40- something ways to get the girl.
Everyone’s favourite 40-year-old virgin is now going to super-stud
school, writes Molly Eichel TO Steve Carell, the funniest characters don’t know whether they are in a comedy or tragedy.
‘‘ They’re just living and that’s not for them to decide,’’ Carell says. ‘‘ You and I don’t know whether our lives are comedic or dramatic. It’s just what we’re doing, it’s just how we’re moving through the day.’’
To prove his point, Carell ( pictured) references a prominent line in the trailer for his latest comedy-drama movie Crazy,
Stupid, Love, for which he was in Melbourne recently for the red carpet premiere.
His soon-to-be ex-wife, played by Julianne Moore, confesses how she wanted out of their marriage.
‘‘ You know when I told you I had to work late? I really went to go see the new Twilight movie by myself and it was so bad,’’ she says, breaking into tears.
Carell says: ‘‘ There’s so much pain and suffering in her voice and it’s such a sad scene, but it’s such a funny observation to me. And I think you can have it both ways.
‘‘ You just play the character as honestly as possible and it should be funny within that context.’’
His theory holds true for his most memorable characters: the obnoxious boss who believes he is universally loved when the opposite is true ( The Office ); the harried father and husband putting his life on the line to rekindle the dying spark of his marriage ( Date Night ); the 40-year-old virgin ( must we spell it out for you?). Even his persona as a Daily
Show correspondent – the overly serious fool – never had a whiff of Jon Stewart’s self-deprecation or Stephen Colbert’s tongue-incheek shtick. When we meet Cal Weaver in
Crazy, Stupid, Love, he appears as a tragic character. One moment he’s at dinner with his wife and the next she’s confessing to having an affair and he’s jumping out of a car to avoid the ensuing discussion.
‘‘ This guy, I feel, truly has his head in the sand and is somebody who has become very, very complacent,’’ Carell says. Enter Jacob ( Ryan Gosling), a super stud who teaches Cal how to ensnare women with little or no emotional involvement.
‘‘ My character is sort of an unwilling ladies’ man. It’s kind of the ‘ be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it’,’’ Carell says. ‘‘ It’s about a guy who learns that when you achieve something, it’s really not what you wanted at all.’’
Carell is not typical leading man material. He doesn’t play the guy who gets the girl, unless he suffers total embarrassment first.
But Carell says Gosling was just as uncomfortable with the Casanova role, which is hard to believe, considering what Ryan Gosling looks like.
‘‘ You think it would be such an easy task for him,’’ Carell says, mirroring that incredulity. But Carell, who produced
Crazy, Stupid, Love, says Gosling’s reluctance added layers to what could be a onedimensional archetype.
‘‘ Gosling’s character, a local lothario, could easily have been interpreted as a very sleazy guy, but that’s not how Ryan played him,’’ Carell says. ‘‘ He was a ladykiller, but he was also endearing and vulnerable at the same time, which I thought was such an excellent take.
‘‘ Ryan is so fantastic and it struck me from day one how comedically gifted he is.’’ The characters in Crazy, Stupid,
Love live in a grey zone. There are no villains or dashing heroes.
‘‘ That’s what really appealed to me about the movie,’’ Carell says. ‘‘ It was funny but it didn’t take an easy cliche path.’’
Screenwriter Dan Fogelman wrote the part with Carell in mind. Carell loved it so much he decided to take it on even though this kind of relationship comedy is a tough sell in the blockbuster season, when cars that turn into robots and men in tights grab most of the movie audience.
‘‘ It’s a challenging movie to try to sell: ‘ Well, it has a lot of heart. It’s very human’. Like, ‘ Wow, I’m going to run out to see that’,’’ Carell deadpans.
‘‘ You can only use what you like as a barometer and this was the type of movie I wanted to do next. There was something very truthful to me about it. And because of that, it’s even funnier.’’