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Steve Carell is Hollywood's perennial nice guy, but for his latest role, the actor is unrecognizable -- in more ways than one.
In "Foxcatcher," from director Bennett Miller ("Moneyball"), Carell plays real-life chemical heir John du Pont, who befriends brothers and Olympic wrestlers Mark (Channing Tatum) and David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), then murders David in 1996. It's a dark role and a departure for Carell, whom audiences know best for his work as an affable romantic lead in films like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Date Night" and a dim-bulb goofball in "Anchorman" and "The Office."
Miller, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, said that he chose Carell for the part precisely because of his nice guy reputation.
"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," he explained. "And Steve would not be on any of those lists. And that's a good thing. Because it's unexpected... John du Pont was a character who nobody thought was capable of doing something as horrible as he did. And I did not want to cast somebody who would feel dangerous in that way."
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Carell may not fit the dangerous mold, but his physical transformation for the role is extremely striking -- he wears a prosthetic nose and is aged for the part -- and Miller told EW that many audience members at a recent test screening didn't even recognize him. Though a lot of credit goes to the hair and makeup artists who made Carell's makeover possible, Miller notes that Carell excels in the role precisely because of who he is.
"There's something guarded and a real intelligence going on behind his eyes," Miller said. " ... Comedians are dark, but I think we tend to think of them along the lines of what they project. I just think there's a hell of a lot more to Steve than he tends to show."
"Foxcatcher" hits theaters December 20.