Steve Carell is like many comedians before him: he enjoys getting serious sometimes. Sometimes this can lead to disastrous results (remember Carell’s Dan in Real Life?), but for his latest film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (which opens Friday), he seems to have found a project with enough dark comedy to quiet the critics while having a serious storyline to quench his thirst for the dramatics.
The directorial debut of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist scribe Lorene Scafaria, Carell plays Dodge, an insurance salesman who after learning (along with the rest of the world) that the destruction of Earth is eminent thanks to a giant meteor en route, decides to take a road trip to search for an old flame. Along for the ride is Penny (Keira Knightely), his flaky neighbor who throws a wrench in his plans.
Though the trailers for the movie may lead you to you think this is a madcap pre-apocalyptic road trip movie filled with lighthearted encounters, most of the film has a serious tone as both Dodge and Penny try to figure out what their lives really meant as they search for a companion to be with when it all ends.
Carell tells Movies.com what attracted him to the film, why he forgets sometimes he actually has a fan base and what his dream story arc for Brick would be in Anchorman 2.
Movies.com: This is not your usual apocalypse film, so was that the interest for you?
Steve Carell: Absolutely. I think it was different tonally than those “The president with the hotline” and “The astronaut with one last chance” kind of movies. I liked the fact that it examined the flipside to that. The everyday people struggling with the knowledge that the world is going to end and it’s kind of a smaller examination of how people react, which I thought was both comedic and tragic.
Movies.com: For the Dodge character, did you tweak him at all from when you first read the script?
SC: I liked it off the bat. We really didn’t change him and certainly didn’t improvise. It essentially was what was on the page. And I liked it, I thought it was strong. It was a script that I couldn’t stop thinking about after I’d read it. And it was unique in that it was obviously darkly funny but I felt the real challenge was to walk that line between what was funny and what was heartbreaking and to have them both. It’s a delicate balance to strike.
Movies.com: That being said, you’re no stranger to taking on dramatic roles, and though this is a mixture of both comedy and drama, do you ever get nervous that your fan base won’t take that leap of faith and accept that you want to do movies that aren’t always the zany comedy?
SC: It’s funny because I don’t ever think of myself as having a fan base. I guess that frees me up because I don’t feel that there’s a group of people that are following me from TV to movie to movie. Maybe I should think about that. [Laughs] But I honestly don’t. This was a script that resonated with me and I thought was cool and quirky and different and I guess the leap of faith is in the script and in the director and in the whole project. Because you don’t know going in how it will turn out. You don’t know if the tone will be right, you don’t know if it will read the way you saw it in the first place. And I think that’s the biggest leap of faith.
Movies.com: What is it that brings a project to the top of your pile? Does the character you’re being offered have to click with you, or more the story?
SC: I guess all those things: it’s the story, it’s the character, it’s the tone of it. I mean this in particular was something that I felt was unique, something that I had not seen before, certainly not anything that I had been in before and that was intriguing. And getting the opportunity to work with a first-time director who has a really strong voice and working with someone like Keira who is just a fine actor. You just hop on and go along for the ride.
Movies.com: The interesting thing with Lorene Scafaria, and it’s prevalent in her script for Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, is the music is very much also a character in the film. Were you aware that would happen?
SC: I knew that music would be an integral part, but I really wasn’t sure how that would work. It was kind of like Little Miss Sunshine, you know that music is going to be a part of it you just don’t know what it will add; it can add a lot obviously, it can really change and enhance the tone of a movie and I think it did that with this.
Movies.com: Just wanted to run through a few of your upcoming films: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone stars Jim Carrey. Do you share the screen a lot with him?
SC: Yeah. There’s a lot of use together. It’s really silly and fun. That’s just a big crazy comedy about Las Vegas magicians.
Movies.com: And one that’s a complete opposite of that is Charlie Kaufman’s next movie, Frank or Francis.
SC: I’m not sure where that is right now. The script is fantastic but I don’t know when we’re gong to shoot. He’s still assembling a cast. But I’m on board for whenever it’s going to happen. A Hollywood insider musical written and directed by Charlie Kaufman? Whenever you want me to do that one I’ll clear my schedule.
Movies.com: Foxcatcher, which has you starring as John du Pont, who killed Olympic wrestler David Schultz, has been in development for a while, is that still in limbo?
SC: No. We’re starting to shoot in October. And that’s one that’s completely different and a story that not a lot of people know about; but a true story and much more of a drama.
Movies.com: And finally, there’s Anchorman 2. Has there been a start date announced yet?
SC: I think we’re starting in either February or March, it hasn’t been decided definitively. They just turned the script into the studio.
Movies.com: So if you could go to Will Ferrell or Adam McKay with the ideal dream scenario for Brick for the sequel what would it be?
SC: The ideal scenario for Brick would be that he has not changed at all. And he remains in the background and that he is used sparingly.
Movies.com: That’s extremely honest.
SC: Well, I think that’s where Brick lives. I think he’s sort of a background guy and I think that’s part of the charm, that occasionally he’ll say something that is completely disconnected to everything else that has preceded it. So that would be my vote.