GET SMART On Set Interview – Steve Carell

     April 29, 2008

Last year, when “Get Smart” was in the middle of being made, I was invited, along with a number of other journalists, to Warner Bros. in Burbank, so I could watch some of the filming and interview Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway on the set. My quick thoughts on the day…this is going to be a very funny movie. Very funny.

If you aren’t familiar with the movie yet, “Get Smart” is an action comedy that stars Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as his partner – Agent 99. As you can probably tell by the name, the movie is based on the show from the 60’s, but it’s been updated with a modern twist. In the movie, the headquarters of Control (the agency where Steve and Anne work) has been attacked and compromised, so it’s up to the newly promoted Maxwell Smart to figure out who is responsible and stop the evil group Kaos from completing their goal of world domination. Needless to say, comedy ensues.

Since I don’t want to bombard you with too much “Get Smart” coverage before the interview begins, tomorrow night I’ll be posting a report on what I saw and what being on the set was like. But until then…

While I post a lot of interviews on Collider, what I really like about on set interviews is how fresh everything is, so the actors are usually very excited to talk about the project. And you can tell as you read the transcript below, both Steve and Anne were very happy with how the project had been going, and their enthusiasm is evident as they talk about their roles.

And with Steve Carell back in May of last year, that’s exactly what happened. We ended up not only talking about the movie, but the scene we had just watched being filmed and a lot more. If you’re a fan of Steve’s, you’ll like this interview as he’s quite funny…like always.

As usual, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the interview as an MP3 by clicking here.

“Get Smart” opens June 20th at theaters everywhere.

Question: So a little more bumps and bruises than The Office?

Steve Carell: Oh, it’s very similar. It’s lots of…bumps and bruises. Honestly it is completely…I never thought in a million years I’d be doing anything like this. It’s crazy and just so much fun. I mean, I’m an action guy now so that’s going to be my new career path. I’m going to get really bulked up and just do action movies.

Question: Do you see yourself as the next Schwarzenegger?

Steve Carell: Oh, without a doubt. I think I’ve already taken that mantle.

Question: I heard in Variety and Reporter that they’re coming after you for Terminator 4. Is this true?

Steve Carell: We’ve already shot it. It’s already in the can and I’ve been shooting it on the weekends when I’m not doing this or The Office, but yeah, it’s just fun and I say that to Anne every day. How the heck did we end up in this? This is (he says thank you to someone handing him some water) a commercial for Crystal Geyser? I’m sure they’re our sponsors. I’ll palm it so you can’t see what kind of water I’m getting. No, it’s just really, really fun and very silly but one of the things that I wanted to do is have my initial sort of pitch when they were talking about tone with this was that it be sort of a comedic Borne Identity. That was tonally what I was hoping for and I think so far it’s kind of hitting that. We’ll see.

Question: You’ve also played a lot of guys in suits whether they’re anchormen or office workers or secret agents. What do you think is this predilection towards suits?

Steve Carell: Well, first of all I sleep in a suit. That’s just me personally. I have 80-90 suits in my closet and that’s all I wear. I don’t know. Because I went from the Daily Show where I was a fake news guy on a fake news show to Bruce Almighty where I played a news guy to Anchorman where I played a news guy, now I’m…yeah, I tend to gravitate towards suits. I don’t know. Apparently people just want to see me in a suit, because clearly they don’t want to see me in the nude so probably a suit is the best bet.

Question: Obviously, you’ve been going from The Office to Evan Almighty back to The Office to this. You shot another movie with Dane Cook.

Steve Carell: Dane Cook and Juliette Benoche and me. No one would ever think to put those 3 names together. But yeah, we shot that in the fall in Rhode Island.

Question: How are you doing it all without just collapsing?

Steve Carell: It’s really not…I guess the secret is that it’s not that hard but people complain about it a lot. Frankly, we show up and we have 100 foot trailer with a bed in it where you can take a nap and you have people who will get you food. It’s really, really cushy so I wouldn’t even think to begin to complain about working, overworking and frankly I also know…I’m also the sort of guy who’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So when it does I want to have done as much work as I could have possibly done in that time period. I want to do good stuff but I just don’t want to do a bunch of crap and make a lot of money. I also know that it could all disappear tomorrow so I’m just trying to enjoy it in the day. It’s been fun. They’re all been very different kinds of movies, too, like the Evan Almighty was this huge sort of epic thing and lots of hair and makeup every day and then Dan In Real Life the movie with Dane and Juliette was a romantic comedy which was much more low key and this is somewhere in between. Action comedy I guess you’d call it but yeah, they’re all different so no I haven’t…and my kids run me ragged. That’s really the most tiring part of my life. I have a 3 and a 6 year old.

