We’ve got on hell of an entertaining interview for you with Dinner for Schmucks leading men Steve Carell and Paul Rudd talked about the real meaning of the word “Schmuck,” what embarrassed Rudd on set and during the press conference, and of course the amazing comedic cast and crew that made the movie so much fun to watch. Though Zach Galifianakis, the comically surprising Lucy Punch and the sex god Jemaine Clement will have you rolling on the floor, the main reason why this film works is the oddly endearing relationship between Rudd and Carell who both come off as genuine, despite their ridiculous circumstance.
Enough of the chit, chat, let’s get to what Carell and Rudd had to say and to begin, lets start with the main point of interest…
The “Schmuck” Controversy
The word schmuck in olden times means something different. Do you think people will actually take offense to title of the movie? Paul what do you think?
PR: Well, go right to the Jew. You know, I was in Schul last Saturday. No, my grandfather used called me “schmuck” all the time! Oh yeah! I think that – I know that you go back to a lot times where words – what they really mean.
Can you tell us?
PR: Penis, right? (laughs) Is that what you’re looking for? I think it’s one of those things. I remember growing up and going, “Oh gosh. Putz is such a funny word.” I would say, “Oh, don’t be a putz!” I remember my dad saying, “Well you know, it actually a putz is a penis.” What’s up, by the way, with all the words for penis? But, it always took on, I think, more of a – not so much a specificity as it does a kind of general, “Oh, you’re being an idiot” or “You’re being stupid.” Whatever it is. Quit acting like a schmuck. So, it was strange being Jewish, and I know that there are some people because I’ve read of a few that might take offense to the fact that it’s Dinner for Schmucks, it wouldn’t have even crossed my that somebody might find that offensive because I just don’t associate it being Jewish.
Deciding to Make the Film
What did you do to prepare for this role? Did you watch the original film?
SC: Really, I approached this the same way I approach The Office. I still haven’t seen the original Office because I didn’t want to do an impersonation of Ricky Gervais. I still haven’t seen the French film because I didn’t want to have that, you know, inform what I was going to do in this one and I tried to look at it as a blank slate. But, I’d like to see it now that the work is done. I have only heard great things.
PR: Yeah, to prepare for this I watched the British Office.
What made you want to work with Jay Roach?
SC: Austin Powers, I think, was one of the funniest movies I’d ever seen and it was such a surprising movie. I don’t know. That’s what first attracted me to wanting to work with Jay.
PR: One of the things I think is amazing about Jay is how versatile he is. He’s done so many funny movies and then something like Recount. He is just such a smart guy. I know it’s horrible, horrible to do to somebody. I will often sing him praises because he has all this talent, and yet he is the most self-defacing guy, and stealthy with his humor, his abilities to write, edit – all these technical – he’s amazing and I was thrilled. I was never able to work with him, but I’d met Jay a few times.
Was there any remarks from the Judd Apatow clan when working with a different director?
PR: No. There was something Seth said and it’s true. There’s the Frat Pack and what are you guys? Seth said, “I think if you look at the series of the actors that we all work with, we’re the Jew-tang Clan.” No one seemed to be too put out by any of this [laughs].
What about this film did you respond to?
SC: Well, working with Jay [Roach]. Working with Paul [Rudd]. Those were enormous factors for me. And I thought – I liked the storyline too. I thought it was – it was funny. It was a little weird. It had a heart to it. I tend to like things that have grey areas to them and it’s like the character Paul played is – here is a guy who is very conflicted, but he’s not a bad guy. But, he is at a moral impasse in his life. I think that’s a really interesting aspect of the story. I just thought – I thought it was a very intriguing storyline and it actually says something very kind, ultimately. That’s what I responded to. It’s a very kind story and a great relationship between these two characters.
PR: Yeah. The people involved. I thought the script was really funny. That was really it. It was kind of a no brainer. I was so excited to get offered the part. Yeah. I loved it. Yeah, that’s it really [laughs].
Actor, Actors, Acting…
You two have a lot of scenes together, what was one of the most challenging things you had to do in this film?
Steve Carell: The most challenging aspect of this? We shot a scene where Paul had injured his back and I essentially – we shot it for about a day and a half – and I had to hug Paul for a day and a half.
Paul Rudd: This job wasn’t easy for anyone.
SC: And to lift him because he was giving me nothing!
PR: No. The only way to sell it is to just go dead weight, I think. [laughs]. Boy, just trying to sustain a performance and not make it – it’s always challenging. I mean anything you ever work at is challenging. Just try and be real and show up and not look like I’m playing at anything. So, I just try and be the character. It’s always work.
Paul, can you talk about playing a straight man in a lot of different comedies and is it hard to remain in character when Steve really goes for it?
PR: It is a challenge not to ruin the take by laughing. I didn’t rise to that challenge on many occasions [laughs]. You know, it’s weird. My definitions of comedy and drama and straight man and all that stuff – they are blurry for me. I don’t really think of it in those terms. It is true that the character I was playing has some horrible stuff happen to him – or not horrible stuff, but things that maybe would not be planned or hope would go a different way – and so, there a bit of you have to be reactive, but hopefully not passive so that it’s constant reaction and that’s tough to sustain over the course of a movie. So you do lots of different things, but I’m thinking of the movie as a whole and the relationship as a whole and not terms, so much, in jokes but just kind of in character driven stuff. I was just trying to operate from that.
