Steve Carell has delivered great comedy to audiences time and again. One of his more classic comedies, in fact, his very first lead in a comedy, has found new and deserved life as it sits at #6 on the HBO Max streaming platform.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin, just from its name alone, immediately draws smiles. The poster, which depicts lead star Steve Carell as the innocent-looking, baby-faced virgin, also brings a sense of humor to the film. Once the film starts rolling, though, the raunch factor is set on high, adding to the heart of the movie.
Steve Carell is Andy Stitzer, a 40-year-old working as a stock supervisor at Smart Tech, an electronics store resembling Best Buy. Andy is amiable, easy to get along with, but Andy carries a secret. He’s never had sex. Ever.
Andy lives alone with his vast collection of classic action figures and video games. While he gets along with his co-workers, they view him as sort of an outcast, never inviting him to tag along. When one of their buddies can’t make poker night, Andy’s co-workers, which include David (Paul Rudd), Jay (Romany Malco), and Cal (Seth Rogen) bite the bullet and invite Andy so they can have an even number.
During the evening with the boys, they begin to talk about their sexual conquests. While Andy tries to chime in with his made-up ones, the boys eventually figure out that Andy has never been laid. They now make it their responsibility, quite humorously, to get Andy some action.
The film turns into a series of small skits as the boys try to hook up Andy with anything and everything. Their take on women and sex at first comes off misogynistic, not sitting well with Andy, who still isn’t sure he wants to lose his virginity.
In one of the more classic scenes in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Andy is taken by the boys for a chest waxing appointment. The scene, which was shot without preparation, has Steve Carell getting a true chest wax with all reactions to it authentic. Judd Apatow, who directed the film, recalls the set-up and one take.
“The chest-waxing scene was just an exciting moment because we knew we could only do it once,” Apatow remembers via Yahoo News. “It was his idea to do it, so I blame him. He said he had never done it before after we shot it I thought, ‘I think he’s done it before. I think he pretended he hadn’t done it, but he knew what was coming.”
It was as painful and nauseating as it looked. “We had four cameras and we just waxed Steve,” Apatow continues. “We tried to prepare him but we knew whatever would happen would happen and of course he delivered the funniest performance ever… Romany Malco ran off set because it really made him sick. And Seth and Rudd had the funniest reactions of disgust.”
Eventually, Steve Carell’s Andy would meet the woman he’d eventually fall for. Catherine Keener plays Trish, a woman who owns a store across from Andy’s that sells items on eBay. They fall for each other and right before they do the dirty deed, they are interrupted by Trish’s teenage daughter, prompting Andy and Trish to agree to abstain from sex until they hit their 20th date, if they make it that far.
Ultimately, raunch aside, the story is about growth and friendship and how they both come in unsuspecting ways. It was an immediate hit that had audiences in stitches.
The film was not only Steve Carell’s first lead role but it was also Judd Apatow’s directorial debut. Apatow first met Carell on the set of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and loved his sense of comedic timing. “I always keep my eyes open for the next funny guy who can carry a movie,” recalls Apatow via Made in Atlantis, “and it was very clear that Steve Carell was stealing scenes in Anchorman. So I just let him know if he had any ideas to let me know. He told me a few, all of which were very funny, but this one made me laugh the most.”
The two then teamed up for the next several months to bounce the story off each other, coming up with what they thought was a hit script. Apparently Universal thought it was a hit too because it took only a week after Steve Carell and Judd Apatow handed over the script for it to be green-lit.
For Steve Carell, who was, as Apatow put it, “stealing scenes in Anchorman,” The 40-Year-Old Virgin was just the start of a successful comedic career.
The Office came next for Steve Carell and TV history would be made. The series, which was a remake of the British series of the same name, took its first season before it caught on, but once it did, it took off. Ratings were lagging during The Office’s pilot season, but NBC decided to take a chance and renew it based on the wild success Carell was having with The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It paid off.
Steve Carell’s role as Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton regional manager Michael Scott turned into another rousing success. Carell took home numerous award nominations, eventually winning a Golden Globe and Television Critics Association Award.
Since his time on The Office, Steve Carell has been one of the most sought-after actors/comedians in the business. He’s been in numerous feature film comedies while also venturing over to more dramatic roles. On top of that, Carell has also provided the voice for one of the more popular characters in animation, Gru, in the Despicable Me franchise.
Steve Carell has since returned to television with the Netflix series Space Force. He also has spent time on the Apple TV+ hit series The Morning Show alongside Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
Next up for Steve Carell is his return to animation and Gru with the feature, Minions: The Rise of Gru. If you’re looking for a bit more adult humor, Carell’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin is available on HBO Max.