Question: How would you compare you Max to the original?

Steve Carell: The original’s better. That’s all I’ll say. It’s…how can I compare them?

Question: What did you want to do with the character?

Steve Carell: Well, I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to do an impression of Don Adams. I don’t want to channel him but I want to do the character justice. I think a mistake and I was talking to Leonard Stern about this and when I came into it, I don’t want him to be…is my light not so good? I don’t want the Maxwell Smart character to be perceived of as sort of a bumbling idiot. He’s not an Inspector Clousseau. He’s proficient and he can take care of himself. He’s sort of gets the job done counter intuitively but he gets the job done. In the original series he could fight and he wasn’t an idiot but he was certainly eccentric and he was a very much by the book, straight-laced sort of guy and that’s more of the tact that I’m taking. That’s the approach that I think will set it apart from being a spy spoof, which I never really saw the original series as. I don’t think it’s a spy spoof.

Question: What do you think it is?

Steve Carell: I think it’s a spy comedy but I don’t think it’s necessarily…I don’t think it’s spoofing the whole idea of spy’s. It was more, in my opinion, a comment on the cold war and international relations and that sort of thing. In terms of the movie, specifically I really didn’t want it to be perceived of as a spoof. I think spoofs as a genre have been done and done well but that’s not what I was interested in doing. I thought if these characters sort of exist in a semi real environment, sort of a parallel universe it might exist on some level. I think then the comedy will be funnier if there’s a sense of jeopardy and a sense that the bad guys are really bad guys and not just cartoons, I think there’s more to be mined from that.

Question: We saw in the scene you were shooting today there is an issue of timing the joke with the action. Has that been difficult for you?

Steve Carell: There’s so many people involved with something like that. That big explosion—that obviously I have no control over delivering the line and having something explode behind me exactly on cue and that just speaks to the fact that those guys really know what they’re doing and we did one take of that because frankly, we could do it 50 more times and I don’t know if timing wise it could have gotten better than that. Which I think puts a lot of—I don’t know pressure-but a lot of responsibility on everyone’s shoulders individually because you know Dean Semler is an Academy Award winning cinematographer and our set designers are Academy Award winners. You know we have people who are truly gifted artistic people. These are not hacks. My responsibility and I think all the other actors feel that responsibility to live up to that and to try to do our job the best we can, but also to just have fun, because, you know, it’s Get Smart. It should be just fun and so far everybody I have to say is having a ball. This is…I think this is the most fun I’ve had doing anything. Every day we just laugh like little kids.

Question: For someone who hasn’t seen the TV show, what’s this movie about? Who are these characters?

Steve Carell: For this version of the TV show, first of all it’s set in a as I said before sort of a parallel world in which one of America’s secret spy organizations is called CONTROL and their nemesis spy organization is called KAOS who extensively are out to take over the world and each side has various characters that go up against each other. Eccentric, crazy some silly, some very serious. The version that we’re doing is more of an origin story in terms of where this character of Maxwell Smart came from. How he came to be a field operative. We just thought that would be an interesting way into the story as opposed to just picking him up on his journey.

Question: And how does get into this business of…

Steve Carell: Well he starts…he works for CONTROL at the beginning of the movie but as an analyst and he’s invaluable because he speaks many different languages and he’s essentially a tech nerd. He listens to chatter and he can assimilate information and he’s very good at that. He gets great reconnaissance done from the office but his goal and dream has always been to become an agent. But he’s never stepped up, but some things transpire that enable him to step into that position and he finally gets his chance at sort of an advanced age.

Question: What did you do to prepare physically for this role since it’s an action movie and I know that Dalip is 7 foot three.

