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15 Thrilling Facts About Basic Instinct

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Twenty-five years ago—on March 20, 1992—Sharon Stone introduced moviegoers to Catherine Tramell, a novelist and suspected serial killer who stabs her victims with an ice pick while engaged in acrobatic sex acts. Michael Douglas—who starred in another erotic thriller, Fatal Attraction—played her love interest, a San Francisco detective named Nick Curran. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas (who would team up again for 1995’s Showgirls), Basic Instinct grossed $352,927,224 worldwide against a $49 million budget, making it the ninth highest-grossing domestic film of 1992. (The much-delayed 2006 sequel, on the other hand, bombed at the box office.)

The controversial movie angered the LGBTQ community (particularly in San Francisco, where filming was protested) because of the psychopathic nature of Stone’s bisexual character, though Stone saw her more as a “party girl,” and Eszterhas thought of her as being omnisexual. Here are 15 not-so-basic facts about the revolutionary thriller.

1. THE SCRIPT SOLD FOR A RECORD $3 MILLION.

Back in the day, spec scripts could sell for millions of dollars. Joe Eszterhas joined that club when he sold Basic Instinct—a script that took him just 13 days to write—for $3 million in 1990. Eszterhas told The A.V. Club that the media liked to focus on a writer’s failures, which occurred when Eszterhas’ Showgirls tanked at the box office. “CBS Evening News came with a helicopter crew and found me on a beach in Florida and interviewed me about the money I got for Basic Instinct,” Eszterhas said. “The other thing that I don’t think was quite fair was that after that whole period, where scripts—mine and Shane Black's and half a dozen other writers’ scripts—went for a lot of money, the media zeroed in on the box office for some of those scripts, and they always zeroed in on the failures … When Basic Instinct went on to earn $400 million worldwide, there were no stories that said, ‘[Executive producer] Mario Kassar paid three million bucks for this.’”

2. CATHERINE AND NICK WERE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE.

Before he became a multimillionaire screenwriter, Eszterhas was a police reporter for Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. “I met a cop who just liked the action too much,” Eszterhas told Nerve. “He was always in the middle of shootings. He was a great cop on one level, but on another, you suspected he liked it too much. That’s what Nick Curran does in Basic Instinct. As Catherine says in the movie, he got too close to the flame. He loved the flame.”

Tramell also comes from a person Eszterhas knew in Ohio, this time a go-go dancer in Dayton. One night he picked the stranger up and they went back to his hotel room to have some fun. “She reached into her purse, and she pulled out a .22 and pointed it at me,” he told Nerve. “She said, ‘Give me one reason why I shouldn’t pull this trigger.’ I said, ‘I didn’t do anything to hurt you. You wanted to come here, and as far as I know, you enjoyed what we just did.’ And she said, ‘But this is all guys have ever wanted to do with me, and I’m tired of it.’ We had a lengthy discussion before she put that gun down. Those two random characters are where those parts of Basic Instinct come from.”

3. MICHAEL DOUGLAS AND PAUL VERHOEVEN APPROACHED THE MOVIE AS IF IT WERE A DETECTIVE NOVEL.

Verhoeven wanted to make a modern version of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller—except with a lot more sex. “In traditional films, the killer lurks in a house and the victim walks into the kitchen, turns on the radio, makes coffee, opens a book, gets comfortable—and then the killer strikes,” he told The New York Times. “In this film, the killer hides—but on the bed. The situation is the same, but the two people are facing each other in bed, not the kitchen.”

Douglas agreed with the film noir aspect of the movie. “Fatal Attraction was a picture close to home for a lot of people because you could identify with those characters,” he also told the Times. “It was a reality tale, while Basic Instinct is like a detective novel that people like to read in the privacy of their homes. It’s almost Gothic. It’s certainly more dramatic. And the real question here is: Is anybody really worthy of redemption?”

