Steve Carell Talks FOXCATCHER, The Positive Critical Response, If He Stayed in Character on Set, What Helped Him Prepare for the Role, and More

     December 22, 2014


Now playing in limited release is one of my favorite films of 2014: director Bennett Miller’s (Moneyball, Capote) Foxcatcher.  With career best performances and phenomenal direction, the film tells the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), and their troubled relationship with eccentric millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell).  The film also stars Sienna MillerVanessa Redgrave, and Anthony Michael Hall.  For more on Foxcatcher, watch the trailer, read Matt’s review, or click here for all our previous coverage.

At the Los Angeles press day I landed an exclusive interview with Steve Carell.  He talked about the positive critical response, if he really stayed in character on set, how the outtakes of the John du Pont documentary helped him get ready for the role, and a lot more.

foxcatcher-steve-carellCollider:  First of all congratulations on the movie, you’re fantastic, the movie’s awesome, but now let’s get to the most important thing. As someone else from Massachusetts, how many times have you been to the Dunkin’ Donuts in LA?

STEVE CARELL:  Where’s the Dunkin’ Donuts in LA?

On 12th and Wilshire.

CARELL:  Did they just open it?

A few months ago.

CARELL:  Because I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts truck in LA.

Yeah, it was probably doing a delivery. They’re expanding now in LA. There’s a location People Camped out.

CARELL:  Oh, I Looked into it. I looked into a franchise, but they were only selling-

I spoke to you about this! Or John Krasinski, and all these guys were talking about doing it.

CARELL:  Yeah, years ago.  The idea was let’s get a bunch of Boston based guys, we’ll try to open one, and all the proceeds go to charity.

On Sunset at the old Tower Records.

CARELL:  Was that the idea?

Yes, that’s what he told me.

foxcatcher-poster-steve-carellCARELL:  I didn’t even know the location. But that was the idea, and Dunkin’ Donuts balked at it, they loved the idea of a Dunkin’ Donuts out here, and they loved the idea of celebrity endorsement [laughs].

[Laughs] They’re going to love the fact that we’re talking about this right now. I’m a huge fan because I grew up in Massachusetts, so it’s in my blood.

CARELL:  Yeah, me too.

I’ve been there a few times already to the one here in LA. It’s actually reall good.

CARELL:  Is it busy?

It was, but now you can go in and its not bad. But it was hours of a wait at first.

CARELL:  Well yeah, anybody from the East Coast is going to be – it’ll be all over the place.

Yeah, they’re opening more locations. I live in the valley and they’re opening in the Valley and it’s going to be great.

CARELL: It’ll be great.

I’m very excited.  Now let’s get into Foxcatcher.  I’m sure this was a daunting role and a little bit nerve wracking.  What is it like now with everyone raving about the movie and praising your performance? What is it like on the other side after putting in all that energy and time?

CARELL:  It’s great!  I’ll tell you what’s the best part of it, to me, is the acknowledgement that Bennett is getting.  It’s a movie that he’s lived with for 8 years, I think, and the fact that now he can make the rounds and meet people who are embracing the movie, I love it.  I love the fact that he’s been able to absorb that.  It’s exciting.  When we went to Cannes, no one had seen the movie.  I hadn’t seen the movie with an audience, and the way it was received was shocking, I think, to everybody involved.  And I never want to go back to Cannes because it was perfect.  I was with my wife, and it was this magical sort of getaway for the two of us, and the movie played well, and everybody seemed to like it.

It was this kind of perfectly encapsulated moment.  It’s been great, to say it simply.  It’s been very, very gratifying and I think we’re all really happy that it’s being received the way it has been.

I read that you stayed in character a lot on set.  Is that true? Not true?

foxcatcher-steve-carell-bennett-millerCARELL:  Um…[laughs] I’m so reticent about saying that I stayed in character because it sounds like the most pretentious–

No.  If Daniel Day Lewis can do it…

CARELL:  But to even say my name and his name in the same sentence is a little pretentious in itself.  To a degree, yes.  It was a very moody set.  Bennett set this tone.  It was not glib, there wasn’t a lot of small talk, there was nothing frivolous about it.  Everyone took it extremely seriously, and I think within that we all kind of stayed in our own little places.  Not that we couldn’t have conversations.  That’s a hard thing to answer.  To a certain extent yeah, I guess I was.

When I was younger I used to hear stories about people staying in character and I would always be like, “Oh please. What’s going on here?”

CARELL:  I know!

But, as I’ve learned about the craft and spoken to more actors and understood what it takes to really put your heart and soul into something, I’m actually surprised more people don’t do it.

CARELL:  It wasn’t the type of movie that you laugh and you fool around, and then they yell “action” and you snap back into these characters and these situations.  The mood of it really permeated the set, and the fact that Mark Schultz was there and Nancy Schultz was there from time to time gave us this sense of responsibility and a certain soberness to it all.  I think within that, yeah, we all – out of respect for these people and for Bennett, and for what we were trying to do – we kind of tried to stay in that space.

When making a movie that deals with historic true facts, you’re balancing making a movie with also being honest to the moment and what really happened.  How difficult was it?  Talk a little bit about balancing that line.

foxcatcher-channing-tatum-steve-carellCARELL:  I guess it’s more of a Bennett question, because he wasn’t making a documentary about these people.  I think there’s a certain leeway that he gave himself with the characters and with the story.  At the same time, I think, he was very aware of the details, of how the wrestling looked.  You can’t fake wrestling.  It’s not like stage fighting.  People really have to do it.  Channing and Mark trained for 6 months, 7 months, beforehand and they trained after every day.  The locations were apparently very, very accurate and very similar to the locations where these events happened.  We all studied all of these guys.  Channing got to hang out a lot with Mark Schultz.  I studied du Pont and Mark studied Dave Schultz.  To the best of our ability, we tried to emulate who they were.  There was a lot of homework to it.  At the end of the day, it’s just our best interpretation of these people, what they went through, what their relationships entailed.  Again, I think there was responsibility to try to get it as right as we could, and to be as truthful to it as we could.

When basing a performance on a person or on historical events, actors sometimes use one piece of material that they’ve latched on to and constantly revisit it.

CARELL:  Sort of like to cue in to where their characters are?

Yeah.  Was there one or two videos, or speeches, or something that you had access to that you constantly went back to and helped you zero in?

foxcatcher-poster-channing-tatumCARELL:  I’ll tell you, the video that resonated the most with me about du Pont were the outtakes of the documentary he had commissioned on himself.  The documentary itself was very helpful but to see him between takes, instructing the crew and telling the documentarian what he wanted to do, and sitting there going through the lines that he wanted to say, offered a completely different portrait of who this guy was.  That probably was most helpful to me because it gave me a sense beyond what other people saw in him.  There were these very personal, private moments that he never thought anyone would actually see, and that was informative.

That’s the real unedited version of him.

CARELL:  The real unedited version, and it was interesting to see the difference between that person and the person that he wanted people to see.  The person that he wanted to be perceived as.

I have to wrap with you, but I will say honestly man, the movie’s phenomenal.

CARELL:  Thanks so much.

I do hope you make it to Dunkins and support the Massachusetts based operation.

CARELL:  I’m totally there.

For more on Foxcatcher, click here for all our previous coverage and here’s our exclusive interview with Bennett Miller.

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