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On the Set of 'Get Smart' with Steve Carell

By Fred Topel

On the Set of 'Get Smart' with Steve Carell

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in Get Smart.

© Warner Bros Pictures

May 5, 2008 - While on the set of the Warner Bros Pictures’ action comedy Get Smart, The Office star Steve Carell admitted he’d never even dreamed of taking on a role like Maxwell Smart prior to being cast in the movie. “I never thought in a million years I’d be doing anything like this,” admitted Carell. “It’s crazy and just so much fun. I mean, I’m an action guy now so that’s going to be my new career path. I’m going to get really bulked up and just do action movies.”

Carell takes on the role of Maxwell Smart, an employee of the US spy agency CONTROL in the feature film version of the 1960s TV series which starred Don Adams as Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. Get Smart the movie is an origin story that explains how Maxwell Smart became an agent and provides the scoop on how the partnership between Max and Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) came to be.

Steve Carell Interview

Do you see yourself as the next Schwarzenegger?
“Oh, without a doubt. I think I’ve already taken that mantle.”

I heard they’re coming after you for Terminator 4. Is that true?
“We’ve already shot it. It’s already in the can and I’ve been shooting it on the weekends when I’m not doing this or The Office. But yeah, it’s just fun and I say that to Anne every day. ‘How the heck did we end up in this?’ No, it’s just really, really fun and very silly. But one of the things that I wanted to do is my initial sort of pitch when they were talking about tone with this was that it be sort of a comedic Bourne Identity. That was tonally what I was hoping for, and I think so far it’s kind of hitting that. We’ll see.”

You’ve also played a lot of guys in suits, whether they’re anchormen or office workers or secret agents. What do you think is this predilection towards suits?
“Well, first of all, I sleep in a suit. That’s just me personally. I have 80-90 suits in my closet and that’s all I wear. I don’t know. Because I went from The Daily Show where I was a fake news guy on a fake news show to Bruce Almighty where I played a news guy to Anchorman where I played a news guy, now I’m… Yeah, I tend to gravitate towards suits. I don’t know. Apparently people just want to see me in a suit, because clearly they don’t want to see me in the nude so probably a suit is the best bet.”

How would you compare your Max to the original?
“The original’s better. That’s all I’ll say. It’s…how can I compare them?”

What did you want to do with the character?
“Well, I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to do an impression of Don Adams. I don’t want to channel him, but I want to do the character justice. I think a mistake and I was talking to Leonard Stern about this and when I came into it, I don’t want him to be… I don’t want the Maxwell Smart character to be perceived of as sort of a bumbling idiot. He’s not an Inspector Clouseau. He’s proficient and he can take care of himself. He sort of gets the job done counter-intuitively, but he gets the job done. In the original series he could fight and he wasn’t an idiot, but he was certainly eccentric and he was a very much by the book, straight-laced sort of guy and that’s more of the tact that I’m taking. That’s the approach that I think will set it apart from being a spy spoof, which I never really saw the original series as. I don’t think it’s a spy spoof.”

What do you think it is?
“I think it’s a spy comedy, but I don’t think it’s necessarily spoofing the whole idea of spies. It was more, in my opinion, a comment on the Cold War and international relations and that sort of thing. In terms of the movie, specifically I really didn’t want it to be perceived of as a spoof. I think spoofs as a genre have been done and done well, but that’s not what I was interested in doing. I thought if these characters sort of exist in a semi real environment, sort of a parallel universe, it might exist on some level. I think then the comedy will be funnier if there’s a sense of jeopardy and a sense that the bad guys are really bad guys and not just cartoons. I think there’s more to be mined from that.”

We saw in the scene you were shooting today there is an issue of timing the joke with the action. Has that been difficult for you?
“There’s so many people involved with something like that. That big explosion—that obviously I have no control over, delivering the line and having something explode behind me exactly on cue. That just speaks to the fact that those guys really know what they’re doing. We did one take of that because frankly, we could do it 50 more times and I don’t know if timing-wise it could have gotten better than that. Which I think puts a lot of - I don’t know, pressure - but a lot of responsibility on everyone’s shoulders individually because you know Dean Semler is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer and our set designers are Academy Award winners. You know, we have people who are truly gifted artistic people. These are not hacks. My responsibility and I think all the other actors feel that responsibility to live up to that and to try to do our job the best we can, but also to just have fun, because, you know, it’s Get Smart. It should be just fun. And so far everybody, I have to say, is having a ball. I think this is the most fun I’ve had doing anything. Every day we just laugh like little kids.”

What did you do to prepare physically for this role since it’s an action movie?
“Jiu-Jitsu for 15 years. Tae kwon do for the last eight months straight, eight hours a day. I’ve been working out. Frankly, I knew some of these things would kill me if I didn’t. There are some stunts in this that Pete, our director, will say, ‘Um, do you think you can do that?’ And of course 50 people are standing around and you say, ‘Yeah, sure. Hang me up by the ceiling and I’ll fly in and smash against the side of the bus.’ It’s been really fun. Again, the people that are doing it, like hanging you from wires and crashing you into things, are so good that I have a very high level of trust. You kind of have to in order to commit to it. To be able to sort of act while you’re hanging 30 feet in the air repelling off of an airplane or something.”

Page 2: The Shoe Phone, Improv, and Max & 99's Relationship

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