Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was the first film Steve Carell worked on after leaving The Office, and if it's indicative of what we can expect from his post-Office career, Carell made the smart choice in deciding to concentrate on his movie career. A surprisingly touching tale of life on Earth as the human population prepares for an apocalyptic event, Seeking a Friend finds Carell playing a man desperately trying to reconnect with the love of his life before the world comes to an end.
In NY to talk about the Focus Features release, Carell discussed his character, his canine co-star, working with Keira Knightley, and how he interpreted this story.
On shooting a scene with his wife on their actual anniversary:
Steve Carell: "Yeah, it was literally our wedding anniversary. She’s playing my wife, we get the news of the end of the world and she bolts out of the car. She also shoots me this look that I frankly am not unfamiliar with - a really scary dagger eye look. That was fun and [writer/director] Lorene [Scafaria] got us a cake and everything. It was sweet. It was nice to be able to spend our anniversary together at least."
On what supplies he'd look for if the world were ending:
Steve Carell: "Certainly I would be foraging for junk food, things like Twinkies and Ho Hos because at that point, nutrition, who cares? You know what was interesting to me, people talk about actually surviving. There’s a character in this played by Derek Luke who’s a survivalist and he’s going to go down into his basement. We examined the actual effect of what would happen if an asteroid the size of New Jersey hit the earth and there would be nothing left. The earth would spin off its axis and implode. So foraging after the fact wouldn’t really be part of the scenario."
On his first impression of the script:
Steve Carell: "I loved the script. It was a script that I could not stop thinking about because it was absurd and funny, but there was also a real tenderness to it. There was a haunting quality to it as well. But, you know, there’s a scene in the movie - and I don't know why this sticks in my mind - when they’re driving and they just drive by a yard sale. The thought that somebody would be having a yard sale with less than two weeks left, and people were going and buying things, like life somehow is going on even within the confines of this time period. There was just something very haunting to me about that and something very human. That was just appealing to me. I really liked it and I liked her. I think she has a very sort of wicked sense of humor, and I liked that it was equal parts of that darkness but also that sort of uplifting light quality to it."
On the Mayan Calendar and whether he considered it while working on Seeking a Friend:
Steve Carell: "Oh yes, by all means. I think it’s all going to come to an end. Pleasure to have known you... There were some people on set that actually did put a lot of credence in those things. The movie was freaking them out, frankly. Just being on set, they were like, 'Oh no, this is a bad vibe that I’m getting.'"
"What I kept saying to this friend of mine who was kind of freaking out about it, 'Suppose that is true. What can you do about it?' You can get all twisted up inside and feel miserable or not. So it is a cavalier approach but there’s nothing we can do, so you just try to have fun and live your life and enjoy it as you can. I think the movie itself is a metaphor for just that. You really have to embrace life and you have to live it to its fullest, all those things that we all know already but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of."
Is the film a metaphor for anyone facing death?
Steve Carell: "It’s an interesting way to look at it, that everyone is in the same boat. Just being in the same boat doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is going to react in the same way. My character starts out by continuing to go to work because that’s his default setting, because that’s what gives him comfort and structure. And the cop later in the movie, it’s the same thing. Some people feel like they need something to make sense of it all and their job is what gives them that sense of security. Other people go do drugs or have an orgy in a chain restaurant. I think it’s an interesting examination of how individuals might react to the same sort of thing."
On working with the dog his character takes care of for the last weeks of their existence:
Steve Carell: "Horrible. Horrible experience. Just a rotten, rotten animal. He was fine. You know, he’s very sweet. Unfortunately not the best breath in the world. He was very cute. There were actually dogs that played Sorry. One was quite good. One was very sweet and they called the hero dog, the dog that they use for all the big great takes and he was just a charmer. And the other dog was sort of an awful thing. The other dog was pretty nasty."
On who he'd call or want to hear from when the world is ending:
Steve Carell: "Obviously it’d be nice to talk to my parents and my brothers. I think in that way a lot of the movie rings true. The fact that Penny [played by Keira Knightley] gets to talk to her parents and connect to them, which I think is a beautiful scene. I think she does it so well that you really feel them on the other end of that line and you get a sense for that longing and that heartache. And how high the stakes are raised for a moment like that. You try not to acknowledge it, but that’s it. That’s the last time you’re going to be doing this. I don't know, that sort of thing resonated with me as well."
On working with Keira Knightley:
Steve Carell: "She’s great. She’s sweet and we got along famously. She’s obviously a great actor and I think makes everybody better who acts with her. But just kind and normal and funny, very unassuming. I just saw her for the first time in a while when they held up the computer and she said hello. She’s just a sweetheart, love her."
On his scene with Martin Sheen:
Steve Carell: "You know what? When he came on set, everyone was on pins and needles and a little bit intimidated, and he immediately puts people at ease and is really kind and self-deprecating. We didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse. It was a very low budget movie so we just kind of got there, shot it, and then we moved on and shot another location. He was, from the first take, just kind of transcendent. Again, when you’re with somebody like that, you can’t help but be engaged and be better than you really are when you’re acting opposite somebody like that."
On whether he'd ever return to The Office:
Steve Carell: "You know, do you really want to see Michael Scott back on The Office? Here’s the thing. I think people think they want to see that but ultimately they don’t. I firmly believe that. I think in their mind, they want to see the big wedding with Holly Flax. I don't think so. I don't think people really want to see that. Again, I think they think they do but ultimately in the execution, I would venture to guess they wouldn’t."
On being back with the gang for Anchorman 2:
Steve Carell: "We just got together and did this pre-trailer, this early teaser trailer, and we hadn’t been in those costumes or together as a unit in I think nine years, and it was a ball. So it’s going to be fun. They just turned in a script. I think we’re going to start filming in February or March, so it’ll be fun."
On what his Anchorman character 'Brick' has been up to since we last caught up with him:
Steve Carell: "I don't know. I haven’t read the script. I have no idea what they have in store. I’m hoping that he has not evolved. I think of all the characters, he should be the one that has evolved the least. I think he’s just exactly as he always was, I hope."
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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World hits theaters on June 22, 2012.