The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005) – Q&A with Steve Carell

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Movie Interview by Neils Hesse

Steve Carell plays the lead role of Andy, the 40 year-old virgin.


Did a lot of the stuff in the film come from personal experiences and from stuff that other people told you that they had experienced?

Yes, in fact the whole bookstore scene was based on advice that my dad gave me a long time ago. He said that the best way to talk to women was to ask them questions, it turned out to be very decent advice.

How much of the waxing was real?

A 100 percent of it was real, it was done in one take, we thought that it would be more funny if we had his friends there with him. There was no dialogue scripted, other than the need to have my character scream obscenities when it’s happening to him. The women were very sympathetic about it. I was very macho so when they offered me all sorts of stuff to ease the pain before it was done I foolishly turned it all down. I have a new found respect for the whole waxing regime. My wife was quite horrified, but you see we thought that we could grab more laughs if there were patches on his chest. When my daughter saw my chest she asked me why my chest was smiling at her?

Was it hard to show the pain?

Well like I mentioned earlier it was unscripted, the only idea we had was to have me curse each time a waxing strip came off. The funniest bit for me was keeping the camera on the other guys who were watching their male friend go through all this pain.

Considering the film’s title have people been asking you the inevitable question?

They have asked me again and again. My first time was horrible for everyone involved.

Sorry, you said everyone, who else was there with you?

By everyone I meant us two, no one else. I realized that the whole experience seemed to loom over one’s head for a long time so I felt that that was a good starting point.

So when you lost it again on screen with Katherine Keener what was it like?

It was odd, and it was interesting for my wife to see me kissing several other women, she wasn’t too keen on the whole idea.

What kind of comedy appeals more to you the light hearted stuff like this or the satirically charged stuff like THE OFFICE and did you ever watch an episode of GET SMART?

I like both comedy types and I liked GET SMART, it is a classic TV series. I am not fussy about the type of comedy just as long as it gets laughs – that’s all that counts.

Have you watched the original version of THE OFFICE?

I avoided watching it because I wanted to try to make a new character not just a caricature of Ricky Gervais’ character in the original series.

Why do you play so many news reporters?

I get hired for it. Before I did THE DAILY SHOW I had no notion of actually doing comedy, in fact I started in theatre. THE DAILY SHOW was not a serious news show but it also wasn’t really outright comedy. I just did reports and then started doing comedy as well. Then I was in a Woody Allen movie [MELINDA AND MELINDA] and that was quite shocking for me.

Do you think that your film is going to encourage celibacy?

I heard someone refer to it as “geek chic!” I don’t know all I can say is that we did not have any agenda when we made the movie. We were not trying to make any sort of statement.

Are there any particular comedians you would like to work with?

Not really after working with people like Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell, they are great at what they do. I just go with the opportunities that are given to me. Having said that I would like to work with Ben Stiller and Ricky Gervais but on the whole I think that when you go out of your way to work with some people you might just be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Do you get nervous doing a programme like THE OFFICE?

Not really, we just wanted to make it funny, and now that there is a second series coming up I think that we are getting there.

How do you feel about TV series being made into Hollywood films?

Well it’s like THE OFFICE, we have essentially remade it but I prefer to say reinvention. Like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, and THE FUGITIVE those two almost make you forget the original stuff. So if it’s done like that then it’s a good thing.

How is GET SMART, the movie, in which you star being approached?

I think that they are trying to flesh out the supporting characters a bit more to make it more credible.

So it’s a different direction?

Yes it’s darker and more adult. My character is suicidal amongst other things. It’s not a kid’s movie. It’s more like a Hal Ashby film. The two directors who are editing it are former music video directors, so it will have a distinct visual look.

Can we look forward to a raunch fest on the DVD release of THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN?

We may actually just call it raunch fest, there’s a lot of stuff that we left out. In fact we shot over a million feet of film. It was funny, as soon as we crossed the million mark some people from Kodak came on set with bottles of champagne. Apparently that’s what they do whenever someone uses a million feet or more of their film.

Was there a lot of improvisation?

Yes there was, it will all be there on the DVD.

Did you get in trouble a lot with your wife?

Yes I would get home and sit on the sofa complaining about how tired I was and she would give me a look and say how could I get tired from making out with Katherine Keener all day. She was very understanding, in fact she played the health counselor in the film.

You made the men more vulnerable than men are usually depicted in comedies?

We wanted it to be set in reality, with characters that you would actually care about and within that we also wanted it to be funny, raunchy and sweet.

Why didn’t you get a woman to play the virgin?

Everyone would ask me who’s playing the virgin and whenever I would say “I am”, I could literally hear people’s brains churning away. They all thought that it would be a woman. We just wanted the character to be credible and interesting.

You had to have integrity as a key element of the story especially if you were going to get Katherine Keener on board, right?

Yes we wanted to make the virgin a basic decent guy.

How much information did you get off the virgin websites on the internet?

We got case studies from Universal Studios based on studies of virgins and most of them were just normal people who just missed out on the opportunity to do it and just decided to keep on going without it.