4. THE ICE PICK SCENE GAVE SHARON STONE NIGHTMARES.

In a 1992 interview with Playboy, Stone revealed that she didn’t mind the sex scenes but did mind the violence. “I made my best friend lie by the bed while I did the scene—just lie there by the camera telling me jokes,” she said. “God! They had a paramedic with an oxygen mask there because I’d start to feel like I was going to pass out.”

By the time she had to loop some of her sequences in post-production, Stone “had seen the film and recognized that Catherine was like a carnivorous cat on the kill,” she said. “That’s how I understood the energy of it. Once I got that—once I understood the roar of the kill—I told them I didn’t want to loop it one bit at a time like they usually do. I wanted to do it all at once. I wanted all the lights in the room turned off. I wanted to just do it. When they turned the lights back on, you could have knocked Paul off his chair with a feather.”

5. VERHOEVEN GOT AWAY WITH LONG SEX SCENES BECAUSE IT WAS A THRILLER.

Basic Instinct was slapped with an NC-17 rating, and Verhoeven, whose contract required a R-rating, had to go back to the MPAA eight times before they’d lower the rating to a R. “Because it was a thriller, the idea that Sharon Stone could kill him during sex was always an element of protection,” the director told Rolling Stone. “So we could show sex and nudity much longer than normal, because there was another element there—the element of threat.”

Mike Medavoy, the head of the movie’s distributor, TriStar, talked Verhoeven into the lesser rating. “If we make Basic Instinct as an NC-17, it could make $50 million or $250 million—I have no idea,” Medavoy told Verhoeven. “But if we make it as an R, it will certainly make $150 million. So let's do that.” “And it made sense, at least from a business point of view, so I had to adapt to that,” Verhoeven said. “But going back and forth between the studio or the editing room and the MPAA, having to go back and change more and more frames ... it was very unpleasant. Strangely enough, the shot of Sharon Stone spreading her legs was never a problem.”

Verhoeven ended up cutting about 40 seconds of material, which showed up in the European version. “Actually, I didn’t have to cut many things, but I replaced things from different angles, made it a little more elliptical, a bit less direct,” Verhoeven explained to The New York Times.

6. THE LEG-CROSSING SCENE WAS NOT IN THE SCRIPT.

Basic Instinct's most famous scene is undoubtedly the interrogation scene, where Stone notoriously crosses and uncrosses her legs. But Eszterhas didn't write it. The scene has been parodied many times throughout the past 20-plus years, including a 2015 bit with Douglas on James Corden. “Paul Verhoeven decided that scene would be more fun if Sharon didn’t wear any underwear that day,” Eszterhas wrote in his 2005 memoir, Hollywood Animal. “In other words, the most famous moment of any of my films was Paul Verhoeven’s. I am a militant and militantly insufferable screenwriter who insists that the screenwriter is as important as the director, who insists the director serves the screenwriter’s vision, and whose most famous and most memorable screen moment was created by the director, Paul Verhoeven.”

During a Story Expo Q&A, Eszterhas again talked about that famous scene. “I think it was brilliant for Paul to do it that way,” Eszterhas said. “I deny that’s the reason why the movie was a hit … In some ways I’m really sorry I didn’t write the damn scene.”

7. STONE PLAYED THE INTERROGATION SCENE AS IF SHE WERE PLAYING A GAME.

Instead of allowing the male law enforcement to intimidate her character, Stone played the role with confidence. “The ruse they use—‘We have the power, we’re going to show you’—didn’t cut the mustard with [Catherine],” Stone told Playboy. “Her attitude was, ‘You're so powerful. Aren’t you cute!’ And, of course, she had all the power. These men put her in a position where she was alone in a chair in the center of an empty room—surrounded. That would be a very intimidating position to be in unless she disarmed them, which she did. At the police station she could have been stricken and scared. But instead she thought, ‘This is going to be fun. Oh, so you want me to sit in the middle of the room here? Oh, charming. Why is that? You want to make sure you can look up my dress? OK, you can look up my dress.’ It was a game.”

