‘I Love Lamp’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About Steve Carell on His Birthday
We’ve seen him play a 40-year-old virgin who thinks breasts feel like sandbags. We’ve seen him depict the world’s not-so-greatest greatest boss. He has loved lamps, loved minions and loved showing off his dark side in films like The Way, Way Back and Foxcatcher. Steve Carell’s career is one of an actor able to shed his comedy persona and fit into almost any genre, yet for someone with so much on-screen dynamics, he’s pretty mellow in real life.
On the Frat Pack legend’s 61st birthday, here’s a list of trivia about the actor who nailed his Anchorman audition with that intense and infectious laugh...
Carell Went Up Against Some Heavyweights For the Role of Michael Scott
Not only did Paul Rudd try to dissuade Carell from auditioning for the U.S. version of The Office — “Ugh, don’t do it. Bad, bad move. I mean, it’s never going to be as good,” Rudd told him at the time — but there were some big names vying for the part of Dunder Mifflin’s chaotic boss. Actors like Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt and Bob Odenkirk were all being considered, but according to executive producer Ben Silverman, Carell just had that “Midwestern-accessible, lovable comedic energy, like the great primetime sitcom stars of the 1950s and 1960s.”
He Almost Had Beef With a Baboon on Set
Carell once told the tale of his improv skills almost getting him into trouble with a baboon on the Evan Almighty set. “There was a scene where these two baboons had to hand me lemonade when I was building the ark,” Carell explained. “And one of them spilt the lemonade, so I improvised and said something like, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing?’ The baboon went crazy. He thought I was being aggressive, and he got mad and bared his teeth. I continued with the scene, and later the animal trainer came up to me and said, ‘Look, don’t do that — don’t improvise with the baboons, and don’t look them in the eye!’ And I thought, well, maybe he should have told me that before I started the take! That was pretty funny. I’m not sure if that’s in the final cut of the movie, but when you talk about real, organic moments, that was very real.”
He Considered Becoming a Lawyer
Before getting into acting, Carell played around with radio broadcasting while majoring in history (he was known as “Sapphire Steve,” the WDUB DJ during his freshman year). It was during this time that he considered going to law school, but when asked why he wanted to be a lawyer, Carell realized that he didn’t have an answer. “I had never considered acting as a career choice, although I’d always enjoyed it,” Carell shared. “I enjoyed hockey and singing in the choir, and I didn’t think of them as potential careers, either. But I began to realize I really loved acting and telling stories. Reading a book, watching a movie, going to a play, it’s transporting and very, very exciting. And to be a part of that, creating things with your imagination, whoa.”
This realization led to him moving to Chicago — “I wanted to learn, and I wanted to work, and I figured Chicago was the best place to do that” — where he would eventually join the Chicago comedy troupe, The Second City, and kick off his career.
His First Commercial and First Feature Film
In 1989, Carell starred in his first commercial for Brown’s Chicken, “now cholesterol-free.”
Two years later, he would make his feature film debut playing Tesio, a waiter, in Curly Sue.
One of His Early Roles Was in a Soap Opera
In 1996, Carell was cast as a member of The Dana Carvey Show, but few folks know that he also appeared in All My Children that same year, playing Cecily Davidson’s “friend from cyberspace” buddy, Squidhead.
A Fan Once Accidentally Struck Him With Her Car
“I actually got hit by a car a couple weeks ago,” he said about a bike ride on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I was riding a pretty fast road. I made a turn, and I didn’t see the car behind me, and they hit me from behind. So I went up over the handlebars. It’s a weird experience because everything just slows down. I thought, ‘Well, I’m gonna tuck and roll.’ And I rolled, and I got up, and I was fine. Luckily, everything was fine. The woman who was driving the car jumped out. She was distraught, obviously, and I went over to her, and my bike was sort of stuck under the front of her car, and she’s saying, ‘Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! It’s Steve Carell!’ She was so excited that she hit me. It was really kind of a fun experience, a fun fan encounter.”
David Copperfield Taught Him How to Do Magic
Carell played a magician in 2013’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and in preparation, he and Steve Buscemi learned from David Copperfield himself (who has a cameo in the movie). The famous illusionist taught the two actors “The Hangman” trick, which sees a person supposedly being hanged. Carell said they had to sign a contract, swearing they’d never reveal the trick’s secret. He also learned a couple of basic sleight-of-hand tricks and said that the stunt involving him and Buscemi inside a large transparent box hanging in the air over the Las Vegas Strip was petrifying.
