Crazy, Stupid, Love. has plenty of great performances. Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Julianne Moore all do terrific work but the movie truly belongs to Steve Carell. As Cal Weaver, he’s finds the balance of sadness and silliness in the role where a middle-aged guy can recognize the despair of being divorced and cheated on but also the strangeness of having to reinvent himself in order to move on with his life. Additionally, Carell once again shows that he has comic delivery that’s second to none.
During a roundtable interview at the press junket for the film, we spoke to Carell about what he found appealing in the script, what the movie has to say about modern masculinity, getting slapped by Ryan Gosling [Corrected: I know I originally wrote Ryan Reynolds. My bad.], and much more. Hit the jump to check out the interview. Crazy, Stupid, Love. opens tomorrow.
STEVE CARELL: She’s the best. I found it interesting that everyone, all of our first choices actually wanted to be in the movie, so we got top of the list right down the line in terms of casting. And when we first starting talking about actresses to play Emily, she’s the first person I thought off, and I’d only met her briefly backstage at the Rachael Ray Show and she seemed like the nicest person in the world as well as being a fantastic actor. But it was great, I think an actor like that just makes you better.
So she was your first choice?
CARELL: Absolutely. I didn’t have a second choice. And she, obviously, was wonderful.
You guys played well together.
CARELL: We hit it off immediately. She’s one of those people that, well, I shared a lot of life experience with her, in terms of our marriages and having kids, and we would just jabber inbetween takes constantly, we would talk all the time. We still haven’t really caught up this weekend so we’ve got to get together and have lunch.
How common do you think your character is in America as far as men are concerned, finding that one soul mate? Do you think he’s a common person?
CARELL: I don’t know. By my own experience, I found my soul mate, so that’s the only thing I have to gauge it by. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a common or uncommon thing. I got lucky I think. And during this junket I’ve been asked, “how do you have a successful marriage or relationship?” and I’m no expert, I don’t know, I have no answers to that. But, I’ve been responding with the fact that I was lucky. I married the right person, and we were able to change together, and grow together and respect one another.
CARELL: No, I met her in Chicago, at Second City. We were both in our twenties at the time. But, she was obviously the one. It’s hard, it’s a crap shoot, because you could know someone for a year or even three and then get married and still not know anything about them. And I continually learn new and wonderful things about my wife, and she about me, and it’s good that I like the things that I’m learning.
How has the experience been different working as a producer on the film and what led you to sort of, have this one, have Crazy Stupid Love as one of the first films for your production company?
CARELL: I thought the script was great, I thought it was inventive, and it took a subject matter that’s well tread and I believe took a different spin on it. And it’s surprising, but more than anything else I found it to be human. I thought the story was very real, and very human, and funny at the same time. And that’s a fine line to walk when you want something to be both funny and dramatic at times. And those are the things that appealed to me the most.
I assume you were on before Glenn [Ficarra] and John [Requa] and you brought them on? Glenn and John to direct it?
What was it about the stuff they’ve done before, they’ve only directed one movie before and, they tend to be kind of edgy, I mean, the stuff they’ve written is kind of edgy, what made you think of them to direct this?
CARELL: Well, one of my goals with this script was to never have it become a cliche. Because I think movies about love can easily become cliche and sort of pedestrian, and cloying and manipulative. And especially when you go on to the dramatic side of it. And I found that those guys had that same barometer, they had that same awareness of never wanting to go into a manipulative mode, because a comedy that then becomes a drama can become manipulative if it’s not earned. And I felt, and they agreed that all of those moments, all of those more serious moments had to be earned, you know, the characters had to be grounded, you had to relate to them, the story had to hold together, and I thought they just shared that.
CARELL: Do I practice them in the mirror? [laughs] Not really, but I think one of my jobs, especially in a movie like this – the script was in great shape but it also allowed for a lot of improvisation and a lot of exploration, so I felt that when we had time to explore and to try to discover other ways of doing a scene and mixing it up and changing it around, because I feel like in the end, it’s better to give the directors and the editors a lot of different variations, because you just never know when something’s going to edit together or what you’re going to need at any given time. So I think, you know, just different levels of performance and different types of line readings, and some that might be more comedic and some that might be less so and more muted, and kind of just give them the options to put together the puzzle.