8. ESZTERHAS REGRETS “GLAMORZING SMOKING” IN THE MOVIE.

In 2001, Eszterhas was diagnosed with throat cancer, and he lost a significant amount of his larynx. He wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2002 about the hazards of smoking, especially in the movies. “Sharon Stone’s character smokes; Michael Douglas’s is trying to quit,” he wrote. “She seduces him with literal and figurative smoke that she blows into his face. In the movie’s most famous and controversial scene, she even has a cigarette in her hand.” He said Big Tobacco loved the movie so much that they launched a Basic brand of cigarettes. “I think smoking should be as illegal as heroin … So I say to my colleagues in Hollywood: What we are doing by showing larger-than-life movie stars smoking onscreen is glamorizing smoking. What we are doing by glamorizing smoking is unconscionable. A cigarette in the hands of a Hollywood star onscreen is a gun aimed at a 12- or 14-year-old.”

9. STONE DIDN’T FEEL COMFORTABLE AROUND DOUGLAS.

Stone told Playboy she didn’t think he felt at ease around her either, but it worked for the movie. “I think that kind of discomfort lends itself to this kind of movie,” she said. “Tension is good. I basically didn’t get to know Michael. There was something about the mystery of not knowing each other that lent itself to this situation. It’s odd, because now I have this very intimate bond with a stranger.” Despite that, Stone described working with him as “primal.” “It was all about watching him, observing his movements, provoking him. If one were to believe in karma, I would say there is some karmic circle yet unfulfilled between the two of us. Our energy together was strong. It still isn't comfortable for me, but I think it works very well for our work together.”

10. VERHOEVEN DIDN’T THINK THE MOVIE WAS JUST ABOUT SEX.

“I always thought the movie was about evil,” Verhoeven told The New York Times. “I always thought that with an economy falling down, with the dangers of life all around you—the danger of AIDS, the danger of crime—people are more aware of the fact that evil is an existing, everyday factor in your life. But this is my intuition. I don’t want to push it. As an artist, as a director, it’s sometimes better not to be too clear with yourself about what you’re doing. Otherwise you might be pushing too hard.”

11. STONE MANIPULATED THE DIRECTOR TO GET THE PART.

Thirteen actresses besides Stone were considered for Catherine, but only Stone was willing to do it. Just as Catherine manipulates men, Stone manipulated the director to get the role. Back then Stone wasn’t a big name, and didn’t read for the part fearing she’d be disappointed. She finally read the script and knew she was right for the role but didn’t want to call Verhoeven—whom she had worked with on Total Recall—and ask if she could audition for him. “I wouldn’t ask, because I didn’t want him to test me just because he felt obligated,” she told Playboy. One day Verhoeven had her come in to dub lines for an airplane version of Total Recall, so she wore a tight Catherine-esque dress to demonstrate to Verhoeven that she could play the maneater part. “I was being cool. Very cool,” she said. “I didn’t want him to think I was insane, but I did want to give him a general idea that I could transform myself. Men are visually stimulated—and that’s usually enough, at least at first.” The dress worked, and Stone tested with Douglas and won the role.

12. ESZTERHAS QUIT THE PROJECT BUT CAME BACK LATER ON.

Eszterhas felt Verhoeven was compromising his script. “My intention when I wrote the script was that it be a psychological mystery with the love scenes done subtly,” Eszterhas told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “Every love scene in my script begins with the words: ‘It is dark; we can’t see clearly.’”

He then thought Verhoeven and Douglas ganged up on him. “Michael was leading the fight, feeling that Catherine was one-upping his character all the time, and that there was no redemption, and he wanted the movie to end with him shooting and killing her,” Eszterhas told the London Screenwriters’ Festival. “Paul backed him up. I said, ‘If you want to do this I won’t be involved in killing my own child. It would make it into a bad TV movie.’ In my mind, this was film noir, not a morality tale, and that’s what made it unique and daring. Paul stood up and said, ‘I am the director, you are the writer, you do what I tell you!’ I said, ‘Like f*ck you do!’”

