It took Steve Carell fourteen years to become an overnight comedic success.
After eke’ing out work as an improv actor on various television shows, Steve re-wrote his ticket to stardom alongside another contemporary king of comedy, Judd Apatow (who directed Carell in “The 40 Year Old Virgin“). That surprise hit of 2005 went onto gross over $200 million globally at the box office and opened career doors which has kept fans laughing their socks off!
As Uncle Frank in “Little Miss Sunshine;” a confused man in love in “Dan in Real Life;” a super agent in “Get Smart” and as a perfectly idiotic guest in “Dinner for Schmucks,” Carell carved out a career for himself on the big screen, but it was his role as Michael Scott in the U.S. version of Ricky Gervais’ “The Office” that landed him in living rooms for six years.
The 49 year old actor began his Hollywood journey from humble beginnings in Massachusetts. The youngest of four boys, his mother was a psychiatric nurse and his father, an electrical engineer. But one thing the impressionable adolescent knew was that he had a talent for making people laugh and it felt damn good.
Carell embarked on the off-beaten path, toiling as a mailman to make ends meet while honing his craft and waiting for his proverbial ship to come in.
Steve, who has a daughter Annie (10) and a son Johnny (7) with his wife of 16 years, Nancy, can currently be seen in the romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” opposite Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Looking dapper in a light grey suit, Carell sat down with Celebs.com’s Sienna Star to let us know comedy is no laughing matter.
Celebs.com: Are you always dressed so well?
Steve Carell: Well, I’m not well dressed at about seven at night because my wife and I are in sweat pants and T-shirts like clockwork. As soon as we know we’re not going out of the house again, it’s all over! It’s so much more comfortable. I would wear pajamas here but I can’t get away with that.
Celebs.com: Your image is one of the film’s themes, your character trying to woo back his wife. Is how you look important to you?
Carell: Well, I don’t want to look bad. It sounds weird to talk about my style! (Laughs) I like very classic things. I like looks that aren’t necessarily going to be out of style in two or three years. I’m not cutting edge, but I like to look clean.
Celebs.com: You’re not a metrosexual.
Carell: I don’t even know what that means!
Celebs.com: What jacket are you wearing?
Carell: Dolce and Gabbana.
Celebs.com: Are designers sending you free clothes now?
Carell: For the Emmys or going to the Oscars, designers have sometimes given me tuxedos. That’s great. And the difference between something that fits and something that doesn’t is astounding. I can’t believe I’m even talking about this! The hand and the drape, oh, I don’t even know.
Celebs.com: You also produced this film. What made you think this story was right for your production company?
Carell: I liked it because it is a very human story. It’s funny and it felt real to me. It didn’t feel contrived. I think romantic comedies in general can become clichés and this didn’t seem to be that at all.
Celebs.com: Why do you think this was an authentic portrait of a long marriage?
Carell: I think the writing allows the viewer to draw some of their own conclusions about all of these relationships. In the same way as when I read “Little Miss Sunshine,” it didn’t tell you everything about every character but it tells you enough to get a sense of who they are.
Celebs.com: Did you feel more pressure as a producer on this film?
Carell: I feel like there’s more pressure when the film’s coming out, but in the early stages it was more fun because we had a hand in the casting and selecting the directors. We could help create a tone that we wanted to create with the movie and usher it in a way we felt was right.
Celebs.com: What kind of director did you want?
Carell: We wanted a director who shared the same sensibility. They agreed that we needed to keep it from being overly sentimental because you lose an audience when they feel they’re being manipulated. If the characters are truthful and the situations seem real and organic then you’ll go along with it and you’ll earn those dramatic scenes. I felt the directors shared this sensibility.
Celebs.com: The film was shot near home in LA, is location important to you?
Carell: That was a big part of it for me. I always want to shoot in town and be at home with my family. It’s brutal being away for a month at a time and it’s not worth it for me. My kids are too little. I don’t want to miss out on chunks of their life.
Celebs.com: Does having a family have a big impact on your film choices?
Carell: I take every project as it comes, I would never say “never.” It’s been my rule of thumb that I will shoot in Los Angeles or go out of town for no more than three weeks at a time.
Celebs.com: Do you have a favorite scene?
Carell: There’s a scene that Ryan [Gosling] and I do at the bar after we’ve had this blow out and he’s come to make amends. I like that scene and I love the scenes between Ryan and Emma [Stone], I think they’re beautiful and real and funny and touching.
Celebs.com: Do you remember doing anything crazy or stupid for love?
Carell: I’ve never done anything crazy or stupid! (Bursts out laughing) Oh yeah, growing up I did nothing but crazy and stupid things for love. When I was in third grade, I sent an anonymous box of candy to this girl I had a crush on and I wrote the most flowery letters to her knowing that she would never know who wrote them. But of course somebody saw me put it in her school locker, so the cat was out of the bag and I was mortified and I never talked to her. For years! I was painfully shy. I’m lucky to be married, quite frankly. I know this is going to blow your mind, but I was not a big pick up guy! (Laughs)
Celebs.com: Everyone loves people who can make them laugh though!
