Jim Carrey & Steve Carell

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On Horton Hears a Who

Interviewer: Most people believe that Dr. Seuss's [Theodor Geisel's] stories transcend age and demographics. What do you think it is about Horton Hears a Who! that transcends it from being simply a story for kids?
Steve Carell: Wow. How does it transcend? You are being very heady right off the bat. I don't think, as a five- or six-year-old, we think about how things transcend anything. You just think about how it resonates, however much anything resonates in a five- or six-year-old. This is a book that I think resonates with kids. They don't understand the metaphors or the richness to it, but at the same time, it resonates. There is something very specific about the theme that I think even a little kid can understand--that is that everyone deserves an equal footing in life. I think that's just a very basic tenet of being a creature of the world.

Jim Carrey: That was a real good answer.

SC: Then say the same thing.

JC: I think, as far as kids go, the thing that attracts them to this is not the deeper concepts involved. It's really just the fact that Seuss's creativity was so incredible. He was such an original. If you give a kid a character that he's never seen before, in a world that he's never seen before, they will completely lose themselves in an imaginary space. At the same time, they are getting all of those wonderful lessons. In my own personal experience, I just looked at it and I've always been drawn to things that are different. I felt odd anyway, as a child, so anything odd I went, "Oh, those are my people. I dig those people." There is something very original about the whole thing, and that's what draws kids. Myself, I listened to them on tape so I didn't really see the pictures.

AM: As a kid, what was so odd about you?
JC: I was the baby of the family. I guess my father was strange. He was funny and strange, and I looked at him and went, "Wow, everybody is looking at my dad. Everybody is laughing at my dad." And I just immediately kind of wanted to be that, so I locked myself in my room. When all the other kids were outside playing, I was devising ways to make myself appear to be different somehow.

AM: Since you are both very visual comedians, can't it be limiting doing an animated film since you can only act with your voice?
SC: I think there is a freedom within the limitations. I think when you are given a structure, and you can do anything within that structure, there is something freeing to that as opposed to "You can do anything, anytime, anywhere." Sometimes you just don't know where to focus--at least for me. Really, the animators do the heavy lifting. We provide as much as we can vocally, but then you see it and you see where they have taken whatever you have done vocally. It's remarkable.

JC: That is the great thing about this. You are surrounded by artists who are just as creative or more so than you are, and I love being handled by nerds--just to spew something out and have somebody put wings on it, it's fantastic and a wonderful thing.

AM: Did the two of you ever get the chance to work together?
JC: I still have never met him. I'm looking forward to it, though.

SC: I'm sort of in awe, honestly. I was watching Jim answer that question before and I am still sort of pinching myself, honestly, to be working with him. It's a big honor for me.

AM: In the past, you have turned down a couple of animated films, Jim. Can agreeing to do an animated film sometimes be a tougher decision to make than doing regular, live-action films? How did this one work out?
JC: What they do is they come to your house and they say, "This is going to be the simplest process in the world." They lie to you--completely lie to you. Anybody who they are doing that to in the future might want to take note. It is hard work. It's not as simple as they make it sound. It is a half-a-day here and there. Whenever you get a free moment, you are going in to do it. The fact is that they come to you and they really don't have a script. They have an overall idea of where they want to go, but they go, "Here's eight pages. What do you think we should do with it?" You sit in a room, you jam, you come up with ideas, and you come up with lines. It's an amazing process. You think, "How is this ever going to get to the end and make sense?"

SC: It's also a huge leap of faith too. There you are, you don't know how anything you do will sync up with what anyone else is doing. It's all based on how the director sees it and cues it. He's the one threading all of these performances together. You give him 1,000 different variations on a scene, and then he tracks it with the rest of the performances. I think it's a huge leap of faith. You can do things that you think, "Will that even work, and in terms of what he's hearing?" Then, yeah.

AM: Tell me--was there a time in your life where you actually felt like a Spec?
JC: I know I'm a Spec, absolutely. That's honestly how I feel. I'm an interesting Spec, but I think that's how I've always thought, in those terms. How can you look at the sky at night and not feel like you are a Spec somewhere? One time, I saw a picture on the Discovery Channel of the Earth from Mars, from the Mars perspective, and you can hardly find it, it was a Spec. We truly are a Spec. So there are all different levels of that, and it's kind of where you are at. It's really true.