A few months later, Verhoeven called Eszterhas and decided to return to his version of the script. “He said he hadn’t understood the ‘basement’ of my script, as he called it, that it was about good and evil,” Eszterhas said. “He not only went back to my draft, he actually held a press conference and said this. For a director to mumble these words is quite something; for him to hold a press conference is mind-boggling.”

13. IT WAS “BASIC HORROR” FOR STONE TO SEE HERSELF ON THE SCREEN.

Having abandoned herself so completely to the character, when Stone finally saw the film on the big screen she “couldn't believe that it was me. I couldn't remember doing all the things I had done,” she confessed to Playboy.

“Halfway through the movie, it was as if I were impaled. I was just sitting there, mouth open, staring at the screen, listening to my heartbeat and wondering how long it would be before it was over, wondering who I should call first to tell them never to see this movie. It was basic horror. It’s one thing when you take enormous risks and go way out on a limb in life. It’s another thing when someone plays it back for you.” After struggling on the sidelines for so many years, she knew Basic Instinct was the “opportunity of a lifetime.” “I’m either gonna play this part and it’s gonna rock things, or I’m gonna be hanging my head in shame at the supermarket. There was no gray area. It was an all-or-nothing roll of the dice.”

14. KATHLEEN TURNER WAS A MODEL FOR CATHERINE.

For her role as a femme fatale-type character, Stone referenced Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. “Kathleen Turner is a great, great actress whom I have always enjoyed watching,” Stone told Playboy. “You never know what she’s going to do. So, yes, I thought of her when I did my part. I thought, if Kathleen Turner did this, she wouldn't draw a line here, she’d go further. I also thought of Judy Davis. If she did this part, we’d be rocked right out of our seats. I saw Impromptu regularly while I was making the movie, thinking, she has great courage. I want to be like her.”

15. STONE AND ESZTERHAS HAD A ONE-NIGHT STAND.

In Hollywood Animal, Eszterhas recounted the time he slept with Stone after the movie came out. “I’m glad I nailed her, though. Not because nailing her felt all that good (it was okay). But because as a result of Sharon Stone’s presence in my life, I met and married Naomi, my one true love,” he wrote.

He’s referring to the filming of Sliver (Eszterhas wrote the script), when Stone had an affair with producer William McDonald, who left his wife of five months, Naomi Baka, for Stone. The couple got engaged but eventually Stone dumped him. On the plus side, Eszterhas swooped in and hooked up with Naomi; they are still married today.

Eszterhas said neither he nor Stone “attached too much significance to our one-night stand.” “I figured that since I had written the biggest hit of her life for her, she was just saying thank you. And I knew that Sharon thought she was flattering me that night by treating me as if I were the director [she wouldn’t sleep with Verhoeven] and not a screenwriter, but still. Basic Instinct had been the number one box office hit of the year … in the whole world! I felt I deserved her.”

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15 Fascinating Facts About Julia Child
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Julia Child was much more than just a bestselling cookbook author and chef. Over the course of her life, she was also a breast cancer survivor, a TV trailblazer, and a government spy. It's the famed chef's spy game that will be the focus of Julia, a new series being developed by ABC Signature and created by Benjamin Brand.

The project will draw its inspiration from Child's PBS program, Cooking for the C.I.A. “I was disappointed when I learned that in this case, the C.I.A. stood for the Culinary Institute of America,” Brand told Deadline. “Cooking Secrets of the Central Intelligence Agency always seemed like a more interesting show to me. Many years later, when I read a biography of Julia Child and learned about her experiences during World War II, working for the Office of Strategic Services—the precursor to the C.I.A.—the story of Julia quickly fell into place.”

Though Julia will be a work of fiction, here are 15 facts about the beloved cook.

1. SHE MET THE INVENTOR OF THE CAESAR SALAD WHEN SHE WAS A KID.

As a preteen, Julia Child traveled to Tijuana on a family vacation. Her parents took her to dine at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant, so that they could all try his trendy “Caesar salad.” Child recalled the formative culinary experience to The New York Times: “My parents were so excited, eating this famous salad that was suddenly very chic. Caesar himself was a great big old fellow who stood right in front of us to make it. I remember the turning of the salad in the bowl was very dramatic. And egg in a salad was unheard of at that point.” Years later, when she was a famous chef in her own right, Child convinced Cardini’s daughter, Rosa, to share the authentic recipe with her.

