Steve Carell Interview

Steve Carell made a name for himself on "The Daily Show." He's showing off, or not showing off, his real assets in The 40 Year Old Virgin. The man is brilliant in portraying Andy Stitzer, a man who has given up on sex. And not for the lack of effort, he just got tired of trying. So his co-workers help him out to break him out of his spell. One of those is Paul Rudd. The two sat down together to talk about the movie. If you've seen trailers for this movie, you know about the hair scene - you may find out something very interesting about Steve's hair.

So back in your day, what was your game with the ladies?

Steve Carell: The soda pop stand. I was really a bad dater and up until 8th grade, I went to an all boy’s school so by the time I went to high school I was a bit freaked out about women in general. And in putting them on a pedestal, that part of the movie, I definitely did that. I was very wary of women and as soon as I started looking at a woman as a potential love interest, I could not even talk to a woman, I was pretty bad.

Steve looks at Paul Rudd.

Steve Carell: I bet you were a stud!

Paul Rudd: I was far from a stud. But in my senior year of high school, I did buy a Jeep to have the impression that I was cool. And I grew my hair long like Michael Hutchins from INXS. I just relied on external things to impress girls.

Steve Carell: Oh, I did mix my own perfume for a girl that I liked. I went to my mothers perfume counter and mixed about eight or nine perfumes together into a jar and gave it to my next door neighbor. And we’re married now…no, we’re not, that’s not true at all (laughter)

How autobiographical is the script and how closely related are you to the character?

Steve Carell: I will not answer that question. It’s not autobiographical at all; I, in fact, have two children. No, it was a notion I had that I brought to Judd [Apatow] last year about the pitch of the poker scene where a guy trying to keep up with the other guys telling these great sex stories and it’s apparent that he’s out of his element, and that is what I pitched to him. I identify with him in that he’s trying, he’s doing his best to keep a good life and keep his hopes up, but there’s an underlying sadness which there is to me. I think there are aspects of me, but as for specifics, no, I don’t know.

How was it seeing your first billboard?

Steve Carell: Very surreal. I was driving around with my daughter, who’s 4, and she’s asking me ‘Why are you on the signs? Why do I see your face? You look stupid.’ And actually, we’ve been out of town for a few weeks and none of these signs were up, so when we came back all these billboards are all around and they were every 100 yards. I kept pointing out to my wife ‘There’s one at 12 o’clock, now 2 o’clock, look on the bus!’ So it’s strange and weird, and I love it! No, Universal seems to be really behind it and they’re really promoting it.

Paul Rudd: When I first saw it, I was just happy to see that the Universal marketing department got it right! You always see the posters and they always look alike. But when I saw this, you just laugh, like I’m doing right now, I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s like the funniest picture in the world.

Steve Carell: It’s pretty stupid. (laughing) I’m thinking about that as my head shot for now on. (laughter)

Q: Did you do any research for this role and what kind of advice would you give to a man or woman who is still a 40 year old virgin?

Steve Carell: To answer the first question, we were given several case studies by Universal which we read and there are quite a few case studies documenting middle aged virginity and who they are and what are they like. And we found that these are just normal people who for whatever reason or not never did it. And, like the character, just gave up at one point of the whole notion cause it was harder, it was more difficult to continue trying then to just give up. So that’s the research that we did. And as for meeting any, not that I know of, and that’s a hard thing. It’s not something you wear on your sleeve.

Paul Rudd: The government tries to hide it, but they do exist.

Steve Carell: It wasn’t based on any, ‘Oh, I know this virgin guy who lives down the street and rides a bike. I’m going to do a movie on him. I hope he doesn’t come, because he’ll sue us.’ It wasn’t anything like that. But what we found just reinforced what we had originally imagined. This is just a guy. This isn’t some incredibly damaged human being that for a number of reasons kind of missed the boat.

Can you talk about the mix of scripted elements and improv?

Steve Carell:: There was a lot going off the book. That whole run that Paul does: ‘You know how I know you’re gay?’ That is just a perfect example of -

Steve looks at Paul.

Steve Carell: Do you want to talk to them about that? (laughter)

Paul Rudd: We were just sitting there waiting for them to set up and Seth and I were joking around. And we just started calling each other, ‘gay’ and the crew was getting upset at us, ‘I can’t believe they are doing this while we are shooting.’ But, Judd really encouraged that. At the same time, there was a script so in terms of what is improvised and what isn’t, I don’t even really remember. The way we would shoot it was not unlike ‘Anchorman’ a little bit, where we would go through the scene one time. Just shoot it one time as scripted. Then it was do something different. That was literally the direction, ‘Do something different.’ So, you never really know in the context of them really changing it all up. And Judd would never cut. We had a million feet of film. This is a true thing, I never realized this. If you shoot a million feet of film the film company will buy champagne for the cast and crew. (laughter) They do.

Steve Carell: On the very last day of shooting we went over 1 million feet and they stopped. I don’t know if it was Kodak or whatever, but the film company wheeled in an enormous tray of champagne bottles.

Paul Rudd: And good champagne too, not crap. (laughter)

Steve Carell: So Jane Lynch, the woman who played Paula the manager, her audition was improved. And as soon as her audition was over, Judd sent her tape to be transcribed, because that’s what ended up being in the script. She was so funny and the whole run of her coming on to me – we had an idea for it, but she took it to another place that it was nothing that either of us could have scripted for her that eloquently.

