No judging: Steve Carell discusses marriage, Meryl Streep, ‘Hope Springs’ — and his historical obsession
Photo by Columbia Pictures
Can Steve Carell do "deep" as marriage counselor Dr. Feld in "Hope Springs"? Yes! It turns out the "Office" star is no 40-year-old virgin when it comes to discussing sex and intimacy with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as unhappy marrieds. When I asked "Devil Wears Prada" director David Frankel why he cast Carell, Frankel said: "I looked at the full range of Steve's performance in 'The Office' -- he can always find the pathos in Michael Scott. No one could do that without deep compassion. He is Dr. Feld in real life."
Thelma Adams: So, Steve, what drew you to this project?
Steve Carell: Here was a movie with Meryl Streep attached inviting me to be a part of it. Buy me a plane ticket!
TA: What was it like working with her?
SC: She brings such a joy to acting. She lived up to every expectation. She would try new things. After this incredible career, there's no resting on laurels whatsoever.
TA: Did you get any acting tips?
SC: I gave her a lot of tips.
TA: You play a marriage counselor, and she's your patient. What insight did you bring to this role?
SC: My intent was to have a guy who is nonjudgmental and earnest to a fault. To me that is what a therapist is about, creating an environment of comfort and enabling people to open up…
TA: …in a safe space.
SC: In a very safe environment. That was all I wanted to achieve, because the movie is not about me. I'm there to assist this couple and to help them try to connect the dots.
TA: Have you ever seen a marriage counselor?
SC: No, I never have, but I spoke to counselors.
TA: Did you have a model for Dr. Feld?
SC: I modeled him after one man in particular who had that voice and demeanor. One of the things I loved best about him was that he wore sandals and white socks, but it almost seemed like too much of a character type.
TA: What did you discover?
SC: Every therapist has a different approach. The approach that I was taking was that this guy isn't there to solve your problems. He's there to open up lines of communication that may have been dormant for a long time. There's no eye rolling. My character doesn't comment on any part of what they're saying in any sort of judgmental way, which to me was a real challenge because so much of comedy is that taking it in and formulating an opinion about what you're hearing.
TA: And responding.
SC: And responding. With this character, you're taking out that formulating a personal opinion. It's all about committing to helping these people open up to each other.
TA: Although I think this is part of the problem in couples therapy. I've been married 25 years...
SC: Seventeen today.
SC: We're doing all right. [knocks wood on coffee table]
TA: To have a roommate, much less a soulmate, for 17 years, 25 years, or 31 years like Kay and Arnold in the movie, is not easy. I do think that marriage counselors tend to have their favorite within the couple. Do you think that was the case with this character?
TA: I would say yes.
SC: Well, certainly not consciously.
TA: Because Streep's Kay is so much more sympathetic.
SC: Yes. But I think that that's also kind of a trap to fall into, because in the mind of my character, Jones's Arnold is a harder nut to crack. It's clear from the get-go that he was the one who was dragged there. She was the one who was already cognizant of the fact that there was a problem, so he was the one who needed to be focused on, and was more work.