2. THE WAVES AND WACS REJECTED HER BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO TALL.

Like so many others of her generation, Child felt the call to serve when America entered World War II. There was just one problem: her height. At a towering 6'2", Child was deemed “too tall” for both the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC). But she was accepted by the forerunner to the CIA, which brings us to our next point.

3. SHE WAS A SPY DURING WORLD WAR II.

Child took a position at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was basically the CIA 1.0. She began as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, where she worked directly for the head of the OSS, General William J. Donovan. But she moved over to the OSS Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, and then took an overseas post for the final two years of the war. First in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and later in Kunming, China, Child served as the chief of the OSS Registry. This meant she had top-level security clearance. It also meant she was working with Paul Child, the OSS officer she would eventually marry.

4. SHE HELPED DEVELOP A SHARK REPELLENT FOR THE NAVY.

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While Child was in the Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section, she helped the team in its search for a suitable shark repellent. Several U.S. naval officers had been attacked by the ocean predators since the war broke out, so the OSS brought in a scientist specializing in zoology and an anthropologist to come up with a fix. Child assisted in this mission, and recalled her experience in the book, Sisterhood of Spies: “I must say we had lots of fun. We designed rescue kits and other agent paraphernalia. I understand the shark repellent we developed is being used today for downed space equipment—strapped around it so the sharks won’t attack when it lands in the ocean.”

5. SHE GOT MARRIED IN BANDAGES.

Once the war ended, Paul and Julia Child decided to take a “few months to get to know each other in civilian clothes.” They met with family members and traveled cross-country before they decided to tie the knot. The wedding took place on September 1, 1946. Julia remembered being “extremely happy, but a bit banged up from a car accident the day before.” She wasn’t kidding; she actually had to wear a bandage on the side of her face for her wedding photos. The New York Review of Books has one of those pictures.

6. SHE WAS A TERRIBLE COOK WELL INTO HER 30S.

Child did not have a natural talent for cooking. In fact, she was a self-admitted disaster in the kitchen until she began taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where she and Paul lived for several years. Prior to her marriage, Child simply fed herself frozen dinners. It was probably the safest choice; one of her earliest attempts at cooking resulted in an exploded duck and an oven fire.

7. A LUNCH IN ROUEN CHANGED HER LIFE.

Child repeatedly credited one meal with spurring her interest in fine foods: a lunch in the French city of Rouen that she and Paul enjoyed en route to their new home in Paris. The meal consisted of oysters portugaises on the half-shell, sole meunière browned in Normandy butter, a salad with baguettes, and cheese and coffee for dessert. They also “happily downed a whole bottle of Pouilly-Fumé” over the courses.

8. IT TOOK HER NINE YEARS TO WRITE AND PUBLISH HER FIRST COOKBOOK.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking revolutionized home cooking when it was published in 1961—but the revolution didn't happen overnight. Child first began work on her famous tome in 1952, when she met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The French women were writing a cookbook aimed at teaching Americans how to make French cuisine, and brought Child onboard as a third author. Nine years of research, rewrites, and rejections ensued before the book landed a publisher at Alfred A. Knopf.

9. SHE GOT FAMOUS BY BEATING EGGS ON BOSTON PUBLIC TELEVISION.

Child’s big TV break came from an unlikely source: Boston’s local WGBH station. While promoting Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child appeared as a guest on the book review program I’ve Been Reading. But rather than sit down and discuss recipe semantics, Child started cracking eggs into a hot plate she brought with her. She made an omelette on air as she answered questions, and viewers loved it. The station received dozens of letters begging for more demonstrations, which led WGBH producer Russell Morash to offer Child a deal. She filmed three pilot episodes, which turned into her star-making show The French Chef.

