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Steve Carell in Dan in Real Life.
© Touchstone Pictures
Steve Carell Talks About Dan in Real Life
Steve Carell (The Office) stars as family advice columnist Dan Burns, a widowed father who's dedicated to taking care of his kids, in the romantic comedy/drama Dan in Real Life. Dan is trying his best to keep everything in control, but his life is turned upside when he meets and falls for Marie (Juliette Binoche) only to quickly discover she's dating his brother (Dane Cook)...
Waiting for the Big Emotional Breakdown: Dans got so much going on in his life that the film kind of sets up the typical breakdown scene but, surprisingly, it never happens. Asked if he was waiting for that, Carell replied, Only in my personal life. Well, I dont think the story lent itself to a big, emotional breakdown. In my mind hes a guy who is just doing his best to get through, and get by, and raise three daughters by himself, not someone to wallow in self pity. [Hes] just someone who has put other people and other things ahead of himself, and kind of loses a part of himself in the process. Thats the element of the movie that I can identify with, and I think a lot of people can. I love my kids -- I have two little kids -- and I love them more than anything. I put them ahead of any of my own personal needs, and I think people tend to do that. But theres a danger there, I think, of losing a part of yourself and not taking care of your own needs, which I think can then affect them, because you want to give your kids the best possible version of yourself. If you dont feel complete and full yourself, then you cant do that for them. I think thats what this character was going [through].
Stretching Those Acting Muscles: This role is very different from his last film, Evan Almighty, and his next movie, Get Smart, in terms of the emotional depth of his character. Its a different thing, its just a different sort of muscle I think, explained Carell. I dont think its any more or less difficult, but theyre just different. Do I enjoy it more? No, I think I enjoy them equally.
Playing Michael Scott [in The Office] is a very different sort of character, and a fun character to play. But, again, the show has a different tone to it than, say, a movie like this. I think of it as the tone, I think of it as what the movie calls for, what this situation calls for, and I just wanted to make this guy as truthful as I could, as honest as I could.
Theres only one scene in the film in which Carell comes close to breaking down, and thats while hes singing and playing the guitar. Carell joked about how he was able to capture that emotion. I was just thinking about how bad my voice was, and it just made me cry." Getting serious, Carell credited his co-star with helping him get it right. "Well, I think you gain a lot by being with somebody like Juliette [Binoche] because shes very engaging. She was off camera, but she was there. She was always there, as was the rest of the cast. Any time that the camera is not on you or is not on everybody else, everybody else stayed so you could get a sense for what was going on on the other side. Shes incredibly engaging and I think whatever I was feeling was coming through looking at her.
Playing a Dad in Dan in Real Life: In the film Steve Carells the father to three girls. Playing dad wasnt particularly difficult for Carell who hit it off with the actresses who play his kids onscreen. Well, theyre really good actresses and it didnt feel too distant to me. I have a six-year-old daughter, and being around a nine, a 15 and a 17-year-old girl just felt like my life accelerated by a few years, and the fear inherent in that. Its scary. Its scary to be around these pre-teen teenagers who are making that transition between childhood and adulthood and are full of all of these hormones and thoughts and angst. I can only imagine what its going to be like for me and my kids.
Carell says he really is frightened when he thinks ahead about whats to come. Im incredibly scared, because you dont want to be overprotective, revealed Carell. You want to let them make their own mistakes. I dont want to wrap them in a cocoon of security, because thats not going to help them either. So you have to gauge how protective you are. At that point, you know, when theyre little kids you worry about them getting hurt physically. When they get older, you worry about them getting hurt emotionally. Thats going to be hard because they will get hurt emotionally and theres nothing you can do about it. I think thats what the character is going through. He doesnt want them to get hurt because hes hurting. He doesnt want them to feel the way he has felt. He wants to protect them, but at a certain point you cant and you have to let them make some bad moves.
Sticking to the Script: Carells used to improvisation however he was happy to stick to the script in Dan in Real Life. We play around with the script a lot on The Office and didnt so much with this. No, I think its just a different discipline. It was much more like doing a play because Peter [Hedges] comes from a theatre background also, and when you do a play you dont improvise the lines. You do them as scripted and you rehearse, and we rehearsed our scenes. We set them up. There were a lot of very big group scenes and that can be a disaster if you start improvising within a 15 person scene. So they were scripted to the point to make them look unscripted, you know what I mean? Which I think really speaks to the quality of the writing. They were written in a way that didnt sound written.
On Filming in Rhode Island: It was great, said Carell. I was only like an hour and fifteen minutes away from my parents house so we did a lot of visiting. They came down and spent some time on the set. It was great. And fall in New England is a beautiful place. It was nice. Theres a quality to the air and a crispness that made me think a lot about my childhood. It was great; it was nice to be back.
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