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Steve Carell Builds a Movie Career as Deadpan Leading Man

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 2, 2010 at 8:12AM

Here's a taste of my latest Career Watch examination of the impressive Steve Carell, who can seemingly do no wrong.
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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.

This article is related to: Genres, Career Watch, comedy


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.