Steve Carell Builds a Movie Career as Deadpan Leading Man

by Anne Thompson
August 2, 2010 8:12 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood
Here's a taste of my latest Career Watch examination of the impressive Steve Carell, who can seemingly do no wrong.

With 19 films under his belt, sweetly bumbling comedian Steve Carell is on a roll as he ditches his hit TV series 'The Office' to star in more movies. Who can blame him? So far he's three-for-three in 2010, and pulling in $12 million paydays. 'Dinner for Schmucks' opened well, 'Despicable Me,' in which he voiced lovable megalomaniac anti-hero Gru, is a summer animated hit, and romantic action comedy 'Date Night' launched him as part of a popular new movie team with ace comedienne Tina Fey. Does he have the momentum to continue his film success and join the ranks of TV actors-turned-film-stars like Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey and Robin Williams?

Thompson on Hollywood

Biggest Problem: While Carell is currently in that magical fluke zone in which audiences are loving whatever he does, that career window can be dismayingly short for comedians. For other major comedy stars, from Carrey, Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams to such brilliant screen idiots as Rowan Atkinson, Peter Sellers and Steve Martin, the trick has been making the near-impossible transition from dundering guffaw-getter to leading man. As the lovably retarded taxidermist in 'Dinner for Schmucks,' Carell knows how to make moviegoers split their sides laughing; it's much more difficult to widen his appeal as a dramatic actor or romantic lead.

Next Step: Warner Bros' family comedy 'Crazy, Stupid, Love,' co-starring Julianne Moore and Emma Stone, is in the can, due out in 2011. There's talk of a Peter Segal 'Get Smart' sequel and a remake of the 1967 Peter Sellers film 'The Bobo.' Carell is developing a number of projects as a producer that may or may not get made or involve his acting, including 'Hi-T,' 'Juvenile,' 'Mail-Order Groom,' and 'Missing Links.' DreamWorks has attached him to its acting comedy 'Raised by Wolfs.' And 'Little Miss Sunshine' directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton have attached Carell and Sandra Bullock to their long-in-the-works indie drama 'The Abstinence Teacher,' about a divorced sex-ed teacher in Middle America at odds with a born-again soccer coach.

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More: Genres, Career Watch, Comedy

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