Steve Carell Breaks Bad: First Look at His Murderous Role in ‘Foxcatcher’

Mark Deming

Steve Carell has built a career on playing guys you can't help but like, even when they're needy and annoying. But that's all changing as Carell goes evil to the core for the very first time onscreen.

Carell stars as a murderer (yes, you heard that right) — as John DuPont in the fact-based drama "Foxcatcher." Directed by Bennett Miller, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind "Moneyball" and "Capote," the movie is inspired by the story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), and how his life changed after the death of his brother David (Mark Ruffalo).

[Related: Steve Carell’s character will 'devolve' in 'Anchorman 2']

In real life, John DuPont was a wealthy and privileged man, an heir to the DuPont chemical fortune, and he had a passion for wrestling. DuPont set up a well-appointed training facility for Olympic wrestling hopefuls — but he was also a paranoid schizophrenic, and in early 1996, he snapped, leading to a violent incident in which he shot and killed David Schultz.

The first still from the movie has been released, and the photo suggests just how deeply Carell has been willing to invest himself in the role. With a large prosthetic nose and grey hair, Carell is barely recognizable, and director Miller says that's exactly what he had in mind.

"We just had our first test [screening], and not everybody recognized Steve," the filmmaker told Entertainment Weekly. "He is aged [for the film], and his face is changed, and his physicality changed. If I say I'm going to make a movie about a guy who's a schizophrenic murderer, there are probably a dozen actors who would immediately appear on anybody's casting list. And Steve would not be on any of those lists. And that's a good thing. Because it's unexpected … John DuPont was a character who nobody thought was capable of doing something as horrible as he did."

[Related: Cast of film "Foxcatcher" embraces wrestling]

While best known as the sweet but clueless Michael Scott from "The Office," Carell has been known to take on somewhat edgier roles on the big screen. Carell played a callous and emotionally abusive father to impressive effect in the indie success "The Way, Way Back," and he was convincing as a gay academic contemplating suicide after a messy breakup in "Little Miss Sunshine."

But nothing compares to his upcoming project. With his meaty and atypical role in "Foxcatcher," Carell is blazing a brand new trail for himself in serious roles, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the movie hits screens as critics are compiling their ten best lists with awards season is around the corner.

"Foxcatcher" opens in theaters December 20.