SC: If I think about it too much, my mind will explode. It's essentially the same thing. We are all so, so tiny in the big picture. It depends on what picture you are looking at. In the really big picture, we are infinitesimal.

JC: I have always felt that there were worlds within worlds, within worlds. There is somewhere on my right arm, inside of a cell, there is some kind of world happening. There are people sitting there going, "Oh, I hope we don't destroy ourselves." We could swing that arm, hit it against a tree, and we're gone!

SC: That's why we are paralyzed. That's why now, after doing this movie, I can hardly move. Essentially, I'm afraid I will be crushing tiny universes wherever I go. Even in your laughter, the saliva is coming out of your mouth --if there is one thing that people can take away from this movie.

JC: It's Armageddon in my pants right now. I swear to God, it's Armageddon.

AM: Did either of you have a chance to talk to the widow of the real Dr. Seuss, Audrey Geisel?
JC: Every once in a while, I say, "Hi," but we don't talk a lot. I was honored that when they brought it to her, the first thing out of her mouth, she said, "Can you get Jim Carrey?" I feel really honored that she wants me to be a part of a legacy. I just feel wonderful that two of these projects have come my way. I'm such a fan of Dr. Seuss, so it's a great thing. It's a great thing.

SC: I've never spoken to her.

AM: Do you still pinch yourself when you realize that you have become a comic icon and get to be a part of this legacy?
SC: So, you are asking am I fucking Jim Carrey? That speaks to all the kids who are going to see this. Our Fox guys are horrified right now. No, that is not a legacy that I'm ashamed to be a part of. In terms of pinching myself about success--all day, everyday. I owe a lot to Jim, frankly, for any of my success, because essentially the first movie I was ever in was Bruce Almighty. I never got auditions for movies, and it was one of the first I had ever gotten.

JC: He stole the whole fucking movie.

SC: I remember--and I said this to Jim a week or two ago--I remember watching Liar Liar and thinking, "That looks like the most fun you could possibly have." Being on set, at the outtakes, I thought, "Man, that just looks like a party." In my wildest dreams, I didn't think I would ever be able to be a part of that. Then a couple of years later, I was. So yes, I'm still pinching myself.

JC: He did an amazing job. He's done that ever since. It's incredible to watch him.

AM: What about your comic legacy? You are considered an icon in the world of comedy.
JC: It's hard to have a perspective on it from inside myself. I just feel like I could be working at a factory again in a month, loading trucks where I started out. I don't have a perspective on it because it's just one thing to the next. It's trying to do work and trying to have fun with what is in front of me. Even today, I think to myself, "Oh, it's a press day kind of thing," and I have to go to that place of, "I'm going to try to enjoy every person in front of me, in that moment, and to live that way." That's what I do. I don't really think about iconic anything. I just try to do work and have fun doing it, and hopefully that translates. I do watch other people, like Steve, and I can sit back and go, "Wow, man--that guy is good." And I'm much more impressed with other people. We have an amazing cast in this. The people that this project gathered is kind of incredible. It's like a who's who of comedy across five generations. It's really exciting--Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Carol Burnett. They amaze me. I sit and watch Knocked Up and go, "Wow, that is great work, man. These guys are doing incredible stuff. I wish I could be them." It's all your perspective. It just feels good to be in it.

AM: Is there any particular story you would like to do?
JC: "The Steve Carell Story." Hopefully, they will come to me with that.

SC: In terms of Dr. Seuss?

AM: Yes. SC: I don't know. I would love to do Green Eggs and Ham. I think I could do a lot with it. It does sound ridiculous to even talk about it, doesn't it? Ultimately, we think about it and say, "You are doing Horton Hears a Who!? It sounds sort of odd. You are in the movie version of Horton Hears a Who!, and then you see it and you say, "Of course. It's completely making sense." Maybe Green Eggs and Ham is a blockbuster of the future. You never know.

AM: How do you feel about the writers now that the strike is over, and what would you do if SAG [Screen Actors Guild] decided to go on strike?
SC: I would have to go with whatever the vote was. If the union decided to strike, then I would have to as well.

