After years of wanting it so very badly, this is Steve Carell's first time. So please, be gentle with him.
Following a decade of near-anonymous supporting work on such fertile comedic ground as "The Daily Show," and films like "Bruce Almighty," Carell is finally receiving his own coming-out party with the irreverent comedy "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (see "Rewind: In Hollywood, At Least, 'The 40 Year-Old Virgin' Has Been Around"). And, according to the real-life 42-year-old, he couldn't be more proud of the movie that will finally deflower him of his leading-man virginity.
"[We were careful] not to get too deep with it. It's kind of a fun, silly, sweet movie," Carell said recently.
He said it's this sweetness that allows the film to steer toward "There's Something About Mary" and "Napoleon Dynamite" charm, while proudly sporting the kind of R-rated bawdiness that would make even Deuce Bigalow blush.
"The jokes are a little more left-of-center," agreed Paul Rudd, who teamed up with Carell and Will Ferrell for last year's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." "['Virgin'] is not sophomoric for sophomoric sake. There's actually depth to these characters, and you also kind of care about this sweet relationship that's happening, simultaneously to us talking about our balls."
When Rudd's David and friends Jay (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) set out to transform Carell's Andy Stitzer from dork to Don Juan, the character goes through a great deal of pain while navigating man's age-old attempt to make it to the promised land (see "Steve Carell Comes Of Age In 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' "). In order to show the audience that he wanted success as badly as Andy did, Carell insisted on adopting a Brando-esque Method approach to physical comedy.
"I just went for it," the actor remembered of an instant-classic scene that has Andy getting his Sasquatch-like chest waxed for a big date. "There was no anesthesia. There was no stunt chest. We had an actress who kind of doubled as a chest waxer, and I just thought it might be funnier if it was real, and so we took a shot."
"Man, the reaction shots they used in the movie were our actual reactions of watching it," said Rogan, saying such realism is what gives the largely improvised film an "Old School"-type feeling of laid-back camaraderie. "I was just trying not to vomit all over him because of how horrible it was. ... It was like watching someone having something removed from their pelvis."
"I had no idea it would be as painful as it was," Carell winced. "It really stung."
In order to further develop his penetrating performance, Carell teamed with co-writer/director Judd Apatow (TV's "Freaks and Geeks") to research man's horizontally challenged friends: action figures.
"Women don't find that sexy," Carell said of Andy's prized collection of toys, all carefully presented in their original packaging. "If you walk into a person's apartment and it's floor-to-ceiling action figures, it's just not conducive to delightful lovemaking."
Carell does stick up for one of Andy's behavioral shortcomings, however, saying women need to be more forgiving of men who ride bicycles. "It's very eco-friendly," he laughed, "love the environment, love your partner ... that one could go either way. I think riding a bike might actually be kind of sexy, apart from the fact that studies have shown it to lower your testosterone because, you know, clearly where the bike seat is situated [it causes] such stress down there. It might not be conducive to having children, but in terms of the act it might be fine."
When Carell looks back someday on his own first time, he says, it will always be special because of the way that he peppered the "Virgin" script with his own personal and painful dating memories. "That whole run of 'You should ask questions,' " he cited as an example. "There's a scene in the movie where Seth Rogan's character encourages me to ask questions of this very hot woman who works in a bookstore.
"That came from my dad," Carell smiled, referring to the scene in which Andy's reply of "Do you like to do it yourself?" turns the woman's attempt to sell him a do-it-yourself book into a sexually charged pickup line. "That was my dad's advice to me on my first date, because I didn't know what to talk about, or how to be glib or funny or any of those things. He said, 'Just ask her questions about herself, and at the end of the night, she'll think you were the most scintillating conversationalist in the world.' "
With his first time now behind him, the up-and-coming actor is looking forward to another leading-man vehicle with the big-screen adaptation of "Get Smart," and joked that the cast is even thinking about the possibility of bringing Andy onscreen again.
"We're going to do 'The 80-Year-Old Virgin,' [teaming Carell] with Ruth Buzzi," Rogan joked.
" 'The 41-Year-Old Whore,' " laughed Carell, thinking that Andy could spend the next movie making love to increasingly older virgins. "That would probably be the sequel."
"It's not too late," he said of a potential poster tagline: "It's now."
By then, the former second banana might be a jaded old pro. But he promises that this first time is going to be special — and you can even tell your friends about it afterward.
Check out everything we've got on "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."
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