STEVE CARELL (Foxcatcher)

by Silvia Bizio December 31, 2014

Yoram Kahana/HFPA

A funnyman with multiple Golden Globe nominations (seven, with one win in 2008 for his television role in The Office), Steve Carell turns deadly serious and multi-layered in Foxcatcher, a career-defining performance that sees him cast startlingly against type as recluse delusional billionaire John Du Pont.

An actor of many skills, whose quite and gentle demeanor hides a surprising strength, character and versatility, Carell plays the eccentric billionaire, heir to an industrial family's massive fortune, who wants to start an Olympic wrestling training facility in his Pennsylvania "castle" in the Bennett Miller’s remarkable drama.

With his prosthetic nose and heavy makeup, Carell is virtually unrecognizable; certainly a world away from the goofy Michael Scott in the American remake of The Office. And yet Carell is more than able to make the bizarre Du Pont a tragic figure, hapless and dangerous at the same time. His performance is rightly considered by many, one of the best of the year.

The Massachusetts-born 52 year-old started his career as an actor with the Second City improvisational comedy group in Chicago where he also taught. He made his film debut in Curly Sue (1991). In 1996, he became a cast member of The Dana Carvey Show (1996). For many he would subsequently become a household name as a one of the inept reporters on The Daily Show.

He's admittedly a man of habit: still loves his wife of 19 years, Nancy, and their two children. He was surprised to be chosen by Miller in the Du Pont role, but adds: "I guess nobody expected Du Pont to kill anybody, so it made sense to put someone totally un-suspicious like me in that role: to take the audience by surprise. I had no idea if I was going to be able to do that or not: I just trusted the director and his trust in me."

Foxcatcher was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival last May, and Carell recounts his "out of body experience": "I was on the red carpet on the Croisette with my wife, film music playing, glamour all around me. I couldn’t believe it! I don't want to go back to Cannes, because it can never be that good again."

He's enjoying this special moment and all the accolades he's receiving for Foxcatcher. "My dramatic turn is to me the funniest thing so far in my lucky career," he says. "Perhaps my luck comes from my lack of expectations: I don't pretend much by myself or the others, and let things happen, humbly accepting what comes to me."

He actually has been more pro-active recently, such as presenting a project based on a novel to which he bought the rights to a "big gun" director. "First time I try to step up and 'promote' myself," he says of the still unnamed project. "I was never that clumsy. It's really not my turf, but this is something I really care about."

Next for him will be a thriller directed by Gore Verbinski. "No, I'm not playing a serial killer ... not yet," he says. In the meantime he's getting ready for the Globe night at the Beverly Hilton. "It's going to be a lot of fun, with all you guys from all over the world: the European side of me will be celebrating with gusto. Maybe I'll get a little drunk and act stupid."

Silvia Bizio