You and Ryan’s character are sort of on opposite ends of the male spectrum…
CARELL: What do you mean!!! In terms of attractiveness??!
What do you think the film says about modern masculinity and what that means?
CARELL: Wow, that would have been a great title: Modern Masculinity. Incidentally, we had so many potential titles for this movie. There must have been 500 different titles that were pitched.
CARELL: Oh my gosh. Well, Wingman was one of them, but see, I don’t think the movie was about a wingman. I felt that that was sort of the title the studio would have wanted, because it’s kind of on the nose, but that’s not what this movie is about. Because it starts with this movie getting a makeover and getting out on the dating pool, but it’s not about that, and I don’t necessarily want to sell the movie like that because I feel like it’s much more than that. That’s just a way in to these lives. I completely forgot your original question.
Well, just with the contrast in characters, what does that say about men today in terms of contemporary male ideals?
CARELL: I don’t know. I thought it was an interesting choice in terms of the script, to give the woman the mid life crisis as opposed to the man, right out of the blocks. This woman is searching for something, Julianne’s character, and she’s the one who has had the affair, and I just…one of the directors we were talking to, we talked to a number of different directors to potentially direct the movie, and his big note was that he didn’t think that Julianne’s character should have had the affair, that she would be far too unsympathetic and people would just think that she’s a villain. But in the back of my mind, I completely disagreed, because I just thought, that’s life. That’s not a villain, that’s a human being, making a mistake or doing something that’s indicative of the relationship. And I thought it was important to not demonise her but to show that both sides are culpable, to show that there’s usually fault on both sides of the relationship, it’s not one person or another. That’s generally been my experience with, you know, my observation of relationships. But I don’t know necessarily what it says about modern men. I think my character is going through something I believe a lot of people go through, both men and women, when the rug is pulled out from under them and they’ve been not really living life, but sort of, just existing and it takes something jarring to snap them out of it and getting them to reassess.
CARELL: Yeah, he improvised that. One take he said, “Can I slap you?” and I said, oh yeah, definitely, but you really have to hit me, don’t do a stage slap.
He did a real slap?
CARELL: Oh yeah, he kept hitting me. It was funny, cause he says I have an extremely loud head when I get hit. Apparently there’s something in my bone structure that really resonates and echoes and yeah, he did that over and over and over. It was pretty funny, it became a running gag.
You’ve done TV and film, any chance of going to Broadway?
CARELL: I’d love to do Broadway some day. Before I started doing television I was just a primarily a stage actor, but I haven’t done it in a while. The last thing I did was off Broadway, it was a play called Sin, by Wendy McCloud. But that was many years ago, that was just after I got married, but I’d like to, sure.
Directing in the future?
CARELL: I directed a few episodes of The Office, someday yeah, that’s a possibility. It sounds so pretentious to be an actor and say, “I’d really like to direct”. But yeah, maybe someday. It would be fun. I enjoyed directing those episodes of the show, but I felt very protected there because they were all my friends and I knew the show extremely well, so it was kind of easy to sit back and watch your friends work and say, that was great, let’s do another!
Something like this is a little more, real world person, a mix of drama and comedy, even though it’s a comedy it’s still very dramatic, you seem to be going more in that direction. Back in the day, you used to more madcap zany characters like in Bewitched and Anchorman, do you miss doing that stuff or do you feel like you really wanted to be more real world?
CARELL: No, I think I’m just going with what appeals to me and to have the luxury to do that is remarkable. I just finished a movie with Keira Knightley that’s pretty dark, it’s about finding the value of life two weeks before the end of the world, a meteor is going to hit the earth. That’s pretty dark and it’s funny at the same time, but the script haunted me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I read it and that’s why I was inclined to do it. And again, I don’t want to be pretentious about, “yes, I need to move in to the more dramatic roles and express myself and prove to everyone that I’m capable of doing it,” it really isn’t that, I think that’s a bad reason to choose roles. It’s more like, who would I be working with and would they be fun to do and entertaining to watch, is it an interesting story or character…
I think as an example, like Little Miss Sunshine, was where you were kind of playing someone who didn’t really look like yourself, was a very different character are you curious to be looking for those kind of things to break away from what you’re used to?