Paul Rudd: And that happened with all our characters. Steve and Judd when I first got the script the roles really hadn’t been cast so they wanted to cast it. So we would do rehearsals and sometimes what would come out of the rehearsal would find itself into the script. Like major stuff like character arcs. It was very collaborative in a lot of ways.

Did you actually get your chest waxed?

Steve Carell: That was 100% real. We set up five cameras, because we knew there would be one take. There would be no way of going back and doing it again. So we set a camera up on the guys. One over me, one specifically on my chest, one on the waxer and it was not scripted. We just had an idea for where it would go. We hired a woman who was an actress/waxer, (laughter) which, in itself, was a little daunting.

Paul Rudd: A laxtress.

Steve Carell: Yes, a laxtress. Because, she wasn’t a professional waxer. So, if you watch closely there is one close up where you can see blood actually beading to the surface. So that was not CGI’d. And when I pitched it to Judd it really should be real. It should be legitimate waxing. Because I thought, to see them waxing at me at pain would probably be the funniest thing in the scene. Because there is this guy thing where there is this sadistic nature that men have to see other men in no-life threatening pain, and especially self-inflicted. Ball to the nuts. Like a kick in the nuts. It’s just funny, you can’t help laughing at it if you’re a guy. To capture that on camera would be really amusing.

Paul Rudd: And it really was. (laughter) Very little acting was required in that scene. I

Steve Carell: It really did hurt. And a lot of the women in the crew were very aware of what would happen and they would say, ‘You sure you don’t want to trim your hair down a bit? It will hurt less. Can I give you some Advil?’ And I kept saying, ‘No, no, no. I’m fine. I’m fine.’ And then halfway through I was just sweating and thought, ‘This is a bad idea.’

Paul Rudd: Also, didn’t you say there is some sort of cream or oil they are supposed to use?

Steve Carell: They are supposed to put for the nipple, a little oil over the nipple and then the wax so your nipple doesn’t come off. (laughter) And they started doing that and I was like, ‘Hey, hey guys!’ I know this at least. So it was a fun day. It was a day that I both dreaded and looked forward to. It took seven weeks and my wife was very happy when it eventually did, because I looked like a freak for the longest time.

Are you doing Get Smart?

Steve Carell: No, they are still writing it. There is an outline, but it’s still being scripted.

So there is one website that says that you might be playing the Joker in the next Batman. Is that true and would you like to do it?

Steve Carell: I just heard that for the first time this morning and I yeah, I’d love to do that. But I doubt that it’s true. He’s never said anything about that to me. So, I think that’s completely fabricated, but I love the rumor.

Did you have other expressions for the photo shoot?

Steve Carell: That was it. Well, that was actually the last thing we shot in the photo shoot. There were a bunch of other set ups. One where I was sitting in a bar with a drink sipping through a straw sitting in lots of different positions. And this was the very last thing. It was almost an after thought that we’ll just do this funny look. Almost like a 70’s year book photo. There were a bunch of different expressions and I think this was the one they found the most virginal.

Paul Rudd: I think the trick is to watch that fine line of kind of a good guy and someone you like or…the truth is the character is somewhat of a stalker. There is something really creepy about that too. I’m not sure he can get over the past. A past that I think he’s completely made up. I think they just went out for six weeks or two months.

What’s the freedom of an R rated movie?

Steve Carell: Well, just based on the subject matter we felt it was an R rated movie. And Universal never blinked on that and in fact asked us to actually be a hard R and not to soften it. The objective wasn’t, ‘Oh, let’s try to make this more of an R.’ We just wrote for the characters and the situations. We didn’t think, ‘Oh, we have to make this dirtier or less dirty.’ We just wrote it the way we saw it. So it was nice in that sense that we didn’t have to censor ourselves.

Why do you think people are embracing the R rated comedy now?

Paul Rudd: I think all of that stuff is media fabrication. People think movies are funny or they don’t. I don’t get this thing about the R rated movie making a comeback. Honestly, maybe studio thinking has changed where they are willing to make them where in the past they weren’t, because they wanted to sell tickets to 12 year-olds and it would have been harder to make money telling an R rated movie. But, I don’t think it’s any sort of societal shift. If something is funny, it’s funny. Whether it’s rated R or G. And I’ve seen some hilarious rated G movies. I always think they try to make a story out of something that isn’t there. Wedding Crashers is really funny and I think because it’s so successful that has probably made this an actual story.

There are hilarious G-rated movies?

Paul Rudd: Well, there’s Bednobs and Broomsticks, Apple Dumpling Gang, Mary Poppins. But that being said I do think there is something about political incorrectness that people embrace because political correctness is good in theory, but sort of kills humor. And perhaps after 15 years of political correctness, people are ready to hear some politically incorrect jokes like they used to be.

Steve Carell: But the intent wasn’t to make a politically incorrect movie either. It was just to make a funny movie and that was it. There is no agenda other than that.

How much pressure is there now that you are the star of the movie and what are you doing in the future?

Steve Carell: There was no pressure until you stated talking. (laughter) All I kept thinking was that if this is the last movie I ever do, this has been just great fun. So, I try not to get ahead of myself in terms of the next thing. I’ve been really lucky just to support myself acting and being able to help created and be the lead in a movie is way beyond any expectation I have had. So, I am pretty happy with what’s happened so far. So, honestly if this is it and it crashes down tomorrow I’m happy. I just finished the first episode of "The Office" for NBC. September 20th is when it’s coming back. So, that’s the next thing I’m doing.

This movie is so hilarious! You will laugh till you're no longer a virgin!! The 40 Year Old Virgin slides into theaters August 19th, it's rated 'R.'