Getting the bad box-office taste out of his mouth, actor Steve Carell this week begins production as the slow-witted weatherman Brick Tamland in the much-anticipated "Anchorman: The Legend Continues."
This past weekend, Carell's movie "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" finished in third place at the box office with about $10 million, falling behind "Oz The Great and Powerful" ($41 million) and "The Call" ($17 million).
Carell, who recently stopped by ESPN's offices in Connecticut, knows the pressure the "Anchorman" sequel will have when it's released Dec. 20. The 2004 movie, also starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd, made nearly $100 million and spawned many catchphrases still used today.
"As long as we don't put pressure on ourselves while doing it, it'll be fine," Carell said. "The best part of the first one was that nobody gave a s---. It was just fun. We tried to make each other laugh. We weren't trying to meet anyone's expectations but our own."
Those expectations are one of the reasons Carell hasn't remade his favorite sports movie "Slap Shot," the cult film about a violent hockey team.
"I've always talked about wanting to do that, but I don't think I could improve on what they did in the first one," he said. "I think hockey movies are one of my favorites. I talk about them all the time."
Carell, who attended his first ever Stanley Cup finals last spring, had a few minutes with Playbook to talk about hockey, the "Anchorman" sequel and making movies.
OK, so no remake of "Slap Shot," but what other hockey movies would you like to make?
"I would love to do any hockey movie. In fact, I auditioned awhile ago for 'Mystery, Alaska.' It was a skating audition. You had to come out there and skate, and I already knew how to do that. I didn't get past the first round of auditions. At my age right now, I guess the only thing I could be playing is an older coach!"
Growing up in Boston, how much did sports mean to you?
"I was definitely a Bruins fan. Celtics too. Havlicek. Cowens. Bird. You could count on those teams always being in the mix. The Bruins' great run in the early 1970s inspired me to get into hockey. I think I was 8 years old, and all my friends started playing. Those teams inspired generations to play youth hockey. Bobby Orr. Teddy Green. Esposito. Sanderson. Monumental times."
How good were you?
"I grew up in the suburb of Boston. I know they were the big, bad Bruins. But that's not the way we were coached. Our game was finesse. Our team actually won a national championship. We won for the 'Squirt' level. We went to Detroit to compete against the top teams in the country and ended up winning."
Did you think about playing professionally?
"I was a goalie. At a certain point, you either have to commit to that as a potential career or let it become a fun hobby. That happened in high school. I had to think about whether I was going to a Division I college hockey program and fight for a job of a goaltender or do something else. Instead, I went to a Division III school (Denison University in Ohio) and played throughout college. It was for fun and not advancing myself."
Do you still play today?
"I play in a league in Los Angeles. I'm not in the big league with Jerry Bruckheimer and his friends. I play down in Orange County with my brother. We play about once a week. It's structured enough with refs and uniforms. We are there just to have fun."
The TV show "The Office" finished taping its final episode this past weekend. You left the show last year after seven years. What do you miss?
"I miss the people I worked with. We spent a lot of time. We hung out almost every day for seven years. To a person, it was the nicest group ever. They are more like family to me."
One of my favorite movies of yours was "Little Miss Sunshine." Alan Arkin was in that with you and he appears in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone." What was that experience like?
"I'm a huge fan of Alan Arkin. He's my idol. When I read that script, I connected with it immediately. Everyone felt the same way. It was an extremely economical script. The writing was precise and simple and said a lot without using too many words. It was like 'Anchorman.' No one thought much about it while filming. We never got the sense of how it's going to be while shooting it. There was no pretense. It was just really good actors doing a really good script."
And I hear the script for "Anchorman: The Legend Continues" is pretty good also, with Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear joining the stacked cast.
"It's very charming right now. We're going to shoot everything. If we have an idea, we'll try it. If it doesn't work, we won't put it in the movie. You have to understand: There is no arbiter of good taste on the set!"