Steve Carell: Ju Jutsu for 15 years. Thai Kwan do for the last 8 months straight 8 hours a day. I’ve been working out. Frankly, I knew some of these things would kill me if I didn’t. There are some stunts in this that Pete, our director, will say um, do you think you can do that and of course 50 people are standing around and you say yeah, sure. Hang me up by the ceiling and I’ll fly in and smash against the side of the bus. It’s been really fun, again the people that are doing it like hanging you from wires and crashing you into things are so good that I have a very high level of trust. You kind of have to in order to commit to it. To be able to sort of act while you’re hanging 30 feet in the air repelling off of an airplane or something.

Question: Any accidents happen on-set yet? Or pranks?

Steve Carell: No. Not so far. Pranks? I’m trying to think. Well, not so much a prank but Anne Hathaway has started the Alan Arkin Fan Club and she had t-shirts printed up with A-squared FC on them—black t-shirts and she’s giving them to a bunch of women in the crew and they’re kind of walking around being his sort of female fan base. I think he loves it.

Question: We just watched you do several different versions of the same line sort of an improv kind of thing. Have you been improving a lot on this film?

Steve Carell: Yes, it’s call DVD extra because none of that stuff will see the light of day. It’s like yeah, try another one and I’m thinking to myself they’ll never use this. This is so going to be…you know. This is what it turns out to be is that they have a four-disc CD of bloopers. It’s fun. You never know. You can get it as scripted and its fine and then if you go fishing a little bit and try a few more. Pete is always very amenable to that and yeah, its fun to play around and just see what other sort of attitudes….because also I think it’s giving him an option when he starts to edit. He’s not sure exactly where the tone will be at a certain part of the movie or what you’ll need. Will you need a joke or will you need something more serious? So to give him some options to play with is always helpful.

Question: You also gave him R-rated material for the unrated version.

Steve Carell: R-rated? Yeah, that’s more for me than for anybody else it’s because sometimes there’s some stuff clearly on NBC that you’re not going to see but there is some really foul language that does not end up in some of those scenes that has been nipped and tucked. You know part of it honestly is? It kind of adds a buoyant feel to the crew in general. At the end of sort of a long week and if you sort of get silly even if you know that’s not specifically going to be in the movie or a piece of it might be it’s worth it because it sort of energizes everybody and yourself. Just to have fun and try to make everybody laugh. That’s kind of the crux of that.

Question: Anne mentioned that she was signed for 2 movies. Are you signed for 2?

Steve Carell: I’m signed for 14 movies.

Question: Also, we might have seen a little bit of a clip of a montage they were showing.

Steve Carell: Oh you might have?

Question: Yeah.

Steve Carell: I heard that you were skirted away. You are not allowed to see. How much did you see of it?

continued on page 2 ——>


Question: I saw enough to know that you look like you enjoyed yourself in this movie and it looks like its going to be a lot of fun. But I wanted to ask about the fat suit. We saw I think a fat suit—a sort of gray suit. How was acting in that fat suit?

Steve Carell: Actually it’s more comfortable that you would think. It’s made of essentially foam rubber and the day we shot that incidentally was the day that the hill here was on fire. We were outside and they were saying “hey um, do you mind doing the obstacle course scene—it’s a little smoky but literally it’s like … I am never going to breathe again after today. Yeah, the guy who does that was also the special effects makeup guy in Evan Almighty. Dave Anderson and he’s done all our special effects makeup on this movie and there’s some pretty amazing bits that you’ll see when they allow you to see the entire thing. I think they just didn’t want to give away any spoilers that might be kind of in there. But I saw that—it was for a party that we had and I saw it for the first time just before the party and I think the reasoning behind editing that together was again, to keep moral up and get the crew and cast to see what…see the fruits of their labor and where it’s going and people were so excited. I mean, it was a half-way through party and you could just feel spirits raise up after that. For me personally, it was very exciting because it was much more…and Leonard Stern they were showing it to him and there’s much more action. You read the action on the page but then day to day I got the sense that I think it will be very funny. But then when I saw what they put together it’s funny but it’s not goofy silly action it’s real. It looks like an action movie which I think is pretty cool. It’s got me psyched.

Question: When you hear there’s going to be a Get Smart movie you start running through your head of all the things that you loved about the show and what’s going to be in it and so things like…

Steve Carell: And I’m not allowed to tell anything.

