Arts interview

Steve Carell on addiction in ‘Beautiful Boy’

Steve Carell shares his experience acting in a drama about crystal meth addiction

8750 alexander sandberg   dsc 0665 %282%29
Steve Carell and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey arrive at the AMC Boston Common theater for the red carpet premiere of the movie 'Beautiful Boy' Oct. 18.

Beautiful Boy
Directed by Felix van Groeningen
Screenplay by Felix van Groeningen and Luke Davies
Starring Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, and Timothy Hutton.
Rated R, Now Playing

In an interview regarding his recent performance in the drama Beautiful Boy, actor Steve Carell sheds light on his experience portraying the father of a crystal meth addict.

The Huntington News: As a father, how did your experiences raising kids influence your experience filming Beautiful Boy?

Steve Carell: From the moment you have kids, you are terrified of something bad happening to them, and when something actually does, it’s a parent’s worst nightmare. So to imagine what David Sheff was going through when his son was spiraling out of control with a methamphetamine addiction... it’s hard to wrap my head around it. It’s hard to comprehend how bad that must’ve been.

The Tech: In a lot of the starring roles you are best known for, you’ve played a comedic character very convincingly. What was your experience as a lead in a movie as dark and serious as Beautiful Boy? What were the most difficult aspects of adopting the mindset of a character like David?

Steve Carell: I sort of approach comedies and dramas the same way. I think comedies are funnier when they’re believable, if there’s something truthful and honest about the characters. And that’s certainly the case with a drama. The more that a person can relate, the more it resonates with [viewers]. I related to this character because I’m a dad. As I was saying before, it’s a really really scary prospect seeing your kids go through something like this. So, there was never inclination to be funny on my part, per se, but there’s also humor even within the darkest moments. I think we look for those moments as well — it’s not all gloom and doom.

Boston Globe: What’s something that you learned from this process about addiction?

Steve Carell: I didn’t know a lot about methamphetamines and one of the things I did learn is that it alters your brain chemistry and it reduces your capacity for rational thought, and it makes it just that much more difficult to [escape] the throes of it. It’s such an insidious drug.

Boston Globe: How important was it for you to showcase that addiction is not just a singular disease; it’s something that affects a person’s whole community, their whole family?

Steve Carell: That’s one of the important aspects of this— that it tells a story from two perspectives, based on two books: Tweak by Nic Sheff and Beautiful Boy by Nic’s father David. They have very different voices, really. Nic’s book is much more first person, very immediate, very much in the now, and David’s book is much more of an overview about their relationship and his ruminations on this entire period with his son. So, I think it is important to get a balance of both sides. It’s an interesting construct that you do get to see. [Addiction] is destroying a lot of people at the same time.

The interview has been edited and cut for clarity and length.