10. ALL HER ESSENTIAL UTENSILS WERE KEPT IN A “SACRED BAG.”

According to a 1974 New Yorker profile, Child carried a large black canvas satchel known as the “sacred bag.” Rather than holy artifacts, it contained the cooking utensils she couldn’t live without. That included her pastry-cutting wheel, her favorite flour scoop, and her knives, among other things. She started using it when The French Chef premiered, and only entrusted certain people with its care.

11. SHE SURVIVED BREAST CANCER.

Child’s doctors ordered a mastectomy in the late 1960s after a routine biopsy came back with cancerous results. She was in a depressed mood following her 10-day hospital stay, and Paul was a wreck. But she later became vocal about her operation in hopes that it would remove the stigma for other women. She told TIME, “I would certainly not pussyfoot around having a radical [mastectomy] because it’s not worth it.”

12. HER MARRIAGE WAS WELL AHEAD OF ITS TIME.

As their meet-cute in the OSS offices would suggest, Paul and Julia Child had far from a conventional marriage (at least by 1950s standards). Once Julia’s career took off, Paul happily assisted in whatever way he could—as a taste tester, dishwasher, agent, or manager. He had retired from the Foreign Service in 1960, and immediately thrust himself into an active role in Julia’s business. The New Yorker took note of Paul’s progressive attitudes in its 1974 profile of Julia, noting that he suffered “from no apparent insecurities of male ego.” He continued to serve as Julia’s partner in every sense of the word until his death in 1994.

13. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN INDUCTED INTO THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA'S HALL OF FAME.

Child spent her early years working for what would become the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1993, she joined another CIA: the Culinary Institute of America. The group inducted Child into its Hall of Fame that year, making her the first woman to ever receive the honor.

14. SHE EARNED THE HIGHEST CIVILIAN HONORS FROM THE U.S. AND FRANCE.

Along with that CIA distinction, Child received top civilian awards from both her home country and the country she considered her second home. In 2000, she accepted the Legion D’Honneur from Jacques Pépin at Boston’s Le Méridien hotel. Just three years later, George W. Bush gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

15. HER KITCHEN IS IN THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 2001, Julia donated the kitchen that Paul designed in their Cambridge, Massachusetts home to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Although it’s not possible to walk directly through it, there are three viewports from which visitors can see the high counters, wall of copper pots, and gleaming stove. Framed recipes, articles, and other mementos from her career adorn the surrounding walls—and, of course, there’s a television which plays her cooking shows on loop.

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15 Surprising Facts About Steve Carell
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From the seven seasons he spent as the star of NBC’s The Office to leading man roles in comedy classics like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Steve Carell has become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand funnymen. But he has proven his dramatic chops, too, particularly with his role as John du Pont in Foxcatcher, which earned Carell an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 2015. Even if you’ve seen all of his movies, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about the Massachusetts native, who turns 55 years old today.

1. HE THOUGHT HE WANTED TO BE A LAWYER.

Steve Carell attended Ohio’s Denison University, where he received a history degree in 1984, and had planned to move on to law school. But when it came time to apply, he found himself stumped by the first question on the application: Why do you want to be a lawyer?

“I had never considered acting as a career choice, although I’d always enjoyed it,” Carell told NJ.com in 2011. “I enjoyed hockey and singing in the choir, and I didn’t think of them as potential careers, either … But I began to realize I really loved acting, and telling stories. Reading a book, watching a movie, going to a play, it’s transporting, and very, very exciting. And to be a part of that, creating things with your imagination, whoa."

2. HE WORKED AS A MAILMAN.

Shortly before he moved to Chicago and performed with The Second City, Carell worked as a postal carrier in the tiny town of Littleton, Massachusetts. Because the post office didn’t have its own mail vehicles, Carell had to use his own car. He kept the gig for just four months, then took off for the Windy City. “And months later, I found mail under the seat of my car,” he admitted. Carell also said it was the hardest job he has ever had.

