Universal Studios has pumped $175 million so far into “Evan Almighty,” making the soon-to-be released sequel to the 2003 hit “Bruce Almighty” among the most-expensive comedies ever filmed. So what did star Steve Carell, a bit player in the original movie who has since found fame, learn from it all?
Well, he likes giraffes and elephants.
“Very soulful, very sweet eyes, very gentle,” Carell told TODAY host Meredith Vieira on Monday.
And he dislikes the smells emitted from camels.
“The camel has like eight to 10 stomachs. One is more rancid than the next,” he observed.
But of the 177 or species rounded up for scenes shot aboard a 40-foot ark assembled for the film, Carell had only one real run-in of note.
“There is a scene in which the baboon comes and brings me a cup of lemonade,” he told Vieira. “In one take, the baboon spilled the lemonade. I said, ‘Hey man, what are you doing?’ The baboon kind of went ka-hawwww, and took this very aggressive stance with me.”
So you’d the animal’s handlers would come in and restore order and the make the star of the big-budget flick comfortable, right?
That’s not how Carell remembers it.
“After the take, the trainer came over to me and said, ‘You know, don’t do that. Don’t talk to the baboon,’ “ Carell said. “ ‘As a matter of fact, don’t look the baboon in the eye. Maybe that would be a good thing.’”
Nothing he won’t do
In the movie, Carell plays, “Evan Baxter,” a newly elected congressman who moves his family to Washington and begins receiving visits from God, portrayed by Morgan Freeman.
“The thing people don’t realize about him is he’s really a funny, funny guy. He would play practical jokes on the set,” Carell said. “He’s very, very sweet. He’s obviously an incredible actor, but he’s really kind and funny.”
Noting that Carell has portrayed a wacky television weatherman (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”) and agreed to have his chest forcibly removed (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”), Vieira asked Carell if there was anything he wouldn’t do for a laugh.
“No,” he said without hesitation.
After thinking about it a little more, however, Carell added, “I might not work with baboons again.”
“Evan Almighty,” which co-stars Morgan Freeman as God, opens June 22.
(“Evan Almighty” is a release of Universal Studios. Universal Studios and NBC News are sister companies of NBC Universal. TODAY is an NBC News morning broadcast.)