CARELL: Sure, but I don’t have any kind of big masterplan. It’s not, I don’t know, I guess I don’t have this strategy of moving towards a specific type of thing, because Dinner For Schmucks was just a big whacky character and then, before that, Dan In Real Life, I feel like I’m just kind of sampling things that appeal to me.
Do you find that you have more control of your schedule now that you don’t have to work around the hiatuses of The Office?
CARELL: I do yeah. And especially now that I’m producing things I’m able to spend time reading scripts and developing movies and I really didn’t have the time to do that on The Office.
There was a film a couple of years ago that was mentioned and it was a film that you and Ed Helms might do and it was –
CARELL: Oh, Civil Warriors.
What’s the status on that?
CARELL: We just got a rewrite on that. It’s still being worked on and it’s a really funny premise and I would love to work with Ed if I can.
I was wondering, when you go on The Daily Show, you and Jon Stewart have such a great rapport and do you kind of just talk and fall back in to when you used to work together and just wing it?
CARELL: Oh yeah, they’re all my friends over there and on Colbert’s show too, it’s great to go back because you feel like you’re going home in a sense and yeah, that was a very special time for both my wife and I, and a lot of our friends are still there.
CARELL: We haven’t talked about, we haven’t started developing anything together, but I would love to work with him again. I owe him everything. The way 40 Year Old Virgin came together was…at the time I didn’t know, because it was really my first experience with writing a movie or developing anything. During Anchorman he came to me and said, “if you ever have an idea for a movie, let’s get together.” And then after we wrapped I went in and I pitched a couple of ideas and literally 40 Year Old Virgin was one I just through in at the end – this is a premise that I have for a movie, and he said, “I could sell that today”. And literally the next day or two he was over at Universal and he casually mentioned it to one of the executives and she bought it on the spot. And we started writing it, we wrote it over the summer and then we started shooting it in the fall and the whole thing, from the time I pitched it to him, a year later was the opening. It was so quick and so fast, and I could not have partnered with a better person, I completely lucked out, so I owe him a lot.
Has comedy been from the time you were young, has it always been a part of your life? Is it a natural thing for you or did you have to hone your skills?
CARELL: I enjoyed it but I was not the class clown. At a cocktail party I’m not the one regaling all others with wonderful stories. I’m, I think, naturally fairly shy. I enjoyed comedy and as a little kid I would listen to comedy albums, I started with Bill Cosby and George Carlin and Steve Martin and Firesign Theatre, National Lampoon, and at the time I didn’t realise it, I just enjoyed listening to them, I would listen to them over and over, I’d pick up the needle and go back to specific parts and listen to them again and I guess what I didn’t realise at the time was like, I was sort of studying them. I was just enjoying them, but I was sort of studying the timing of it all and what made something funny, at least to me. And even going in to acting I never thought I’d necessarily be a comedic actor, I just wanted to be an actor, and that’s just what I ended up making money at, was the comic stuff.
CARELL: Probably Dr Strangelove, or Being There.
Why those two? Peter Sellers…
CARELL: Well there’s a comic thread there. I think Being There was such a, it was so muted, and so…there was a tone that that movie struck that I’d never seen before in a movie. It was so gentle and kind and yet thought provoking. I thought it was very smart and I thought his portrayal of that character was brilliant. And Dr Strangelove again, very silly, but at the same time, incredibly dark subject matter –
Not as gentle and kind –
CARELL: But again, thought provoking, and the things that they got away with in that movie were astounding. I think it was so indicative of that period of history too, so I just…something that gives you chills and makes you laugh at the same time is pretty amazing.
Michael Scott loves love in The Office, so did you bring any of that in to your character in this movie?
CARELL: I don’t think there’s a lot of Michael Scott in this character at all, because I think the character I play in this movie is somebody who has achieved all the things that Michael Scott would have wanted to achieve in his life. The wife, the family. The character of Cal I think is someone who has just become complacent and Michael Scott is sort of the opposite. He’s someone who is always on, and always amped up and ready to jump at a moment’s notice.