James Bond and Jason Bourne have nothing on Maxwell Smart. In Get Smart Steve Carell leaps from airplanes, sidesteps speeding trains, and runs faster than a pack of greyhounds.
"I worked out and made my body a physical specimen to be much admired," Carell teases. "Actually, I tried not to get killed. That was my M.O. on Get Smart: stay alive."
The Peter-Segal-directed flick finds Carell reprising the role of Maxwell Smart which Don Adams played to perfection on the series, which began its five-year run in 1965.
In the movie, Maxwell (aka Agent 86) is marooned behind a desk at the spy agency CONTROL. He dreams of taking on the bad guys like his idol, the always-capable Agent 23 (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).
After the evil forces of KAOS attack the CONTROL headquarters and compromise the identities of the experienced operatives, Maxwell is promptly promoted and, with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) by his side, tasked with saving the world.
Teaming up for interviews, Carell and Hathaway sat down recently to talk stunts, sitcoms and sinus infections.
Newsarama: Steve, Anne, did you guys go back and watch the original series - or did you steer clear of it?
CARELL: I steered away from it because I didn't want to do an impression of Don Adams. I figured there was no way to improve on what he'd done. The more I watched of him, the more I thought I would be inclined to do an impersonation because he was so good, and so definitive in the role.
HATHAWAY: I actually grew up watching the show on Nick at Night. I loved it so it was really fun to revisit it. I wanted to revisit it because I was one of the last people cast. I wanted to make sure that I understood what kind of tone we were trying to achieve. I really think that, in the final film, we managed to have that silly, sweet yet sophisticated, feel that the original series had.
Newsarama: Anne, in some ways you have the harder job. You do everything Steve does except you're doing it in high heels.
HATHAWAY: I had excellent training in 'The Devil Wears Prada'. I had to run around wearing them on that movie too. So, when it came time to add some high kicks and jumps, it wasn't that bad. Having a stunt double who did it much better than me helped, though.
Newsarama: Speaking of stunts, what was your most challenging maneuver, Steve?
CARELL: The most dangerous stunt? I probably don't know which the most dangerous was…The stunt guys did all of the heavy lifting.
Newsarama: How about you, Anne?
HATHAWAY: I did feel so safe all the time that the danger element never really entered my mind. But if I would describe to my mother what I was doing, she would have a heart attack for me. There's a scene where I was dropped 50 feet, by a cable, with nothing but sidewalk below me… Well, I guess they did have a pad there. It was on a street in Montreal so we weren't on a closed set, and I felt a little bit more exposed. But I just remember giggling. I had to put my head down because I was laughing so much. It was such a rush. You felt so safe the whole time that it felt like the best amusement park ever.
Newsarama: Steve, since you don't want to talk about stunts, discuss the challenge of dancing with a leading lady about two inches taller than you?
CARELL: I think that the challenge was hers. She is actually a fantastic dancer and I am not, so I think the inherent challenge there was to try to make me look good. If I may comment about the high heels for Anne? There were several scenes in the movie where we were running towards Disney Hall at full tilt. I was running as fast as I could possibly run. Anne Hathaway was wearing 4 or 5 or 6 inch heels and she was kicking my ass. I have no idea how that is physically possible.
Newsarama: Did you get to do any improvisation in the film or were you advised to stick to the script?
CARELL: I think it was a mix. We stuck to the script but there were options and chances to play. It was a collaboration with Pete [Segal] and the writers and the cast. We would come up with alternatives. You never know in the final outcome what will or won't work. We just tried to give ourselves some options on various takes.
Newsarama: Your background on Second City must come into play during those moments. What was it like working with Alan Arkin, another Second City vet?
CARELL: Second City, I carry that experience with me always. Alan Arkin is a huge idol for me as one of the originators of Second City. He is legendary, obviously. The best thing for me about Second City was having that freedom to fail night after night. It was great to be able to try things and experiment, without being too precious about it. You knew if it didn't work you could always try something different the next day. That is a very freeing kind of thing to have.
Newsarama: Did Alan Arkin every crack you up?
CARELL: Oh, it takes a lot of editing to cut out all the times I am laughing hysterically. That is the long and short of it. I try specifically not to laugh when someone else is doing their thing. If you laugh and ruin someone else's take, that's a cardinal sin in my mind. There are some times that you can't help yourself. There is a scene in the movie when Alan is trying to pronounce a name…That scene probably took five times longer than it should have because I couldn't control myself.
Newsarama: What was he trying to pronounce?
CARELL: Crispex. That just killed me.
HATHAWAY: That was really fun for me because I break most of the time with Steve, in my scenes. When he finally broke with was such sweet vindication for me.
Newsarama: Anne, after having such an iconic role in "The Devil Roles Prada," did you worry about selecting the right follow-up?
HATHAWAY: I think that Meryl [Streep] had the iconic role in `Prada.' I think I was the one who was keeping the story moving. I tried to keep the audience entertained while she was off screen. I am 25 years old and I have had tremendous luck in my life, in terms of the fact that the movies I have made for artistic reasons have gone on to become commercial successes. It's kind of dumb luck.
Newsarama: Steve, ever since your stint on "The Daily Show," it's all happened pretty quickly for you. What were you doing before you landed the gig with Jon Stewart?
CARELL: Just before Jon Stewart, I was unemployed. Actually, I was on a failed TV series called 'Over the Top,' in which I played an outrageous Greek chef in a hotel. One of the reviews referred to me as the Heinrich Himmler of comedy. They said that Tim Curry was Hitler and Hitler needs his henchman. You know who pointed this review out to me? Steven Colbert. It was years later when we were working on 'The Daily Show' and he said 'Did you ever see this?' He brought it up online and showed it to me. It was the funniest review because the reviewer went on to say, 'I have experienced pain in my life, I have witnessed the agony of child birth…' it went on and on and then likened the premiere episode of 'Over the Top' to all of those things. That's what I was doing before `The Daily Show.'
Newsarama: Anne, I hear you a rabid "Office" fan. Were you always pumping Steve for spoilers?
HATHAWAY: Well, to say that I am a fan of 'The Office' is really putting it mildly. When Steve and I don't see each other for a few weeks, my first question is, of course, 'What is coming up?' The season finale was awesome. I'm rooting for Jim and Pam. And Phyllis is my favorite character. Actually, when I need an alias, I use Phyllis. I love the show so much. I love humor that makes you feel uncomfortable. That show is so brilliant at that.
Newsarama: So, did the experience of working with Steve live up to your fantasies?
HATHAWAY: When I went to audition for this movie I didn't think in a million years I was going to get the part. I really just wanted to meet Steve. I did, and it went well, and as for making out with him, it's the yummiest thing…
CARELL: You are so full of it!
HATHAWAY: Making out with him is like the yummiest lollipop, dipped in sunshine and wrapped in a masculine wrapper! That's the only way I can think to describe it.
Newsarama: So the big kiss must have been the highlight of the shoot?
HATHAWAY: Actually, there was a health scare last year where a certain contact lens solution gave you conjunctivitis. I won't say the name of it, but it was the one that I used, and I had a sinus infection at the same time. I had to go up to Steve with my red and puffy eyes, dripping green. I am just so snotty, and I'm, like, 'Come here.' Very glamorous, huh? But I would do it again in a heart beat."