Steve Carell thinks being teased by Ricky Gervais is a ”badge of honour”.
The ‘Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ actor got to know the British funnyman after he took on the lead role in the US version of ‘The Office’ – the UK comedy which Ricky wrote and starred in – and he feels very touched when he makes jokes about him.
He said: ”Oh, he teases me mercilessly. But I take that as a badge of honour. If you’re being teased by Ricky Gervais then you’re doing something right.”
The American version of ‘The Office’ – which, like its UK counterpart, is filmed in a documentary style – comes to an end this year, but Steve says he won’t be returning as his alter ego Michael Scott because he doesn’t think it would fit in with his character’s traits.
Steve – who left the show in 2011 – told ShortList magazine: ”I just don’t think there’s any reason for him to come back. I’m sure he would go back and see his old colleagues at Dunder Mifflin, but I don’t think he’d do it in front of the ‘documentary’ cameras.”
It used to be Sir Cliff Richard who entertained crowds during tennis match delays. These days, it seems another vaguely ludicrous character is doing the job for him.
“It happened at Wimbledon last year,” laughs Steve Carell. “There was a break in the tennis and someone in the crowd yelled out that Brick quote from Anchorman: ‘LOUD NOISES!’ I thought that was really amusing.”
Amusing it most certainly is, but it’s also a clear indication of Carell’s ever-widening comedy influence. His brilliant performance as treacle-brained, lamp-loving meteorologist Brick Tamland in 2004’s Anchorman has been affectionately mimicked in schools, offices and – apparently – tennis courts across the globe, while his Golden Globe-winning turn as Michael Scott in the US Office isn’t far behind in the oft-quoted stakes. And that’s without mentioning The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s Andy Stitzer, who famously maintained that a woman’s breast felt like “a bag of sand”.
Ahead of his latest role – the eponymous egomaniac magician in new comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone – ShortList headed to Los Angeles to speak to the 50-year-old about sleight of hand, improvisation and the Anchorman sequel…
Did you hang out with any real magicians in preparation?
A little bit. I visited the Magic Castle in LA [a social club for magicians] and spoke to a few magicians about their childhoods. And I went to see David Copperfield’s show in Vegas.
SOME ROMANCES start with fireworks; a whirlwind of animal attraction and uninhibited passion. But for Steve Carell, the spark was slower to ignite.
It was the early 1990s and Carell, now one of the world’s biggest comedy stars, was teaching at the Second City improvisational acting school in Chicago. An unassuming student named Nancy Walls caught his eye and, over a period of three months, he worked up the courage to ask her out … sort of.
”Boy,” he said to her, striving for a tone of nonchalance, ”if I were ever to go on a date, it would definitely be somebody like you that I would ask out on that date.”
”Well,” the equally bashful Walls replied, ”if somebody like you were to ask me out on a date, I would definitely go on a date with that person who asked me out.”
What followed was an oblique verbal dance about what this encounter might involve – in theory, of course. More than an hour later, Carell finally bit the bullet and suggested to Walls she could perhaps, you know, accompany him on an evening like the one they had just discussed. She said yes to the date and yes to his marriage proposal two years later. Now, they have a son, a daughter and a family business: a 150-year-old general store in the small Massachusetts town of Marshfield Hills.
”It’s just a quaint little gathering spot,” Carell says. ”I think it’s important to preserve these places where you can get a cup of coffee, a carton of milk and talk to your neighbours.”
You might even find him behind the counter if you visit around June: ”We go back every summer so I’m there a lot”.
A funny thing happened to Steve Carell while filming a pivotal scene for “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”
“At one point, Steve Buscemi and I were suspended by a crane 60 feet in the air in a Plexiglas box,” says the actor, who plays a magician trying to find bigger and better sleight-of-hand to jump-start his career. “We were hanging over the Las Vegas Strip in magical costumes.”
No one cared.
“We figured that people would gather, but no one did,” marvels Carell. “People were on their way to the big shows, and nobody cared that we were up there.
“We actually had to pay the extras.”
But Carell plans to draw some other crowds this year. He follows up “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” with “Despicable Me 2,” where he again voices Gru, and “Anchorman: The Legend Continues.”
1 Do you see any similarities between actors and magicians?
They represent things that aren’t necessarily who they are as people.
2 What was it like shooting in Vegas?
It did inform the character. There is obviously a different vibe in Las Vegas. In fact, several times while we were filming, I walked around in my full Burt Wonderstone hair and makeup, plus a flowing velvet costume and … no one batted an eye. It led me to believe that we were on the right track with character development. On the poster, it looks ridiculous.
One of the biggest selling points for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is its equally incredible cast. Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin,and James Gandolfini are some of the most well-respected and popular actors working today. Among them there are two comedy legends, two brutal TV gangsters, and multiple award winners. It’s a murderer’s row of talent.
While on set of the film, which opens March 15, we were fortunate enough to talk to a few of them. And while some of the best quotes are in the first set visit report, we decided to pull a few extra quotes just to give you addition information about the film. Things such as what it was like working with Jim Carrey, who wasn’t on set and why director Don Scardino chose to shoot the comedy on 35mm. Read quotes from Carell, Buscemi, Wilde, Scardino and producer Chris Bender below.
Q: How many variations of these costumes do you get to wear?
Boy. There’s different stage costumes for our stage work. We also travel back. There are flashbacks to earlier versions of Burt and Anton. Their costumes chance accordingly. Also, what Burt and Anton wear as their street clothes are very specific to them as well. They’re clearly in costume even when they’re not on stage.
Q: How do you feel in it?
Extremely sexy. My agent came today and she couldn’t keep her eyes off me. She’s seeing a completely new person. I wear it on weekends. I wear it to my wife’s delight.
At Steve Carell’s marriage to his wife, Nancy, he felt “so uncomfortable. I don’t like the spotlight on me. I don’t like being the centre of attention, which is ironic given what I chose to do.”
The 50-year-old actor reveals this, all contradictions present and correct, dressed in a navy blue suit, navy sweater, shirt, tie and brown suede shoes — more Rotary Club chairman than Hollywood player — seated beside a huge poster for his new film featuring Carell in diamante-encrusted trouser suit and blond wig. In The Incredible Burt Wonderstone he plays a Las Vegas magician, the old-school coins materialising from behind the ear kind, engaged in heated rivalry with Jim Carrey’s “extreme” magician Steve Gray, who prefers drilling nails into his temple.
“Fun, not earth-shattering,” Carell calls it; its belly-laughs and Carell’s predominantly comic characters — most famously Michael Scott, the “David Brent” of the American version of The Office — give him a licence to perform (and in 2010 earn an estimated $17.5 million). Off stage he is a “reserved” husband and father. “I just enjoy acting, doing characters,” he says. “At a party I’m not the one holding court, I’m the one laughing at all the jokes. That’s just how I feel more comfortable.”
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