First Banana: Steve Carell and the meticulous art of spontaneity.

From The New Yorker:

Banana What’s the smartest way to play dumb? Steve Carell carries that question around like a portable chessboard. One evening in December, he sat at a huge dining table on Stage 18 of the Paramount Studios lot, ruminating. His challenge for the next scene, part of a chaotic banquet sequence that ends the comedy “Dinner for Schmucks,” was to give the director at least five different takes—each one spontaneous, funny, and original—without ever stepping out of character. Carell was playing Barry, a sweet, beamish misfit who builds dioramas using taxidermized mice. Barry’s new pal, Tim (Paul Rudd), a silver-tongued financial analyst, has invited Barry to his boss’s house for a company dinner where everyone brings a schmuck for the execs to mock. Among the other oddballs present are a ventriloquist with a promiscuous dummy and a vulture trainer with a baleful-looking bird. The schmucks all believe it’s a “dinner for winners.”

The scene had been written as a brief shrieking fit by a schmuck named Madam Nora, a pet psychic, who suddenly channels the death agonies of the boiled-lobster entrée. But the director, Jay Roach, in search of more material, had swung his cameras around to shoot the schmucks’ reactions to Madam Nora, as well as any bits they wanted to improvise.

More here. (Note: For Ga who just visited a diorama in Louisville, KY)