Now playing in limited release is one of my favorite films of 2014: director Bennett Miller’s (Moneyball, Capote) Foxcatcher. With career best performances and phenomenal direction, the film tells the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), and their troubled relationship with eccentric millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell). The film also stars Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, and Anthony Michael Hall.
At the Los Angeles press day I landed an exclusive interview with Steve Carell. He talked about the positive critical response, if he really stayed in character on set, how the outtakes of the John du Pont documentary helped him get ready for the role, and a lot more.
Collider: First of all congratulations on the movie, you’re fantastic, the movie’s awesome, but now let’s get to the most important thing. As someone else from Massachusetts, how many times have you been to the Dunkin’ Donuts in LA?
STEVE CARELL: Where’s the Dunkin’ Donuts in LA?
On 12th and Wilshire.
CARELL: Did they just open it?
A few months ago.
CARELL: Because I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts truck in LA.
Yeah, it was probably doing a delivery. They’re expanding now in LA. There’s a location People Camped out.
CARELL: Oh, I Looked into it. I looked into a franchise, but they were only selling-
I spoke to you about this! Or John Krasinski, and all these guys were talking about doing it.
CARELL: Yeah, years ago. The idea was let’s get a bunch of Boston based guys, we’ll try to open one, and all the proceeds go to charity.
Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell swapped stories, quips, compliments and occasionally got serious during a Q&A held Friday in Newark, N.J., held as part of a fundraiser for the state’s upcoming Montclair Film Festival.
Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the event, which is going into its fourth year in April. More than 2,800 people turned on Friday for the benefit at New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Prudential Hall.
The depth of the friendship between Colbert and Carell was clear from the start. The two came together at a heady time for both of their careers, with Colbert poised to take over CBS’ “The Late Show” from David Letterman next year, while Carell is generating Oscar buzz for his starring role in the Sony Pictures Classics drama “Foxcatcher.”
“People might be surprised by your performance in ‘Foxcather,’ but I’m not,” Colbert told Carell. “Because I’ve always known that you are an actor. People might perceive you as a comedian. What do you think are the differences between being a comedian and being an actor?”
Hollywood makeup wizardry made comic Steve Carell unrecognisable for his latest star turn as heir John du Pont in director Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher.” The film, portrays the tragic relationship between du Pont and the wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz, brothers who won Olympic gold medals. Carell, 52, best known for smash comedies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and the hit TV series “The Office,” talked about his creepy appearance and exploring his character’s past.
Q: How did you prepare to play du Pont? A: I thought about who he was as a little kid, the environment he grew up in. He was very sheltered. He essentially grew up in this enormous estate with his mother, who by all accounts was not the most warm person … At his core, he was a very lonely person. And all those things sort of layered on top in terms of how he became a sportsman and interested in wrestling and other sports and how he surrounded himself with these men that he perceived as great athletes and great Americans. He just yearned for so much that he just didn’t have the tools to acquire.
Q: You were quite the unsettling presence on set. A: It sounds pretentious to say that, but I think it was in great part because of the hair and makeup. It was a three-hour process in the morning. Even the guy who would pick me up at the hotel, drive me to hair and makeup and would take me from there to set – even he treated me differently. It wasn’t like I was in character. I wasn’t doing anything. Just by virtue of what I looked like, he did not talk to me.
And I felt it too on set. When I had all the stuff on and I looked that way, people tended to avoid me a little bit more. It was a bit off-putting, which was good.
Q: How do you feel now that you’ve had some good reviews?
A: I am so cocky right now, just strutting around. My wife can’t even deal with me. I am having t-shirts made with quotes of the movie.
You know what? I am really happy for Bennett because it’s been eight years. The fact that he is able to soak this up and take in this acknowledgement is a big, big deal.
Steve Carell arrives on his bicycle, a cruiser with a leather seat and big white cushy tires, and immediately starts doing Steve Carell things—things so normal, things that suggest a person so well-adjusted, that they almost seem to be a put-on. He locks the bike to a post. He walks into a diner in Toluca Lake. He gets a cup of coffee. The waitress does not immediately recognize him, but when she does, it’s as a son. “You cut your hair!” He spreads—I swear this is all true—The Tolucan Times, official community newspaper of the San Fernando Valley since 1937, in front of him and proceeds to read with great interest about the local doings here in the Valley, pausing from time to time to sip coffee and look cheerful. He is ten minutes early.
He is in Los Angeles, not far from his home, which is not far from the studio lots and executive offices that together up the biggest industrial entertainment complex in the history of human civilization. But Steve Carell is a normal guy, and that normalcy surrounds him as aggressively and completely as bodyguards surround Beyoncé. To get to him you have to go through it.
He has come off this way since the beginning, as a regular guy beset by irregular circumstances. Even in his roles this has been true. Think of his amiable, hapless Daily Show correspondent; Michael Scott, heart and soul and dying smile of The Office; Andy Stitzer, the 40-Year-Old Virgin, a man so adrift on his own thin lie (“I’ve borked a lot of women in my day!”) that you want to come rescue and hug him and remove him from danger. In interviews like this one, he has patiently sat and explained that if there’s anything interesting about Steve Carell, Steve Carell is unaware of what that thing may be.
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.
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