LAS VEGAS — Maxwell Smart is the world's greatest superspy. He has a flame-throwing pocket knife, a hand-size spear gun and a phone in the heel of his shoe. He's a calm, charismatic, bafflingly bumbling fool who always gets his man.
One thing he isn't, however, is Austin Powers.
"If you can believe it, Maxwell Smart has double the mojo," laughed Anne Hathaway, joining a few of her "Get Smart" filmmakers to open up the classified file on this summer's highly anticipated comedy. "I think Austin Powers is more of a complete spoof of [the spy genre]. We're not really spoofing it; we're just being a little silly with it. We're trying to make it funny, but none of our characters know that they're in a comedy. We take our jobs very seriously. ... That's the way we roll."
Judging by the response the film (whose cast also includes the Rock, Alan Arkin and Masi Oka) received at the recent ShoWest festival, they're rolling along quite nicely. Caught up in a packed-room preview that had filmgoers fighting for seats so they could glimpse footage from the likes of "The Dark Knight" and "Speed Racer," the comedy unveiled a hilarious scene that had Steve Carell's Max getting mistaken for a terrorist on an airplane, accidentally piercing himself repeatedly with a tiny spear gun, then finally escaping the plane but forgetting his parachute. The newly glimpsed footage received some of the day's most enthusiastic reactions.
"It's the best attitude to go into a movie: Just try not to make it suck," grinned Carell, a lifelong fan of the classic '60s TV series on which the film is based.
When we visited the "Get Smart" set last year, Carell and company laid out the plan to intermingle punches with punch lines. Now, their new scene revolves around an enormous KAOS agent who skydives after Smart and Agent 99 (Hathaway), engaging in a midair fistfight that would be right at home in a Bond movie.
"[The actor's] name is Dalip, and he is from India, and I believe he is 7-foot-6. He's a big, big dude," Carell said of his evil supporting actor, a WWE wrestler who goes by the name the Great Khali. "Literally, you shake his hand and you are shaking the inner part of his palm. He could put his hand over your entire head and crush you. He's a very sweet guy, but he did not speak English really well. I don't even know if he was completely aware that he was doing a movie."
"Steve and [director] Pete [Segal] decided that they wanted to make a 'Bourne Identity,' but silly and funny," Hathaway said, insisting that her and Carell's lack of stunt experience was a strength. "It totally worked in our favor, because we didn't know what we were getting into."
Their hope is that those who don't watch Nick at Night will discover the time-tested "Get Smart" comedy formula as if it were a brand-new thing. Lifelong fans of the franchise, however, will catch plenty of moments with the movie paying subtle tribute to the beloved show ... and loving it.
Agent 13 Is Back: "That's a secret; how did you find out the big secret cameo?" Carell asked, finally giving in. "OK, yeah, Bill Murray's in the movie. There was a character in the original, Agent 13, who was always found hiding in different locations, and that is the character that Bill plays in this movie. I'd never met him before, so that was a huge thrill when he came on set for his day of shooting." Although Carell wouldn't cough up the unlucky spy's secret location, he confirmed it wasn't one of the more memorable gags from the old show. "I can guarantee you that Bill Murray is not in the toilet in this movie," he grinned. "But he will appear out of nowhere."
Cameos From the Cold War: Segal and his team landed some of the still-living stars from the original show but were ultimately turned down by original 99 Barbara Feldon. "We tried, but she does not perform anymore," the director explained. "[Original Siegried] Bernie Kopell does do a cameo, and Leonard Stern does a cameo — he's one of the original producers and creators of the show."
Meet the New Max: Look for Agent 86 to be even more in-over-his-head than you might remember — if that's possible. "This is an origin story, and it shows Max in the beginning," Hathaway explained. "He's an analyst, and he gets promoted to the rank of agent because a lot of other agents throughout the world are compromised."
You Can't Keep a Dumb Robot Down: "Hymie is in the movie. He was a stolen KAOS technology, and then he was converted into a CONTROL robot," Segal explained, discussing the literal-minded robot who would jump in a lake if you told him to. "It's Patrick Warburton [from "Seinfeld"]. He was born to play the role."
Agent 99 Gets Some Toys: "I didn't get as many gadgets, so I was jealous," Hathaway said, explaining that Max still gets most of the fun. "But I have a special compact that releases gas, so we can see lasers. And I also have something that explodes that's very unexpected — but I'll save that one for the suspense."
And if all that isn't enough for you, Carell let slip a favorite scene that should be quite ... revealing.
"My lingerie sequence is something I think everyone is pretty excited about," he grinned. "I wear a thong.
"It's just this sort of a peekaboo shot, and I have a see-through camisole over it," Carell continued, carrying on the fearless, self-deprecating tradition that had him waxing his chest in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." "I'm very, very proud of my work in my lingerie scene. ... If people don't come to theaters in droves, specifically for that scene, then I have no idea what I'm doing."
Check out everything we've got on "Get Smart."
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