By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 3, 2011 at 2:45AM
Making the leap from TV comic to big-screen star has always been a tricky route -- one flop can put you right back to square one, and conversely, the temptation to take every project that comes your way, risking over-exposing yourself, seems to be a common one. There's no denying that Steve Carell's had some missteps since breaking out of "The Daily Show" and "Anchorman" -- "Evan Almighty," "Get Smart," "Dinner for Schmucks" -- but crucially, most of his films, even the less well-received pictures, have performed relatively well at the box office, and he's now a bona-fide A-lister.
Furthermore, now that he's exited "The Office," he's getting more ambitious with his choice of roles. Sure, there's one big comedy, "Burt Wonderstone," with Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Steve Buscemi and Olivia Wilde, which shoots early next year, but he's got more dramas on his slate than laugh-fests at present. He's already wrapped the apocalyptic dramedy "Seeking A Friend for the End of the World" with Keira Knightley, and is currently shooting "Great Hope Springs" with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, while, most excitingly, he's set to shoot both Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" and Charlie Kaufman's "Frank or Francis" in 2012.
And there's one more in the pipeline too, a project that's just found a director, as 24 Frames have confirmed that John Carney, the Irish director of the 2007 sleeper hit "Once," will helm "Dogs of Babel," a drama that Carell's been attached since earlier in the year. The project, based on the acclaimed novel by Carolyn Pankhurst, and with a script by Jamie Linden ("Dear John") that has developed a reputation in the last few years as one of the best unmade ones in Hollywood, would star Carell as a grieving professor who attempts to teach his dog to speak in order to learn the truth about the death of his wife.
It sounds odd, but the script is powerful stuff, and a strong fit for both Carell and the sensitive touch that Carney showed on his breakout film. The Irish director has made two films back home since "Once" wrapped up -- the comedy "Zonad" and the currently-in-post thriller "The Rafters," but this certainly marks his highest profile gig to date, although he's also got the Judd Apatow-produced music film "Can A Song Save Your Life?," with Scarlett Johansson, in the works. Mandate Pictures are producing along with Carell, David Heyman ("Harry Potter") and Sekretagent Productions (who've worked on video games like "Prince of Persia" and "Assassin's Creed"). With Carell so busy, it's unclear when this'll move forward, but with "Burt Wonderstone" and "Foxcatcher" going back-to-back early next year, it's unlikely to be before next summer at the earliest.