On the set of Warner Bros. Pictures' Get Smart, a modern update of the classic TV show, Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway shot an action sequence. Being pursued by the enormous Dalip Singh, Agent 99 (Hathaway) is temporarily knocked down leaving Smart (Carell) to fight.
The key to this scene is Smart's one-liners about his own inability to make an impact. Timing the jokes to the action are a new complication for the comedian. "There are so many people involved with something like that," said Carell. "That big explosion that obviously I have no control over, delivering the line and having something explode behind me exactly on cue. That just speaks to the fact that those guys really know what they’re doing and we did one take of that because frankly, we could do it 50 more times and I don’t know if timing wise it could have gotten better than that."
Later in the scene, 99 will recover and start kicking butt, as she does in the movie. Though she has traditionally played princess types, Hathaway did not specifically set out to find an action heroine role. "I don’t usually go out there and say ok now it’s time to do an action role, now it’s time to win an Oscar, just because the latter will probably never happen and the former who would have thought it," she said. "So this one just sort of fell from the sky. I never expected to get it. I just really wanted to meet Steve Carrel which is why I auditioned and you can imagine my shock when I got the role."
Now that she has to be the action heroine, Hathaway did her homework. "A lot of martial arts training, just general conditioning. I wanted to get some dance in to try to get the grace of the character but that sort of fell by the wayside. So I’ve been trying to do it on my own. I also for a second thought about doing some improv comedy training but I just thought it was probably better to let Steve take care of that and just try to keep a straight face."
Carell did indeed improvise a series of one-liners for his reaction to the immovable object of Singh. He even went R-rated, though the movie will ultimately be PG-13.
""That’s more for me than for anybody else," Carell admitted. "It’s because sometimes there’s some stuff clearly on NBC that you’re not going to see but there is some really foul language that does not end up in some of those scenes that has been nipped and tucked. Part of it honestly is it kind of adds a buoyant feel to the crew in general. At the end of sort of a long week and if you sort of get silly even if you know that’s not specifically going to be in the movie or a piece of it might be it’s worth it because it sort of energizes everybody and yourself. Just to have fun and try to make everybody laugh. That’s kind of the crux of that."
More on Get Smart as we get closer to the June 20th opening.