JC: I'd be sitting on my duff if that happened. If we went on strike, I'd be with it. I hope that the writers get the respect that they deserve. The writers are the backbone of the business. They deserve a piece of the action and they deserve good things. They deserve good things. There are a lot of new revenue streams happening, and I think that they should be a part of all of it.

AM: Do either of you have a motto that you live by these days?
JC: Always turn your wheel in the direction of a skid. That has been my motto all along. That's really what I do.

SC: Be sure to use a washcloth because that is a good way to exfoliate.

JC: Brush your dentist twice a day; visit your toothbrush twice a year.

AM: Jim, were you the one who thought of the "going to the dentist" line?
JC: I just went to the dentist yesterday. I love the dentist, I do.

AM: And you thought about it for the film?
JC: I don't remember. They say that I did, but I don't really remember.

AM: Are you afraid of the dentist?
JC: No, no, not at all. I enjoy the dentist. I enjoy trying to communicate with half-a-dozen instruments in my mouth. They always want to talk to you. They stick all those things in there and go, "So, how is the family?" [Muffled answer] But somehow they understand.

AM: Did either of you spot any life lesson in Horton Hears a Who! that we can all take to heart? Maybe something like, "If you crush a Spec, you are destroying someone's life and they have a right to exist?
SC: I think that is valid. I think it's always hard when you talk about a post-9/11 world. I honestly think that the theme of this movie would have resonated before that, had it never happened, but perhaps because of that, people's general awareness is higher. Again, without getting too deep or too heavy with it because, after all, it's a family movie and it's fun--it's funny, exciting, and silly. Within that, there is a very true and pure theme to it.

JC: There is a butterfly effect to everything we do. I believe even to raise your voice has an effect that goes far beyond the room you are raising your voice in. Everything has an effect that way. We have seen it politically through the last few decades. There is the odd thing--Charlie Wilson's Warthe Tom Hanks movie. I looked at that movie and though,t "Didn't he create Osama Bin Laden?" but they left that out. The fact is that every time we go and try to mess with things, we figure them out and squash somebody, then we create somebody else. The act of fighting these fears we have creates more fear and creates more aggression.

AM: What is it like being an action star, Steve? And Jim, how was it being Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol?
SC: Its incredibly fun. Being an action star is all I ever hoped to be. I ultimately knew I would be an action star.

JC: He's packing right now. There is a lump back here, and I see it.

SC: That's right. I have one stuck in my boot as well. It was just fun. Again, it was ridiculous. I'm hanging from wires off of buildings, underneath planes, and it was fun. I would do it again in a second.

JC: Ebenezer was such a great thing for me because, again, I got to play all kinds of different roles in the film. The process was fascinating. You are literally in an empty warehouse with cameras around you. You have maybe a frame of a fireplace, or something like that, and then you rehearse. Then they go, "Can we take this away?" and you are sitting on a chair. You have to create the entire world in your head. Not only that, but you are working with other actors and you are in this ridiculous cap suit with balls all over it, and a hat with pinchers that come down with cameras in your face right here. The real work of it is transcending the lack of stimuli, and this stimulus that is right in your face. You have to transcend all of it and create the reality of the piece. Also, it was kind of a classical version of A Christmas Carol, so I was playing Ebenezer Scrooge at four different ages. There were a lot of vocal things and a lot of physical things that I had to do, not to mention doing the accents properly--the English and Irish accents. I was also playing past, present and future ghosts. There was a lot of really wonderful work in it, and challenges. I wanted it to fly in the UK. I wanted it to be good and I wanted them to go, "Yeah, that's for real." We were very true to the book. It's beautiful. It's an incredible film. If you are lucky, at some point in your life, to have that kind of Christmas Carol moment, I certainly have. Things were going south and I had the opportunity to see how horrible things could have gotten without them actually going there. I can't get into specifics, but I had my Ghost of Christmas Future at a certain point in my life. I went, "Oh wow. Okay, I have to really start caring about the right things here." It's just a fantastic story. It's beautiful literature.

AM: So what is next for you?
JC: After A Christmas Carol, I'm doing a film called I Love You, Phillip Morris. It's about a gentleman who fell in love with his cellmate and escaped from prison four times to try and find ways to get his lover out prison.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 1:40 PM EDT | More details


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