Here are a few awesome/ridiculous highlights of Steve Carell’s career thus far: donning a Biblical beard in “Evan Almighty,” professing his love to a lamp during “Anchorman,” and hosting a recurring segment on “The Daily Show” about fruits and vegetables (fittingly titled Produce Pete). However, in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” hitting theaters this Friday, Carell has managed to one-up himself once again — at least costume-wise.
In “Wonderstone,” Carell plays the titular character, an outlandish Vegas magician who has a penchant for velour suits and gobs of spray tan. Burt, along with his magic partner Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), have been at the top of the magic game for 10 years. However, when a new magician comes on the scene (Jim Carrey, doing his best Criss Angel impression), Burt and Anton are forced to do some real soul-searching.
Carell called us from Las Vegas — where much of “Burt Wonderstone” was shot — to discuss card tricks, the pros of wearing velour, and a quick “Anchorman 2″ update.
How is Vegas treating you?
Are you a gambling man?
I am not. I like the shows, I like the food, but I am not a gambler.
Have you seen any magic shows on this trip?
I just saw a [David] Copperfield show the other night. I did a little cameo on his show.
A cameo sounds cool. What was that like?
I just walked out on stage to assist him with a trick. It was just a little gag.
You were wearing a fake tan while shooting “Burt Wonderstone,” right?
Oh, all fake.
How long does that take to come off?
It’s always sort of coming off. They spray it on and say it will dry but it’s always tacky. You’re always leaving a trail of golden-brown behind you. So I guess once a week I would get it recharged. It’s a look. It’s not my look.
They just stick you in a booth to apply it?
They have a tent that they stick you inside and spray you, and what dawned on me late in the shoot was that I didn’t need to be tanned head to toe. You really only see my face and my chest, and I don’t know why every part of my body had to be the same color. It is better that way just for continuity’s sake.
What are the pros and cons of wearing a velour suit?
There are only pros when wearing a velour suit. I defy anyone to not feel different when you’re wearing a low-cut velour jumpsuit. It changes your personality. It transforms you. It’s transformative wardrobe.
Are you going to be transferring this into your regular rotation of clothes now?
Maybe not clothes. Maybe I’ll make some tapestry out of them or some sort of liner to a musical instrument case.
This movie seems to tread the line of poking fun and celebrating the culture of magic.
I think that was one of the balancing acts we were doing. It is a really funny silly world, but at the same time, I think there is real affection for it in the movie and it does celebrate it, ultimately. But when I read the script, I just thought it was hilarious. This guy was such a jerk and really funny and in dire need of redemption. That Vegas magician community I just thought was ripe of a comedy.
You’d think there would’ve been a movie like this in the past.
That’s what I thought, and that’s exactly why I wanted to do it. It just made me laugh. The script made me laugh, the characters made me laugh. The one thing about it is we didn’t want to make it a parody. It’s not a parody of Vegas. We wanted it to replicate the showmanship. But as over-the-top as it might look, it’s not really that far from the truth, the stuff these guys wear and their personas.
How much magic did you learn on the set? Just the basics?
I learned a few slight-of-hands. I learned some coin tricks and some of the card tricks I do in the movie. I tried to get to a point where it didn’t look terrible. The real magicians, the guys who’ve been doing it for years, they’re just on a different level. After a couple of months of training, you could never get there or even close to that. So I just got to a point where I might be able to do one little thing on camera that looked fairly accurate.
Are you at least able to pull off performing at kids’ birthday parties now?
I have to practice again. If you don’t practice, then it’s gone. You really lose your knack. Even during this press junket, people have been giving me cards and saying “Oh do that card trick you did.” And I for the life of me can’t remember how to palm it. It was helpful having these [magicians] on set saying that you have to palm it this way to really sell it. So much of it is selling the trick, and that’s what these guys excel at, the flourish and the flare that they put in the trick. That I think is as important as pulling off the trick itself.
Are kids still into magic?
I have an 11- and an 8-year-old and they both have magic kits. So, I think it’s fairly universal. Kids love it. Kids love the idea of the trick and the illusion. In a lot of ways, it’s Santa Claus. It’s fun to believe in something that can’t possibly be true.
You’re shooting “Anchorman 2” now, and it’s set for release this December. That seems like a quick turnaround.
It is pretty quick. They picked a release date before we were even close to shooting. So they obviously know when they want it to come out. They’ve done all the research. I mean, we did a trailer before the script had been written, so that’s kind of flying by the seat of our pants. The script is really funny. We had a table read last week, and it’s going to be good. It’s going to be a really fun one.