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Date Night – Steve Carell on having fun just hanging off a car

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Date Night - Steve Carell
Phil’s (Steve Carell) plans for a romantic date night with the wife are all wet © 20th Century Fox, Myles Aronowitz

Steve Carell first gained recognition as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But it was when Carell almost stole the movie Bruce Almighty from Jim Carrey, playing a bumbling newscaster, Evan Baxter, that his career was truly launched. He’s gone on to star in Little Miss Sunshine, Get Smart, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and is in the sixth season of playing the pompous boss of a Pennsylvania paper company, Michael Scott, in TV’s The Office.

He’s currently starring opposite Tina Fey in the comedy Date Night, which tells the disastrous story of Phil (Carell) and Claire Foster (Fey), who venture into New York City for their weekly ‘date night’ away from their children. When they decide take another couple’s reservation for dinner at a swanky restaurant, they are mistaken for the Triplehorns, a pair of thieves, who are being hunted down by two corrupt cops and the mob.

Were you looking for something to do with Tina Fey when this project came up?

Date Night - Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Mark Wahlberg
Perpetually shirtless security expert Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg) comes to the aid of beleaguered couple Phil Foster (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey) © 20th Century Fox

Well, we were both offered it. We spoke on the phone and kind of sussed each other out in terms of what each of us was thinking.

Tina said the funniest thing. She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to just be hanging off a car bombing through New York City?’ I said, ‘Yeah. I’m in. That sounds great.’ (that scene is in the film)

When I heard that she was the other component, and then Shawn (Levy, was going to direct it) I was very eager to do it.

A lot of it seemed ad-libbed, was it?

There were 65 ad-libs (he laughs), and you can probably pick them out! We’d always do the script as written because it was very strong and the script didn’t need to be changed. But then, once we had it to our satisfaction, we’d open it up and play around. So it’s hard to determine what was necessarily adlibbed and what wasn’t.

Do you and your wife Nancy actually do date nights?

Date Night - Steve Carell and J B Smoove
Phil Foster (Steve Carell, left) and an excitable New York Cabbie (J B Smoove) take the ride of their lives through the city’s streets © 20th Century Fox

We’re always happy when we get invited to an awards show because that essentially is it. That’s our excuse to get dressed up and go out somewhere. Even on those nights we’re generally back by about ten. As most people with kids know, you pay for it if you spend, if you really go out late and whoop it up the kids are up at five thirty the next day and then so are you. So that kind of determines how crazy our date nights get. Generally our best date nights are very, very simple and we spend a good deal of them talking about our children anyway. So there is no escape.

Can you talk about the movie’s homage to Forty Year Old Virgin? At the beginning of Date Night you have your Kelly Clarkson bit.

Until you just said that I had not realized that it was an homage to Forty Year Old Virgin. The Breathe Right gambit? I hadn’t even [thought about that]. But I hope to rip something off of my body in every movie I do from now on.

With so many successful movies behind you, did you give Tina any advice as your leading lady?

Date Night - Director Shawn Levy and Steve Carell
Director Shawn Levy and star Steve Carell on the set © 20th Century Fox

Well, first you have to disregard all other people. She has no attitude and there’s no pretense about her, and so I schooled her in pretense. (he laughs) I don’t think that either of have pretense.I can’t speak for Tina but I don’t think we think about ourselves in that realm at all. No. Tina doesn’t need any advice from me.

What is it that you do in real life to avoid kind of boredom in your marriage that Phil and Claire are facing, where you end up roommates with your spouse?

Boy, I knew we would get questions like this at the press junket and I thought that I had prepared but I clearly haven’t. You feel like you’re giving relationship advice and I think that every relationship is so different and so unique. I don’t think there is any sort of blanket advice. For Nancy and myself there’s a lot of laughter. There’s an open line of communication and we just have fun with one another. We never forget to make fun of ourselves and to not take it all too seriously. At least for us that helps, and amazing love making!

Click here to read about Tina Fey working with Steve Carell on Date Night.