Steve Carell has played some out-of-the-box characters — a 40-year-old virgin, a murderer, a shy weatherman who loves lamps — but transforming into the father of a meth addict was particularly challenging.
The actor stars as David Sheff, the father of Nick Sheff, played by Timothée Chalamet, in Beautiful Boy, based on the true story of the pair and their journey through Nick’s drug addiction and recovery. Both actors visited Build to discuss the film, which premieres Oct. 12, and Carell revealed how hard it was to get into this character.
While being a father to two teens helped Carell connect with David, it also made the project scarier. “I leaned into the fact that I’m a dad and that this whole thing is terrifying for me,” he shared. Carell admitted that taking on this role “was a hard thing to choose to do because you feel like you’re just knocking wood all the time in terms of your own kids.” The actor was scared by the fact that this story proves addiction can hurt any family. “Because you see a family like this, that’s extremely loving and seemingly functional and intelligent and kind, all of those things, and it still ripped them apart,” he said. “That was the biggest hurdle in my mind, and that’s really what I relied on, just my love for my family, my kids, and I just sort of used that.”
In his writing, David, who is a journalist, discusses blaming himself for his son’s struggles. As a father himself, Carell understands that. “Especially when your kids are suffering, you tend to blame yourself, what could I have done differently? Where did I go wrong? And it’s really not about that,” he said.
There was one scene Carell found particularly painful to play out. “There’s a scene toward the end when my character has to essentially turn his back on his son, and it goes against every fiber of a parent’s being,” he explained. “So I was afraid of that moment, because it was a difficult thing to wrap my head around. … I have teenagers, and to have reached a point where it’s better to let go than continue to enable, that was sort of a scary moment to play … because it’s something that just didn’t come naturally. I had to wrestle with the idea of it and sort of justify it in order to play it.”
But there were ways in which he could connect with his character, who’s desperately trying to save his son. “Well, I’m a dad, so I try to exhibit control with my kids lest they freak out,” he said. “And my father was the same way. He’s 93 now, and he’s exactly as he’s always been, kind of a stoic guy and really doesn’t allow us to see the pain or suffering. Even though we can see it. I know when my dad is feeling something, but he tries to disguise it for the sake of the family.” That’s something Carell recognized in his film character.
“I think David Sheff did the same thing in a lot of ways; he tried to be the rock,” Carell said. “He felt like he needed to be the glue and sort of an example, and the further down the spiral he went with his son, the harder it was to maintain that composure and that sense of calmness.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
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