It's only fitting that red-hot Steve Carell (The Office, The 40 Year Old Virgin) takes over the starring role in Evan Almighty, the sequel to the 2003 hit comedy Bruce Almighty. Carell practically stole Bruce Almighty out from underneath the film's star, Jim Carrey, while playing a rival newscaster/co-worker of Carrey's who loses his ability to speak coherently when Carrey (as Bruce Nolan) uses his temporary divine powers to mess with Carell's character's mind. This time around, it's Carell's character Evan Baxter who gets a visit from God (Morgan Freeman) with a special request: Build an ark and warn everyone of an impending flood.
The Appeal of Revisiting His Evan Baxter Character from Bruce Almighty: Carell signed on very quickly once he was approached with the idea of starring in a Bruce Almighty sequel. Carell says he did so mainly because of director Tom Shadyac. “The first movie I ever did was Bruce Almighty and Tom took very good care of me. And it was funny, when I went to the premiere of that I had no idea I’d even be in the final cut. It was right here at the Universal Amphitheater and I remember going and sitting there, and there my scene was intact. I had so much fun doing it and it was sort of a dream.
A couple of years before I got the part, I remember watching Liar, Liar. I was watching the outtakes and Jim Carrey just making everybody laugh, and just how much fun they looked to be having. Then two years later it was exactly and then I was in the outtakes. And then the chance to work with Tom, again, sort of on a one on one basis, was like a dream come true. It was, how the last few years came about, was very surreal for me. He actually came and pitched it to me. I thought that he was going to pitch the idea of a sequel, starring Jim, and then maybe featuring me as, you know, another ‘thorn in his side’ sort of character. But then when he said, ‘We’d like you to play the title role,’ I was like, ‘You had me at Hello.’ I was totally there.”
Starring Opposite Morgan Freeman: Although Freeman played God in Bruce Almighty Carell never had the opportunity to meet him on that set. Carell recalled, “I saw him from a distance at the premiere, but I was far too nervous and shy to approach him and say, ‘Hi.’ I was almost too shy to approach him on this one as well. He’s just a presence. He walks around and people have a great amount of respect and reverence for him, really. He’s such a fantastic actor and all you want to do is be around him. He’s the type of actor I think, the best kind, because he makes everyone else he’s with better than they are. He’s great. Could not have been sweeter and has an enormously good sense of humor about himself.
In the past couple of years I’ve worked with Alan Arkin and Juliette Binoche and Catherine Keener, and I’ve worked with Morgan Freeman. These are people who I hold in such high regard, among others that I’ve worked with. But, yeah, he’s one of those sort of iconic people that I think anyone would love to get to work with at any point.”
Ark Building 101: Carell never received any formal training on how to actually build something as large as the film’s ark. “I think one day a guy said, ‘This is an auger. And you put it here and you press down here.’ I didn’t get any training. I am so not handy. There is no way. It would take me several hundred years to build one of those ribs for that ark. The amount of work that would take even a skilled master carpenter to stand… I mean, imagine this room - and we are in a large viewing room - the ark was maybe twice as wide as this and 450 feet long. The structure and just the magnitude of this project. And for Tom, it was very important for him to actually build it and he was right. We were talking about it early on and he said that in his mind he had this idea of me at night in front of the ark and it’s just this massive, hulking thing. It’s almost like another character in the movie. You just couldn’t get that if you did it as a computer generation or a backdrop of some sort. But, no, I could maybe build a boat the size of this table that would then sink. No way.”
Improvising with Wanda Sykes: Sykes said about 90% of her lines in the film were ad-libbed, including her scenes with Steve Carell. “I was so close to ruining so many of her takes, because she just makes me laugh,” said Carell. “She was doing one scene where she was on the phone, just calling in, and Tom had her just riffing doing different lines over and over and over. I literally had to leave the room because I was going to ruin what she was doing, because it was so funny. She’s sort of beyond funny. She has a very sarcastic, biting sense of humor, but in person, very warm, very sweet, kind. Kind of a gentle soul that you don’t necessarily see. I hope I didn’t pull the curtain aside on who she really is, but she was great. Really fun.”
Dealing with Kids: Carell’s character has a difficult time dealing with his three children, but what’s life at home like for the married father of two? “My kids are angels and never do anything wrong and are never aggravating and are perfect in every way, except…,” joked Carell. “No, I have a three and a six-year old, so, I think everybody goes through that. The kids in the movie are bit older than mine. But yeah, I mean everybody goes through problems and difficulties and brattiness and where to draw the line.
It was interesting too because we sort of bonded with the kids who played our kids in the movie, because we spent a lot of time driving around in that Hummer. They were just in the back seat and there were times when they would not stop. They were like doing [stuff] and they were getting dirty. They were telling dirty jokes to each other and they were laughing. We were trying to do a take and they’d be all over the place. So, Lauren [Graham] and I sort of became the parental figures. It was like, ‘Okay guys!’ It was like good cop/bad cop. I was generally bad cop with the kids. We got along really well with them. The kids were almost as good as the animals.”