3. HE WAS HIS WIFE’S TEACHER.

No, it’s not as risqué as it sounds. Carell met his wife, Nancy Walls, through an improv class at Second City; he was the teacher, she was one of his students. “I beat around the bush [before asking her out] and said something stupid like, ‘Well, you know, if I were to ever ask someone out, it would be someone like you,’” Carell told Details of his earliest attempts at flirting. “It’s so stupid, but it was all self-protection. She was the same way: ‘If somebody like you were to ask me out, I would definitely go out with him. If there was a person like you.’” The couple married in 1995 and have appeared in several projects together.

4. THE COUPLE HAD TO BREAK UP (ON CAMERA) ON THEIR 17TH ANNIVERSARY.

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For Lorene Scafaria’s underrated 2012 end-of-the-world dramedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Steve and Nancy played a married couple who split up when it’s announced that an asteroid heading toward Earth will obliterate the planet in three weeks. Their break-up scene happens very early on in the movie, and they ended up filming it on their 17th wedding anniversary.

“She gets to leave me right at the beginning,” Carell told Parade. “They used the take where her shoe came off in the car, and she bolted across that field with one shoe on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her run that fast. We shot the scene on our 17th anniversary. [The director] got us a cake and the crew sang ‘Happy Anniversary’ to us. It was very sweet, a very special night."

5. HE AND HIS WIFE AUDITIONED FOR SNL TOGETHER; ONLY ONE OF THEM MADE IT.

In 1995, the same year they married, both Carell and Walls auditioned for Saturday Night Live. Walls made it but Carell didn’t, which must have made for one awkward celebratory dinner. But it all turned out well in the end; Carell went on to become a household name and has hosted the show on two occasions.

6. HE WAS ONE HALF OF “THE AMBIGUOUSLY GAY DUO.”

Though he missed out on the chance to become a regular SNL cast member, there was a silver lining: He was free to say “yes” to taking a role on The Dana Carvey Show, a sketch show that SNL alum Dana Carvey created for ABC. Though it was short-lived, the show was full of amazing comedic talent; in addition to Carvey and Carell, the show featured Stephen Colbert, Bob Odenkirk, and Robert Smigel and a writers room that included Louis C.K., Charlie Kaufman, and Robert Carlock. The show marked the debut of Smigel’s recurring animated sketch, “The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” which followed the adventures of Gary and Ace, who were voiced by Carell and Colbert, respectively. After the show was cancelled, Smigel brought the “Duo” over to Saturday Night Live.

7. HE OWNS A GENERAL STORE IN MASSACHUSETTS.

While many A-list stars run side businesses—restaurants, wine companies, clothing lines, etc.—the Carells' second gig is a little less glamorous. In 2009, they bought the Marshfield Hills General Store in Marshfield, Massachusetts—where they spend their summers—in order to preserve it as a local landmark. 

“The main impetus to keep it going is that not many of those places exist and I wanted this one to stay afloat,” Carell told The Patriot Ledger. “Just generally speaking, there are not that many local sort of communal places as there used to be ... I think it’s nice for people to actually go and talk and have a cup of coffee and communicate with one another."

8. HE PLAYS THE FIFE.

Yes, Carell has got some musical talent and can actually play the fife. It’s a skill he acquired early in life, and shares with several of his family members. And it came in handy when he joined a reenactment group that portrayed the 10th (North Lincoln) Regiment of Foot, a line infantry regiment with the British Army.

9. HE WAS NOT THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MICHAEL SCOTT IN THE OFFICE.

Though Michael Scott, the clueless manager of paper company Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton, Pennsylvania branch in The Office, is still probably Carell's best-known role, he wasn’t the first choice for the part. Paul Giamatti was reportedly the first choice, but he declined. Hank Azaria and Martin Short were also in the running. Bob Odenkirk was actually cast in the role because Carell was committed to another series, Come to Papa. But when that show was cancelled after just a few episodes, the role of Michael Scott was recast with Carell. (Odenkirk appeared in one of the series’s later episodes, playing a boss who was eerily similar to Carell’s Scott.)

