Steve Carell for “Little Miss Sunshine”

Always unassuming, Steve Carell may get used to playing boorish characters, such as the sexist boss on TV’s hit comedy, The Office, but nobody is more surprised than the man himself as to his sudden spate of fame and stardom. Agreeing to do some limited, belated press for the low-budget ensemble comedy Little Miss Sunshine, an exhausted Carell laughs when asked how surprised he is by this remarkable career of his, defining it as little more than “Pure unadulterated luck,” he confesses, laughingly.

He adds “And it will disappear just as fast. I mean I’m flabbergasted, because I didn’t expect or anticipate any of it, and I’ve said before that I was always just hoping to continue to work as an actor. So this last year has been surreal and I’m always the type of person who’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for it to peter out and end. If it does that’s fine, as I’m kind of prepared for myself in that way, because I feel that it’s safer to do that because as soon as I start buying into it and saying, well, here we go it’s going to be all gravy from here on out, that’s when you go off the cliff in my mind. So I think I enjoy it, as it’s great and exciting but I also don’t expect it to continue like this, just to guard against inflating it in my own mind.”

Known for being wildly comic in the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Carell plays a gay, suicidal brother of Toni Collette in the dysfunctional dark comedy Little Miss Sunshine. Offering a considerable change of pace for Carell, the actor laughs when asked if such a character, shy, awkward and depressed, comes more necessarily naturally to the actor than, say, a virgin. “I don’t know if any character comes naturally. It was fun and on the page I was really intrigued by the character and it was just something I wanted to play. I didn’t really know whether I could or whether I’d even be right for it, but I felt like I understood the depths of clinical depression that this guy had, because I think that everyone can sort of relate to that. I don’t think you necessarily have to have felt that sort of depression to empathize with it or to get a sense for what that must feel like.”

Carell says he thinks of the amount of rejection he faced before this career of his finally took off. “How about 20 years of it, but also you can become kind of numb from the rejection as well. I think that’s what happens with actors, is that you just start to expect it and anticipate it, so In terms of this movie I just thought about the personal rejections that I’ve encountered in my life and the disappointments. Everyone has had those moments where you just feel hopeless, self-pitying and sorrowful and you feel like there’s really no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Yet for Carell, that light has shone brighter than he could have imagined, and next year, his Evan Almighty will screen in multiplexes around the world, so does the actor feel added pressure? He responds laughingly. “Here’s the thing – I’ve already been paid, so if it absolutely tanks and my career is over at that point I’ll be okay. I could go away, raise my kids and take jobs as they come. I mean if somehow it’s just a disaster professionally I could live with that in part, because I have had such a great run of it and sort of tasted it, but it’s not like I’ve tasted that and it’s done nothing but make me hungry for more. I’ve tasted it and I’m very satisfied with it.” As for comparing Evan Almighty to the more independently oriented Little Miss Sunshine, “Evan Almighty will be a very broad comedy that casts a large net, it’s going to be PG, will be very inoffensive, really sweet, and it will definitely try to appeal to more of a family audience.”

Carell says he enjoyed the Evan experience, a modern take on the Old Testament’s Noah’s Ark, but the character, who stole Bruce Almighty will be different to his original appearance. “It’s the same guy but he obviously grows. I mean I couldn’t play that same character for an hour and a half because that would be interminable. So he has to evolve and you find out about his family, in that he’s married, he has three boys, it expands the whole picture of who that guy is, it was fun and working with Morgan Freeman was just incredible. Also we were out in Virginia for three months and they built an ark, which is phenomenal. I think it’s going to be kind of a remarkable movie.”

Carell also confirmed that Get Smart is a go and starts shooting in March, while he hasn’t given up on The Office. “We just taped the first episode and it’s looking good.” No sign of the Steve Carell juggernaut stopping any time soon.