As he demonstrated last year with Foxcatcher (Golden Globe nomination) and this year with The Big Short (his second nomination in a row), there is way more to Steve Carell’s acting than just comedy. In The Big Short he shows both manic energy and heart, a story about the individuals who cashed in on the 2008 housing collapse and the subprime scandal.
“I was intrigued by the subject matter," says Carell, 53. "I knew a little about the financial collapse, but after reading the script I started digging and got a lot of information, and got even more anxious about how things work in that field. Another reason I wanted to do this film was working again with writer-director Adam McKay, whom I've known since the 80s: we worked at Second City together. And yes, the cast: Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling. Hey, they are taking me seriously!"
Carell loves everything international, including us, the press, being very much a man from all over the world: Polish on his mother’s side, German and mainly Italian from his father’s side. His grandfather, immigrating to the U.S., changed the family name from Caroselli to Carell. An actor of many skills, whose quiet and gentle demeanor hides a surprising strength, character and versatility, Carell won a Golden Globe, in 2008 for TV's The Office.
After years of comedic roles, his portrayal of deranged billionaire John du Pont in last year’s Foxcacther, was an acting feat: with his prosthetic nose and heavy makeup, Carell was virtually unrecognizable. He similarly disappears into the role of Mark Baum in The Big Short, speaking the language of finance as though it were second nature to him. "Learning the language is always the starting point in building a character," explains Carell.
He started his career as an actor with Chicago's Second City comedy group (where he also taught improv). He made his film debut in Curly Sue (1991). In 1996, he became a cast member of The Dana Carvey Show. He became renowned internationally with The 40-Year-Old Virgin in 2005.
The actor admits to being as surprised when he was cast as Du Pont, as when he was asked to play Mark Baum in The Big Short, but, as he says, "sometimes going against typecasting is the secret for pulling some narrative aces out of your sleeve. I guess nobody expected Du Pont to kill anybody, so it made sense to put someone totally unsuspicious like me in that role: to take the audience by surprise. I just trusted the director and his trust in me. The same can be said for The Big Short in a sense. I'm enjoying my dramatic turns."
Though defining himself as a man "lying in wait" when it comes to roles (“I rarely actively pursue anything," he deadpans), Carell has been more pro-active recently with a project of his own based on a novel to which he bought the rights. "The 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."
He recently was also seen in the drama Freeheld, reprised the voice role of Felonious Gru in Minions, the last installment of the wildly popular animated franchise and is in pre-production for the comedy Battle of the Sexes with Emma Stone.
As for the Award night: "It's going to be a lot of fun at the Golden Globes, as it always is," he says. "The European side of me will be celebrating with gusto and wine with the foreign press and my industry friends. You want to know the secret of my success? I get along with everybody!"