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Date Night - Steve Carell interview

Date Night

Interview by Rob Carnevale

STEVE Carell talks about working with Shawn Levy and Tina Fey on the movie Date Night, getting to grips with Mark Wahlberg’s body and improvisational moments such as being told to “zip your vagina” by co-star James Franco.

He also recalls his own worst date night experience, why he likes to perform only the least dangerous stunts and how much fun the pole dancing scene was to perform.

Q. We assume you’ve worked together millions of times, but have you? And did you know each other?
Steve Carell: No, just in passing we came from the same improv theatre in Chicago, Second City. I worked there a few years before Tina did, and we had met each other on several occasions but we definitely did not know each other well.

Q. After this, Little Miss Sunshine and Get Smart you clearly have a problem in moving vehicles. How was that chase scene to shoot?
Steve Carell: It’s in my contract that there has to be some sort of crash in every movie I appear in. It’s fun. And that vehicle is extremely fun, the R8. That was a pleasure, to smash into another car.

Q. Do you do all your own stunts?
Steve Carell: All of them, except the ones that are dangerous. We’ve spoken of this too, the most dangerous stunt that we had to do was when the kids jump on us at the beginning of the movie, because little kids as you know are wild cards. And they have extremely sharp elbows and knees, so we were bruised more from that scene than anything else.

Q. How was the poll-dancing scene to shoot for you? Was it one of the most fun to do?
Steve Carell: It was fun because we were improvising and clearly we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. But the scene that made me laugh the most as we shot it was the scene with James [Franco] and Mila [Kunis]. When someone turns to you and says: “Zip your vagina…” That’s an improvised line, and you just have to go with it [laughs]. That is a great gift to give another improviser. To say something like that… that was a lot of fun and they were both extremely adept at coming up with new and different things. And then I got to say it to Ray Liotta, which has always been a dream of mine [laughs].

Q. Which do you prefer the most – writing or acting, and where do you feel most at home?
Steve Carell: I don’t know if I feel comfortable either place, but it’s fun to be able to do both. I haven’t done too much writing recently, because I’ve been acting so much. But with any luck in the next year or so I’ll be able to start jotting some ideas down.

Q. How emasculating was appearing alongside Mark Wahlberg’s pecks for you?
Steve Carell: No, I wouldn’t say that. I will say that had a great sense of humour about sort of poking fun at his own image. And, was I intimidated? Why no, of course not. I don’t want to be attractive, it’s nothing I strive to look like or be [laughs]. So yes, in fact I was.

Q. What are your own date night experiences like? Are they – as it says in the production notes… watching the babysitter settle in cosily with envy while you go off out?
Steve Carell: That’s true, I think Tina actually has said the exact same thing so I will give that to her. My wife and I, our best date nights involve staying in, ordering a pizza and watching TV. Sometimes you’re just so exhausted from everything that has transpired that week that the last thing you want to do is go out and have dinner. Or talk… But I think it’s important, Tina and her husband use the term ‘rallying’ to gain the strength and the wherewithal and the energy to go out and do it. But I never regret it, going out and actually experiencing some private time with my wife is nice, because I like her.

Q. What lengths did you go to please your partner before you were married… and even now?
Steve Carell: Reality television. I was not a reality TV fan, and my wife loved watching certainly reality shows, and I have since fallen in love with those shows just by virtue of repeated viewings. I have become involved with the characters, and the relationships. So, it turned out well [smiles].

Q. How long have you been a fan of Cyndi Lauper, has she heard that sexual fantasy line and were there discarded alternatives to that line?
Steve Carell: I hope she does hear that line, because that’s the only reason I said it. I want to put it out in the ether, and see what happens. I have always been a big Cyndi Lauper fan. I remember a time when people were choosing sides between Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, and I was a Cyndi Lauper guy, I have to say. And I still am.

Q. Were there alternative lines?
Steve Carell: I think there were, but I don’t remember. That was the most pure, that one came from the heart.

Q. What rates as your worst date night experience?
Steve Carell: Well, I went on a triple date with two of my older brothers to a Jethro Tull concert. I think the rest speaks for itself. It did not work out well and ended with a handshake.

Q. Have you been surprised by the comedy ability of some of the serious actors you’ve worked with, such as Mark Wahlberg and Ray Liotta in this?
Steve Carell: Something I thought he [Wahlberg] did so well in this, and he’s known for being a dramatic actor specifically, was that he didn’t try to be funny. And I think that was key. The character didn’t need to be funny, he was funny because he took himself seriously, he took the situation seriously and did not put on a shirt. But he never commented on it as a character, and I think that’s a real credit to him as an actor, that he understood that that’s what was funny and yet he never pointed to it.

It’s nice to find dramatic actors… because I think some dramatic actors feel pigeon-holed and want to bust out and do a comedy and do something funny, but the inclination at times I think is to try to be funny. As opposed to just playing the character and be assured that the comedy will follow suit.

Shawn Levy interview

Read our interview with Tina Fey