iSociety: Rochelle Rose

In his understated, humble way, Steve Carell wowed a sold-out crowd at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented him with the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award.

Ahead of the upcoming Oscars ceremony, Carell is the man around town with his Best Actor nomination for his stunning role in Foxcatcher.

The SBIFF event was moderated by Pete Hammond, and his fellow actor and good friend Jennifer Garner presented the tribute trophy at the end of the evening’s program. SBIFF board member Jeff Barbakow, who opened the program and acknowledged lead sponsor Ugg Australia, noted that the Carell tribute was the fastest sell-out in the 30-year history of SBIFF.


Carell described the morning that he learned about his Oscar nomination.

“I was downstairs and my wife, Nancy, was upstairs,” he said. “We both heard the news, and I ran upstairs and she ran downstairs. We met in the middle — jumping up and down together on the landing.”

For every accolade and movie role presented to Carell during his remarkable career, he describes his wonderment and gratitude.

“I always think the other shoe is going to drop — that, after a role, it’s all over,” he said. “I am always so grateful.”

He has come off this way since the beginning, as a regular guy beset by irregular circumstances. Remember one of first roles as a hapless Daily Show correspondent. Or most notably as Michael Scott, the heart and soul of TV show The Office, a role he played for six years  He also played Andy Stitzer in the 40-Year-Old Virgin, which he co-wrote.

He has also starred in lead roles in Little Miss Sunshine, Evan Almighty, Dan in Real Life, Get Smart, Date Night, Dinner for Schmucks, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Way Way Back and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Carell has voiced characters in the animated films Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2.

It was his dramatic role as millionaire John Dupont in the 2014 film Foxcatcher that has earned him several awards and nominations, including the Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

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Actor Steve Carell with Nancy, his wife of 20 years. (Fritz Olenberger / Noozhawk photo)

“This has been a very big year for me,” Carell said. “The Cannes Film Festival was just perfect. It will never be better than at Cannes. We didn’t know how the film would be received, but it was received very well.”

During the Q&A, Carell often acknowledged his wife, Nancy, to whom he will be married for 20 years this year, garnering audience applause.

“Isn’t that weird you get applause for being married for 20 years?” he said.

Carell’s parents are 90 years old and will share the Oscar experience with him this year. He mentioned that he had a “normal” life growing up in Acton, Mass. His father, Edwin, was an electrical engineer and his mother, Harriet, was a psychiatric nurse.

“I chose to work the night shift at a convenience store when I was young to identify with my mom who also worked the night shift,” Carell said.

He earned a degree in history from Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

“My parents put me through school, so I felt that I owed them a legitimate career (not acting) so I was going to be an attorney,” he said. “I would make a terrible lawyer.”

Zach Barron from GQ Magazine  recently described Carell, “He is kind and decent and very, very square, and in the perverse logic of things, this undeniable decency, which exudes from his deep-socketed green eyes.”

“I always take mental snapshots of significant moments of my life,” Carell said. “Moments like tonight, when I learned about my Oscar nomination, and my wedding. Thank you for this wonderful tribute.”

He ended by pleasing The Office fans in the audience by saying that he wanted to do a “call and response.” He said, “Thank you for coming.” And the audience shouted back, “That’s what she said.”

It was classic Carell, and that’s why he’s adored.

Click here for more information about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at rrose@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Moderator Pete Hammond watches as actor Steve Carell shows his animated side during Friday night’s tribute during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Fritz Olenberger / Noozhawk photo)