Can you talk about what it was like working with Jemaine Clement?
SC: I’d never met him before and I think he’s – he’s fantastic! He is a really good improviser in the sense that you never feel him going for a joke. You never get a sense that he’s waiting for his turn to say something funny or do something funny. He’s really just a part of the scene and always ends up making it better. He’s also a really fine actor. He committed to that character so completely! There was a sense of calmness about him and a sense of inner dignity to the character in the face of its absurdity, which I just loved. He was really hard – he was a hard person to work with and not ruin takes because he was so, so good.
PR: You know it’s funny. It seems like a character that is – his look is very undefined. His style and vocation is such a specific thing, but he’s so good at subtlety. There were many, many moments where he would just kind of say something that – it wasn’t a joke – but it’d just really make me laugh.
And what is it like to work with Zach Galifinakis?
PR: His thought processes are very unique to him and he’s so specific in the choices that he makes. And he too, I think, is a really good actor because he comes in and he enters a scene as a character and he takes in his environment and he’s really committed to the character. And not just to being funny or to think of funny things to say. Everything he says comes from within his character, so he’s not just trying to say funny things or make people laugh. And I think that’s what’s so great about him. He was, yeah, just really a joy to improvise with and to act on the set.
One of my favorite scenes were with Marla and Steve’s fight scene. How did you keep a straight face and work with the stunt doubles?
SC: The big fight scene we did – I think there was one stunt when she goes over the rail. That was a double. I did catch the bottle. I didn’t catch it on the first take, mind you. I just tried to not act surprised that I caught it. She’s incredibly intense and so sweet when the cameras stop rolling – a completely different demeanor, but when she’s on she becomes a completely different person. There’s a scene when Tim is proposing to her. There’s one shot that I think completely sums up her character. It’s a low angle shot into her eyes and she’s welling up with emotion and excitement, and it is the craziest image in the whole movie. It’s at once sort of sad and incredibly frightening, but also moving to a certain extent. She was able to do all of that simultaneously. So, pretty remarkable actress.
Other Things and Upcoming Projects:
Steve, can you talk about your departure from The Office and did you rehearse your Emmy speech?
SC: Did I rehearse my Emmy speech? Uh, not anymore. No. I don’t. Yeah, this will be my last season on the office. It’ll be season 7 and my contract expires at the end of the year. I always wanted to honor my contract and I felt like now was a good time for the character to move on – for me to move on personally. You know, I want to spend more time with my wife and kids, so that’s really the impedious behind the decision there.
Paul, can you talk about your new film and the character you play?
PR: Yeah, it’s called Everything You’ve Got right now. I don’t know if it’ll change. It’s changed a few times, but James Brooks directed it. I play a character named George whose whole life is kind of falling apart. I meet Reese Witherspoon on literally the worst day of my life and it’s also the worst day of her life, and we have this blind date and I immediately fall in love with her. I have a feeling it’s quite reciprocated in the way that I feel about her. That’s the idea behind the movie; two people who meet on the worst day of their life.
Steve, do you have any plans to work on any screenplays or more personal projects during that time?
SC: I just completed a movie with Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore that’s the first movie my production company is producing and that’ll come out sometime next year. So yeah, I mean, I hope that I’m able to start writing again as well, once my tenure at The Office is done. That should free me up to do some more writing.
The Odd Situations on Set:
Steve, how did you feel about having to work with and love those mice dioramas?
SC: I was astounded by the detail in those mice dioramas. The guys who put those together – I mean, I don’t know how many man-hours, and the attention to detail. The commitment to those dioramas! They were astounding and I think, honestly, things like that really help you with the character because to sit in a room with all of those and to look at how meticulous – how meticulously they have been put together really informs the character a lot. It really tells you a lot about who this guy is and his own attention to detail. So, no, I was very thankful and grateful to them for how exquisite those dioramas were.
Were you playing with them in your off hours?
SC: I’d rather not go into the details. Although, I do hope, at some point, to own one for my house and I don’t know if it’s the Ben Franklin or the Evil Knievel, but I would love to have a mouse diorama in my own home; displayed proudly.
Paul, how was the experience of speaking into a woman’s crotch?
PR: Speaking into a woman’s crotch? You’re asking me? Okay? I’d rather not get into the details [laughs]. I was very nervous and uncomfortable. Lucy was much – she was like, “No, it’s fine.” I actually turned to the color of Zach Galifinakis [laughs].
What talent do you possess that might get you to one of these dinners?
SC: I play the baritone horn. That could qualify me to get invited to one of these dinners. The baritone horn is like a mini tuba and it’s probably the least sexy instrument you could choose. When people ask whether I play a musical instrument, I generally say that I don’t so I don’t have to acknowledge that I play the baritone horn. And I also play the fife, which is no more sexy than the baritone horn. So, those both might qualify me.
PR: I can do this with my tongue (curls his tongue). And I also play the baritone horn [laughs].
Watch Steve Carell and Paul Rudd in Dinner for Schmucks beginning July 30th!