Steve Carell for “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”

Steve Carell cannot believe how lucky he has become in so short amount of time. Unless you are a devotee of TV’s Comedy Central, you may remember Steve as a comically befuddled scene-stealing news reader in Bruce Almighty or again in Anchorman. Now, Carell shows he can carry a movie in the title role of The 40 Year Old Virgin, but doesn’t seem to concerned at the new pressure he finds himself confronting as a movie star.

“There was no pressure until you started talking,” he begins, laughingly. “All the way through shooting it I just kept thinking if this is the last movie I ever do this has been great and just fun, so I try not to get ahead of myself at all in terms of what the next thing is. I hope I keep working as I’ve been really lucky just to support myself acting and being able to help create and be the lead in a movie, is way beyond any expectation I ever had. I’m pretty happy with what has happened so far, and honestly, if it all comes crashing down tomorrow, I’m still pretty happy.”

Laid back, and charmingly down to earth, Carell, who also won respectable reviews for his starring turn in the US TV version of The Office, laughingly denies the film, which he also co-wrote, is autobiographical in any way. “It’s not autobiographical at all and in fact I have two children. It was a notion that I had that I brought to Judd [Apatow, director] last year and essentially the pitch was the poker scene, in which a guy is desperately wanting to keep up with these other guys who are telling these great sex stories and it quickly becomes apparent that he’s out of his element.”

From that simple acorn of an idea, emerged a sweet and funny tale of a middle aged loner who discovers friendship and love as he comes to terms with his virginal state. A film that comically explores fear of the opposite sex, Carell admits that back in his own day, he was not so terrific with the ladies either. “I was a bad dater. Up until eighth grade I went to an all boys’ school and by the time I hit high school I was a bit freaked out by women in general. I definitely did that whole putting them on a pedestal aspect of the movie, and I was very wary of women. As soon as I went from being a friend and started looking at a woman as a potential love interest I could not even talk to a woman,” the actor recalls, adding that his one early attempt at wooing a girl was met with disastrous results. “I did mix my own perfume for a girl that I liked. I remember going to my mother’s perfume on her counter and mixing probably eight or 10 perfumes together into a jar and I gave it to this next door neighbour. Now we’re married. No, that’s not true at all,” he insists, laughingly.

But Carell says there are also aspects of his virginal character with which he identifies. “I identify with him in the sense that he is trying. He’s doing his best to get through life and keep a good aspect and disposition going, and keep his hopes up, but I think there is an underlying sadness to the character, which in fact there is to me. I think there’s the parallel as I think there are elements of who I am and who this guy is but the specific ones I really don’t know.” Asked what give advice he would give to any 40 year old virgins, Carrel laughs. “Apart from go see the movie? I’m certainly in position to give sexual advice to anyone. If anything I’m in need of it.”

Carell continues to keep himself busy, confirming that he has begun production on the second season of The Office, and despite rumours to the contrary, he is still attached to the new Get Smart movie. “They’re still writing it. We have an outline and the next step is to actually script it.” But there’s no Batman in his immediate future despite those pesky internet rumours. “I just heard that for the first time this morning. I’d love to do that, but I doubt that it’s true.”