He’s Got Musical Chops
It turns out that Carell is quite impressive on the fife, a high-pitched aerophone instrument or, as he called it on The Jonathan Ross Show, “the least sexiest instrument in the world.” Carell learned to play the instrument as a kid and went on to do quite a few war reenactments using his talent.
Netflix Approached Carell With the Idea for ‘Space Force’
Rather, Netflix didn’t even have a premise, only a title. “They called and said, ‘Would you be interested in pursuing a show?’” Carell told Entertainment Weekly. “They had no premise; it was just the name. The notion of this new military entity was funny to me, so I called Greg Daniels and said, ‘How would you feel about doing a show on Space Force with me?’ And he jumped in immediately. It was just a very, very simple notion.”
Steve Martin Had a Big Influence on Him
Carell didn’t grow up wanting to be a comedian or make people laugh, but he does think that he subconsciously tapped into all that while listening to comedy albums as a young boy. “Especially George Carlin and Steve Martin — over and over, I’d listen to those routines,” Carell told Esquire. “I think what I didn’t realize at the time was that I was studying. I was trying to understand what made them funny, why I enjoyed it so much, what they were doing with the language, what they were doing with the misdirection. Steve Martin, in particular, his brand of comedy was so different and so absurdist that I really took to that immediately. But I never thought of myself as particularly funny.”
The Famous Michael Scott Line Carell Came Up With
Jenna Fischer revealed on The Office podcast, Office Ladies, that Carell came up with the “I have egg in my Crocs” joke on the fly. “It was very hard not to laugh, but it’s true,” the actress told her podcasting partner, Angela Kinsey. “We couldn’t get the egg to splash in the same way every time, so I could not laugh because this was a one-er. We would have to use a whole take. We couldn’t cut between different takes because the egg would be different.”
He Broke Up With His Wife in a Movie on Their Real Anniversary
Nancy Carell has often appeared alongside her husband on-screen, and the two of them — who met while performing with Second City — played a married couple who breaks up in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. “She gets to leave me right at the beginning!” he told Parade. “They used the take where her shoe came off in the car, and she bolted across that field with one shoe on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her run that fast. We shot the scene on our 17th anniversary. (The director) got us a cake, and the crew sang ‘Happy Anniversary’ to us. It was very sweet, a very special night.”
Carell Isn’t Sure ‘The Office’ Would Work Today
Carell not only thinks that reviving The Office is just a bad idea, he also believes that it wouldn’t be accepted today as it was more than a decade ago. “The climate’s different,” he explained. “I mean, the whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior. I mean, he’s certainly not a model boss. A lot of what is depicted on that show is completely wrong-minded. That’s the point, you know? But I just don’t know how that would fly now. There’s a very high awareness of offensive things today — which is good, for sure. But at the same time, when you take a character like that too literally, it doesn’t really work.”
Carell Doesn’t Think Of Himself as Cool
“Like most people, I have painful memories of trying to fit in as a child,” Carell once wrote in O Magazine. “I wore, said and did pretty much what everyone else did. My goal was to not stand out in any way. I aggressively homogenized myself. I did not aspire to be ‘cool.’ That was the lofty stuff of a Clint Bajakian or a Paul Slye-classmates of mine. I wanted only to avoid being ‘uncool.’ A second-tier matador doesn’t worry about vanquishing the bull; he concentrates on survival. So was my approach to ‘coolness.’”
On the Backstory of Brick Tamland (Or Rather, the Lack Thereof)
When once asked about the deal behind his absurd Anchorman character, Carell laughed and said that Brick Tamland was an anomaly. “I think the less that’s revealed about Brick Tamland, the better,” Carell mused. “Brick can get away with doing anything because there’s no frame of reference to his life in any way. So he can appear at his own funeral, or he can just pull out a gun from the future or be holding a hand grenade for no good reason. Characters like that are really fun because they’re just such wild cards. On Anchorman, the first one, I had almost no lines. I was obviously a member of the news team, but Adam McKay would tell me to just make a comment at the end of the scene. And I’d say whatever came to mind. And generally, it wasn’t related at all to what was going on. It was some sort of flight of fancy in this guy’s head.”