Steve Carell: cool with bright spots
Best known for playing the boss in the US version of The Office, Steve Carell is reprising his turn as the crazy weatherman in Anchorman 2. And yes, he’s just as nice as he seems, writes Tara Brady
Steve Carell (left) with fellow funnymen Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Will Ferrell at the Sydney premiere of Anchorman 2
It would involve only minor overstatement to say that when Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was released in 2004, nobody knew who the heck Steve Carell was. Come to think of it, not many people knew who he was in the immediate aftermath of that film either. Initially only a modest hit in the US, Anchorman built its cult success slowly and steadily via repeated screenings in dorm rooms and bachelor pads. Indeed, many future Anchorman nuts were, on first viewing of the picture, surprised to discover that it features that bloke from The Office. You know. The guy everyone says is so darn nice.
Sure enough, in Anchorman, Steve played the crazy weatherman, Brick Tamland, whose random outbursts suggest a combination of Dadaist poet and confused infant.
Of course, you all know this. How could you not? For the past month, as Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues rises from the deep, a publicity machine has been stomping across the planet with ruthless efficiency. Unless you live in a cave. Oh, scratch that. If you live in a cave, Will Ferrell has probably called round to do a skit with the local bears.
The campaign reached its Irish zenith with a Dublin premier that suggested Nuremberg without the goose-stepping. Enforced jollity was all about. A gospel choir sang Afternoon Delight.
A day later, an exhausted numbness hangs over the hotel where we have gathered for interviews. In a moment more surreal than anything in the film, Ferrell, still clad in pyjamas, pops his head round the door and, after a bleary apology, makes his way towards his own inquisitors.
And here blinks Mr Carell. He’s not an obvious candidate for mass celebrity. Neater than the neatest button, hair crisp as a boy scout’s, he comes across very much like the friendly calm in the middle of an uncontrollable storm.
“My suitcase is in New York,” he says of his nice, neat backpack. “This is my subsidiary suitcase. The trick is to try to keep things unwrinkled.”
I think they have people in posh hotels to do that stuff for you. That’s what posh hotels are for. Right?
“Yes. They do. I should take advantage of that.”
Good grief. He really might be as nice and unpretentious as they say.
So, what on earth did he make of that hoopla last night? Armistices have been celebrated with less furore.
“It was so great. Everyone was so happy,” he says. “There’s such goodwill for this movie. Anything that makes people so joyous can’t be all bad. And it makes all of us happy. The first one was a genuine phenomenon, in that nobody saw it coming. It was a little movie that we all did; it was one of the first films I ever did. So I was ecstatic to be in a movie at all. And to work with those guys and become friends?”
So we’re not overstating the situation? Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy – a very funny, very chaotic send up of TV news in the 1970s – really didn’t much register on its first tour of cinemas?
“There was almost no theatrical life,” he nods. “It did okay in the US. It wasn’t a big hit or anything. It didn’t play in very many places. I’m not even sure if it was released anywhere else. This time around we have this huge promotional push. In the US, the film is everywhere. And almost in spite of that people are very genuine, very earnest in their desire to see it. It’s such a silly, dumb, ridiculous movie. It’s so strange to talk about it in any kind of serious way. It’s hard to deconstruct the success of Anchorman.”