Former Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell, 42, has finally made it to Hollywood’s equivalent to the anchor chair: his own leading role in a No. 1 movie. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the actor – who previously stole scenes in Anchorman and as the boss in the NBC comedy The Office – looks for love and gets his chest waxed for the camera. PEOPLE recently caught up with Carell and got the scoop on the funnyman’s “sweet” flick, his hair-removal technique and his wife’s (actress Nancy Walls) reaction to his happy face.
I saw your smiling face on a billboard three different times today. When did you get so big?
I can’t get used to it. My wife is having trouble with it. Frankly, even my 4-year-old daughter is a little freaked out by it. Not only does she see Daddy, but she sees this freakish, odd-looking Daddy hanging 40 feet above her. Those billboards have been screwing with my entire family.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is the first midlife-crisis teen-sex comedy. Did you grow up watching movies like Losing It?
I loved all those movies, though I certainly didn’t enter into this trying to craft an ode to Porky’s.
This movie is actually kind of sweet.
It kind of walks that line. When you start telling people, “Oh, it’s kind of sweet,” you pretty much lose, like, every guy in the world. What guy wants to see a sweet movie? But on the other hand, this is the raunchiest sweet movie you will ever see.
Now, about that waxing scene – you really don’t think you could have faked it and made it funny?
No, I think it was funnier being real. And also we knew that we would have one of the cameras trained on the three guys watching me wax. For me, that is the funniest part: They were completely cracking up. There is something inherently male – I am guessing it is a chromosome we have – that allows us to find joy in other men’s pain.
So did it really hurt that much, or were you reacting like that to make the scene funny?
It honestly hurt more than I thought it would. I entered into it thinking, “This will be funny.” But then when they started spreading the wax on with the little stick, I started having serious second thoughts. And I then I thought, “If it is funny, then it is worth it?”
But then if it is not funny, who do you sue?
I only have myself to blame. When I got home that night my wife was justifiably horrified by what I looked like – and proceeded to look like for the next two months. She had a happy face staring at her every night!
You bled a lot in that scene. Was it all real?
They had to add a little bit more blood to make it real, but you will see in one of the close-ups of the chest that blood is, in fact, pooling, and it’s all mine.
So what’s next? Once they see what you are willing to put yourself through, you know the studio is going to ask you to do something even more severe next time.
For the sequel I’m going to have a Brazilian wax. We are going to shoot it with a five-camera set-up. Unfortunately, it will have to be an NC-17 (rating).
At least that will keep your kids from having to see it.
When my kids (Elisabeth, 4, and John, 1) saw my chest, they didn’t know quite what to make of it. I think this movie is really flipping them out. The combination of Daddy’s weird face on the billboards and Daddy having a face shaved onto his chest is making them wonder, “What exactly does daddy do for a living? He is clearly not a CPA.”