Question: …the code of silence and stuff like that. Do you have any of those cool gadget things.

Steve Carell: I’m not telling.

Question: Anne told us the shoe phone’s in it.

Steve Carell: Oh, then it’s all in.

Question: Are you a big gadget guy in real life?

Steve Carell: No, God I’m so the opposite of a gadget guy. I don’t text, I don’t have a Blackberry. Literally, I just have a cell phone that I haven’t programmed and the whole Bluetooth. No. I don’t even have an earpiece for my cell phone.

Question: Is it in your shoe?

Steve Carell: It’s not in my shoe. Buy yeah, with the shoe phone they had a very, I thought, clever way of incorporating the shoe phone into the movie in terms of why would that technology be in a modern day movie. People want to see that and I frankly wanted to use it. They were able to incorporate it seamlessly in terms of why this guy would use one.

Question: Can you talk about next season? You guys are being moved to 9:00 on NBC on Thursdays and that’s the iconic spot that many shows have occupied. Does it mean anything to you?

Steve Carell: It means that we are now a historical show. It will go down in the annals of history.

Question: Are you going to make The Office movie?

Steve Carell: The Office movie. How boring would that be? God. Just florescent light for a hour and a half. Everyone was very excited about that move and it’s a huge vote of I think NBC has bought 30 episodes this season so they’re very, very serious about it. We’re starting with 5 1-hour episodes so they’re really throwing a lot of resources behind it which is interesting because 3 years ago we were hanging on by a thread. I think we had an order for 4 and so it was something they were just going to stick in and see if it kind of worked. Honestly I think Kevin Reilly had everything to do with that. He’s been a champion of the show since day 1.

Question: Can you comment about Max’s relationship with 99?

Steve Carell: What would you like me to comment about?

Question: Where does it start and where does it evolve to?

Steve Carell: It is a hyper, hyper sexual relationship and the movie will be triple X. It’s a totally different take on Get Smart. Actually that makes me start thinking what would the porn version of Get Smart be? Like what names would you come up with? You’ll have to wrack your brain. I’ll spend the rest of the day thinking about it.

Question: You don’t want to get us started.

Steve Carell: It starts I think as you’d think it would start which is sort of acrimonious. 99 is a very seasoned spy veteran and I’m the new guy in town and completely inexperienced in terms of any sort of field agent stuff. It kind of starts from there. It’s friendly, competitive but there’s a certain amount of animosity and rubbing each other the wrong way, and, of course, what blossoms from that but love. So you know that’s essentially how it starts. It’s a comedy too so I don’t think any of it is taken too seriously.

Question: The original series had famous catch phrases. Do you think that while you’re shooting—do you feel anything any of your lines might hit big as a catch phrase?

Steve Carell: Any new lines? We’re certainly not throwing things out there as if we’re thinking they would be catch phrases because I think that’s death in a bottle. If you start thinking, ah let me say this like it’s going to be a catch phrase, there’s not a chance in hell it ever would be. I have no idea. I don’t think we’d know until it comes out. 16 year old boys across the country maybe saying hooskerdoo. I don’t know. I have no idea. There could be and that would be great. Incidentally those—because there are a few of those from the original kind of seasoned you know sprinkled through and those are very—they’re challenging to say because you don’t—I don’t want to say them with like a Don Adams—I don’t want to do an impersonation and yet it’s all you can hear. It’s the only voice you can hear. When you say “would you believe” you just hear his voice so it’s kind of like striking a balance between incorporating it into like sort of a new character but keeping an essence of the original one.

Question: Are you tempted to do his voice at times?

Steve Carell: Um, not really. Sometimes it’s the voice you just hear in your head and I think there’s a kind of stiffness to the character that sort of parallels what he was doing. But I don’t know. We’ll see about our new found catch phrases.

Question: PR person: On that note actually we need to get him back to the set.

Steve Carell: Thanks guys.

Question: Thank you so much.

Steve Carell: A pleasure.

Question: Season finale tonight.

Steve Carell: Oh season finale tonight, yeah.

Question: You were great as yourself in Knocked Up.

Steve Carell: Oh, I heard that is great. I heard it was hysterical, I haven’t seen it yet.

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