Of the many strengths on display in Bennett Miller‘s new movie Foxcatcher (and there are no shortage of those), perhaps the greatest is the performance of Steve Carell. Back when I saw it at the New York Film Festival (and really was struck by it too…it’s not quite in my Top Ten, but it’s a three and a half star movie and hovering somewhere around my top fifteen), I finally got to see just how strong Carell was playing John du Pont, and over the weekend I got the chance to chat with him a bit about the performance. You can see the highlights of our short conversation below, but it was a refreshingly honest interview, which I’m always a fan of (funny too, though I kept out most of the joking back and forth moments that we had, just in the interest of keeping a focus on the movie). You’ll see what I’m talking about momentarily, but Carell is just terrific in Foxcatcher. The film opens this week in limited release before expanding in the coming weeks/months and should contend for a number of Academy Award nominations.
Here now are the best bits of my talk with Carell:
On being a major part of the Oscar race and his thoughts on potentially getting an Academy Award nomination:
–Steve Carell: Oh, well thank you very much. I’ll be honest with you, it would be really exciting. You can play coy and you can downplay the whole thing (laughs), but even being discussed is very exciting and humbling. Yeah, but I’ll be honest with you, it would be mind-blowingly exciting for something like that to happen. I don’t know. I’ll admit it, it’s exciting, even the thought of it. Whether that happens? Who knows, and you can’t get ahead of yourself in any way, but I’m so happy that the movie is resonating. I’ll tell you what though, I’m more happy than anything that Bennett (Miller) is getting his due, since it’s something that he’s lived with for eight years and it’s his, regardless of what we all do individually in it, the movie works because of him. I’m really proud to have had the opportunity to work with him. I just think he’s really smart and special. That to me is sort of the best part, that he’s been able to make these rounds and soak some of it up. It’s just great.
How Bennett Miller conceived this with almost somewhat of a comedic mindset:
SC: I agree with Bennett when he says that it’s potentially something that’s funny until it isn’t funny, and then it’s not funny at all. And then, you know, if it doesn’t end the way that it does, it could be a comedy, because it’s based on this eccentric millionaire who decides that he’s a fan of wrestling and invites these world class wrestlers to his estate and positions himself as coach, knowing nothing about the sport, and that’s absurd. Um, but because it ends in tragedy, it’s not a comedy. I know that Bennett and I both agree that there are absurdly funny elements to the story, but obviously none of it is played for comedy. I think it’s a story that surprises people too, even people that are familiar with the story from years ago. It still surprises them.
On his prosthetic nose informed his character and performance as well as how it impacted his interactions with others on set:
SC: You know, du Pont had a very distinctive look and that was the whole idea. I mean, when you talk about specifically his face and how his nose looks, I think it informed him. I think he was kind of a strange looking guy, and, um, it’s kind of a strange thing to talk about, you know? You kind of run the risk of sounding very pretentious about it all going “yes, it informed my character” (laughs). I did sense it though. When I got into hair and makeup on sense, I did sense that other people responded to me differently. At the end of the day when I was out of makeup, there was obviously a different vibe going on, and people got a different sense of me. I didn’t even have to be doing anything! I think, just the feeling of that look was naturally off putting to people, and I think what it did more than anything else was organically separated me. I definitely got the sense that people were not comfortable around me, and so I just sort of hung out on my own for the most part while we were on set. I actually believe that wound up being a beneficial thing too.
Expanding on the look of the character and how that contributed to the mindset of the man:
SC: du Pont didn’t register as a leader of men, and he wanted to be desperately. That’s part of what I think is the sadness of the character, he yearned for something he wasn’t capable of achieving…I just felt he was an incredibly sad person, and someone who didn’t have the tools to do any better than he was doing.
Those were the main highlights of my short interview with potential Oscar nominee Steve Carell. Foxcatcher comes out on Friday and is a must see folks, particularly for his performance alongside Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum (who are both great as well). Don’t miss it.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!