge moving from playing comedy to playing drama?
A. Stretching out was not important in terms of proving anything to anyone. I didn’t take the part in order to show that there was another side of me or an ability to do something. I was just intrigued by the story, and the thought of working with (director) Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”). But it is exciting to take on things that are not necessarily in your wheelhouse or hadn’t been — things that you hadn’t explored before.
Q. You play a coach in the film, but he’s a guy who’s only in it to win, and he really didn’t know much about coaching. You used to play hockey in high school. Did you know any coaches like that?
A. I was a goalie, and I was playing on a good team. I remember the coach was demonstrating how to do a slap shot. He was a big guy, and he pinned me (hit me hard) in the shoulder and I had to kind of go off to the side for a few minutes. But he was like, “C’mon, Carell, suck it up. Get back in there!” And I did. But at the next game when we were getting changed, the coach came in the locker room and I had a huge bruise that extended from behind my shoulder. He had no idea, and I saw just a tiny bit of remorse in his face. But that was the only time I saw it, when he realized what he had done. For him, it was all about winning. Second place was irrelevant.