'Stealthy' Steve Carell has busy year

Looking trim in a black windbreaker over a gray crew neck sweatshirt, Steve Carell walked into the diner near the Warner Bros. lot just like a regular guy.

OK, most actors/ celebrities walk into diners like regular folk; it’s not like they’re transported in on pillows. So with Carell, let’s emphasize the regularness.

Carell, whose breakthrough movie, “The 40 Year Old Virgin” (2005), sprung from a sketch he developed while at The Second City, draws you in subtly, his hazel eyes projecting earnestness, his short-cropped pepper-with-salt hair augmenting the image of someone who would seem right at home in a bureaucratic office — a trick that, come to think of it, he has pulled off. He’s stealth-normal.

His new comedy, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” now in theaters, finds Carell exercising his funny bones as an obnoxious star magician whose act has grown stale amid the shock antics of an up-and-coming rival played by Jim Carrey (his nemesis in “Bruce Almighty”). But other sides of Carell will be on display soon given that he has five — count ‘em, five — movies coming out in 2013.

“The Way, Way Back,” directed by “The Descendants” co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, is a coming-of-age tale about a 14-year-old boy whose mom’s new jerky boyfriend is played by Carell. That’s scheduled to open in early July, as is “Despicable Me 2,” the animated sequel in which Carell reprises his character of Gru, a not-so-evil villain who adopts three girls.

Late this year will come his heaviest role yet, — as a mentally ill multimillionaire, John du Pont, who kills an Olympic wrestler — in “Foxcatcher,” from “Moneyball” and “Capote” director Bennett Miller. At the other end of the spectrum is Second City veteran and writer-director Adam McKay’s “Anchorman: The Legend Continues” (due out Dec. 20 and currently being filmed in Atlanta), in which Carell returns as dunderheaded meteorologist Brick Tamland.

Even though he had just a supporting part in the original “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004), Carell said he gets asked more about that movie than any of his other roles. He discussed his eagerness to do the sequel and much more in an hourlong chat last month.

On "Anchorman: The Legend Continues": "It's going to be so ridiculous. Just before I came over, I got a link for some music that we're going to be prerecording down there. It's already beyond absurd, what we're doing. I'm excited. You know, the first one was so much fun to do. I think that's why everyone's doing this one. I don't think anyone had any thoughts of making art. Just rampant silliness. We were just trying to make each other laugh. I don't think I've ever laughed harder in my life than when doing that."

On unlikely "Anchorman" fans: "When I did 'Hope Springs,' I was talking about (the upcoming 'Anchorman'), and Meryl Streep said, 'Oh, I'd love to be in that.' Meryl Streep throwing her hat in — it's hilarious."

On how he built up his "Anchorman" role: "First 'Anchorman' (movie) I don't even know if I had any lines to begin with — one or two in the whole script. I remember Adam would tell me to just say something, and it didn't even matter: If you find a moment where no one else is saying anything, say something, so that was kind of part of how Brick was created. It was just saying random things that did not connect to anything else."

On whether he's more comfortable sticking with a script or improvising on set: "I don't think it really matters. For something like 'Hope Springs,' there was no improvisation at all. I tried to make it letter perfect. It's just whatever it calls for. That just did not call for improvisation. I wasn't going to start riffing with Meryl and Tommy Lee (laughs)."

On whether he improvised on "Burt Wonderstone": "Yeah, there was improvising on that. It's such a big, silly premise that it's not something that you necessarily have to stick to a very specific storyline or narrative. You can kind of find jokes and bits within it all. So, yeah, that's what we tried to do, keep it sort of loose."

On the tight production schedule for the "Anchorman" sequel: "That amazes me. And I get more questions about 'Anchorman' than anything. Especially the international press — Australian and British press, they can't wait. I don't know how it translated there. For some reason it did."