10. WHEN CARELL LEFT THE OFFICE, THE CAST AND CREW “RETIRED” HIS NUMBER ON THE CALL SHEET.

NBC Universal, Inc.

When Carell left The Office after seven seasons to focus on his film career, the cast and crew continued one tradition in his honor. “Steve was No. 1 on the call sheet because he was the lead of the show,” co-star Jenna Fischer told TV Guide. “And when he left, we retired his number. No one, ever since he left, was allowed to be No. 1."

11. HE WAS IN TALKS TO PLAY RON DONALD ON PARTY DOWN.

Before Party Down made its premiere on Starz with Adam Scott playing failed actor Henry Pollard, it was supposed to be an HBO series with Paul Rudd in the lead. And Rudd was pushing for Carell to play bumbling catering manager Ron Donald, as The Office didn’t get off to a great start and looked to be in danger of getting cancelled. Ultimately, HBO ended up abandoning the project, which Starz scooped up—with Scott as Pollard and Ken Marino as Ron Donald.

12. JAMES SPADER REALLY WANTED TO PLAY BRICK TAMLAND IN ANCHORMAN.

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Though it was The 40-Year-Old Virgin that turned Carell into a leading man on the big screen, his role as oddball meteorologist Brick Tamland in Anchorman brought him a lot of attention. But if James Spader had his way, Carell would never have appeared in the role at all. In a 2013 interview with Baller Status, director Adam McKay shared that before the film was even cast:

“I get a phone call and I hear that James Spader is obsessed with Brick's character. I say ‘James Spader? That is insane, will he come in and read?’ They say, ‘No, he's not going to come in and read; he's James Spader!’ James Spader and I end up talking and he called it about the Brick character. He thought it was one of the funniest character he ever read and we weren't even sure if it was going to work. He literally said, ‘I will do anything to get this role.’ Eventually, we were just like, ‘This is James Spader; he is too good for this role.’ But, he was right about how funny it was. The movie studio even questioned us and said how bizarre Brick is, and it wouldn't work. I felt bad we didn't cast James, but Carell was so good.”

Spader proved his comedic chops in 2011, when he was cast as Robert California, Michael Scott’s replacement on The Office (who quickly manages to convince the company owner to appoint him as CEO).

13. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS' EXECUTIVES WERE CONCERNED THAT CARELL WAS COMING OFF AS A SERIAL KILLER IN THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN.

Though it turned out to be one of 2005’s biggest hits, getting the tone right on Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin proved to be a fairly difficult task. At one point, executives at Universal Studios expressed their concern to Apatow that Carell might come off as a serial killer to viewers.

"There is a fine line," producer Mary Parent told the Los Angeles Times. "Men and women alike could look at him and if he's too much of a sad sack, they will think, 'Dude, get a life.’” Apatow ended up adding several lines about the fact that Carell’s character could be a serial killer.

14. HE LEARNED MAGIC FROM DAVID COPPERFIELD.

In 2013, Carell played a magician in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. In order to get the role just right, he went straight to the top: David Copperfield. The famed illusionist taught Carell and co-star Steve Buscemi a trick called “The Hangman,” and they were both sworn to secrecy. “I actually had to sign something that I would not divulge,” Carell told The Hollywood Reporter. “So that was kind of cool.”

15. HE OFFERED PRINCETON'S 2012 CLASS SOME TIPS FOR SUCCESS.

In 2012, Carell delivered a speech to Princeton University graduates—which included his niece—during Class Day. He ended his talk by offering some tips to the grads:

“I would like to leave you with a few random thoughts. Not advice per se, but some helpful hints: Show up on time. Because to be late is to show disrespect. Remember that the words 'regime' and 'regimen' are not interchangeable. Get a dog, because cats are lame. Only use a 'That's what she said' joke if you absolutely cannot resist. Never try to explain a 'That's what she said' joke to your parents. When out to eat, tip on the entire check. Do not subtract the tax first. And every once in a while, put something positive into the world. We have become so cynical these days. And by we I mean us. So do something kind, make someone laugh, and don't take yourself too seriously.”

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