Carell: I think that is BS. When I was a kid and I used to read the Playboy Playmate respond to “What do you find attractive in a man?” It was always: “I like a guy with a sense of humour. I like a guy who can make me laugh.” Baloney. You want a guy with nice pecs and nice abs. I think it’s the cool thing to say so that you don’t look completely shallow. But I don’t think that’s the case, at least, it didn’t work for me.
Celebs.com: Well it obviously worked, you’re happily married.
Carell: It worked enough. I got my wife to marry me. I married way over my head.
Celebs.com: Do you think there is only one soulmate per person?
Carell: There are seven! I don’t know. I found my one and that’s all I can go by. I got lucky. I’ve been married 16 years and I just lucked out. I married the right person. Getting married or entering a relationship is a crap shoot. You might think you know somebody but five years down the road things have changed, you’ve changed, they’ve changed. I guess if you can grow together, that is what makes it last.
Celebs.com: How do you keep your marriage interesting?
Carell: I’ve always felt it was little gestures. The grand gestures are always nice but I think it’s those little moments that remind the other person that you’re a couple and that you’re connected. It sounds like the dumbest thing but I’m usually out the door before my wife and kids are up, and my wife sets up the coffeemaker every night before she goes to bed because she knows I’m going to be up early. So, every morning when I have a cup of coffee I think of her. It’s a dumb little thing but it’s always in the back of my mind. It’s very sweet.
Celebs.com: And what do you do for her?
Carell: I drink her coffee…
Celebs.com: How did you win over your wife’s heart?
Carell: I was teaching a class at Second City, which is an improvisation school, and she was a student. She was from Massachusetts also, so we had a common bond there. She was working as a bartender across the street so I would go over and have a drink and I talked to her. It was very casual and we were both really shy.
Celebs.com: How long did it take for you to ask her out?
Carell: It took three months before we both stopped dancing around the issue. We kind of backed into going on our first date. I was like, “Well, if anyone asked you out, I wonder what would happen there?” And she would be: “I don’t know, if somebody like you, say, might ask me out at a certain point – if someone who looked like you did, I would probably say yes.” We were both painfully shy about it. Then the words came up, “Well, do you want to go out?” “Okay.” It was almost in slow motion.
Celebs.com: What was it like working with Julianne Moore?
Carell: She is one of those great actors who makes everything good.. She is always great. I’m just honored that she wanted to be in this and she’s an incredibly kind person. Big heart. Warm. We had a lot in common with our families and our kids. I feel like I’ve known her for a long time. We became friends almost immediately.
Celebs.com: Is it true that you worked as mailman?
Carell: Yes, after college I worked as a mail carrier for about five months in Massachusetts. I was saving up money to move to Chicago to pursue acting.
Celebs.com: Did you ever get bitten by a dog?
Carell: I did. A dog bit me on the leg! I had to go in and get a tetanus shot.
Celebs.com: Were you in good shape for the job?
Carell: I’m always in good shape. But mostly I was in a car, driving around. It was a small town and they didn’t have any postal vehicles so I had to use my own car for the job. The steering wheel is on the left hand side but you deliver mail on the right, so I had to drive with one hand using the break and use the accelerator with my left foot while putting the mail out the right window. It was incredibly dangerous. I drove a 1972 Toyota Corona.
Celebs.com: Would you like to direct a film?
Carell: I’ve directed a few episodes of “The Office” and that was a lot of fun. I felt it to be very relaxing to not have to act. It felt very easy in that world.
Celebs.com: Did you have a break up when you were younger but looking back now think how much you learned from it?
Carell: Of course, if I had not had those break ups I wouldn’t be married. My life would be significantly different so, yes, I’m very thankful for every break up! And, in retrospect, break-ups always seem much funnier than they do in real time. We’ve all been crushed, eyes full of tears and we think, “How can I go on this way without this person in my life?” But it’s funny what time does and how it heals, and in retrospect you laugh and think : “Really? That person?!”
Celebs.com: Do you think there has to be some kind of tragedy in every good comedy?
Carell: I think you could probably find something tragic in every comedy whether it exists or not. Comedy is so subjective. I will never say something is not funny, because it might not be funny to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not to somebody else. I don’t think anything is universally funny. Things can strike people differently.
Celebs.com: How do you keep the balance in your life?
Carell: I put my family first. That is what is most important.
Celebs.com: What comedies do you like to watch?
Carell: I will like a Michael Moore documentary and derive a lot of humor out of that. I thought “Knocked Up” was great. There are so many different types of avenues you can go down. The kinds of things that make me laugh are when the actors never display awareness when they’re in a comedy. That, to me, is funny.
Photos by Ben Glass courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures