"In real life, people don't walk around telling jokes to each other," Carell says. "That, to me, is not what's most funny about real life. Real human situations and responses are what really make me laugh. When you hear a joke — and it depends on the context and the movie — you feel like you're being set up that way and manipulated. I never like that in a movie. I would much rather buy into a character and laugh at what they're doing as opposed to how funny they're trying to be."
Julianne Moore, who has won Oscar nominations for roles in such dramas as "Far From Heaven," ''The Hours" and "Boogie Nights," believes Carell's approach works, regardless of genre.
"Steve has got a kinetic acuity like nothing I've ever seen," she says. "It is effortless — or seemingly effortless. ... He's great at connecting and noticing things that are going on around him."
"Crazy Stupid Love" is the first film produced by Carell's production company, Carousel Productions. As a producer, he picked the directors, contributed to casting and had input on keeping the tone of the movie as realistic as possible — using "treacle cutters," he says, to weed out sentimentality. In one low-point scene for his character, his wife leaves and it begins to rain. Carell improvised a self-conscious line: "Ah, what a clichÉ."
Carell is producing a documentary on the last six decades of comedy, to be hosted by David Steinberg. Upcoming acting jobs include co-starring with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in "Great Hope Springs," another tale of marriage woes. He will also play a magician in "Burt Wonderstone," and he recently shot the independent romantic comedy "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" with Keira Knightley.
Carell, who hasn't been credited as a writer since a few 2006-2007 "Office" episodes, plans to write more now that he has time. He knows wistful emotions might kick in when, in a few weeks, "The Office" returns to production for its fall season without him, but thus far, he's relishing his new period — particularly his time with his kids.
"It's been great," he says with a smile. "It's been exactly what I hoped it would be."
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