The Surprising Way Steve Carell And Robert Zemeckis Came Together On Welcome To Marwen

Welcome to Marwen Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) looking at photos on bench

Most actors come aboard a film in one of two ways: either they audition, or they are specifically chosen for the part. This was not the case for Steve Carell in the making of Welcome To Marwen, however. Rather than going out for the part or reading a script, Carell's path to the film was motivated by the fact that he was inspired by the source material, and through that inspiration just happened to discover Robert Zemeckis was already making the movie. The actor recently told me,

This one in particular, it wasn't offered to me. It wasn't a script. I think this is the first time this has ever happened. I saw the documentary Marwencol and I loved it, and I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I wanted to pursue it in some way, and see if it could be expanded into a feature. I found out that Robert Zemeckis had the rights, and we got together, and he told me what his vision of it was, and that's how I got involved.

I sat down with Steve Carell earlier this month during Welcome To Marwen Los Angeles press day, and learned about his serendipitous path to the project at the start of the interview. Acknowledging that he has three movies out this fall (Marwen, Beautiful Boy, and Vice), I asked about his project selection and he explained that the way he teamed up with Robert Zemeckis wasn't the typical Hollywood way.

Funny enough, Steve Carell's reaction to the Marwencol documentary was very similar to his director's. I first spoke with Robert Zemeckis about the project -- then called The Women Of Marwen -- during the press tour for his last film, Allied, and he explained how he had seen the film while channel surfing and found himself filled with immediate desire to adapt the story as a narrative feature.

In particular, Steve Carell was struck by the story of Mark Hogancamp, a man who survived a brutal beating and suffered debilitating memory loss, but rediscovered artistic expression via the creation and photography of a sixth-scale World War II-era Belgian village. Carell felt a special need to expose the world to Hogancamp's story, and felt the best way to do that was through Welcome To Marwen. He explained,

The character of Mark Hogancamp was somebody that I was fascinated by and I thought, you know, here's a story that definitely needed to be told. And I was hoping that maybe a feature could bring his story to even a larger audience, and be impactful that way.

After learning about Steve Carell's particular path to the film, I had the chance to follow up with Robert Zemeckis -- though the writer/director actually downplayed the influence of the fact that Carell came to him with his own interest in making the movie. Instead what he was far more interested in was the actor's incredible talent and ability to connect with an audience.

Well, that helped for sure. But my passion for Steve was because he's such a fantastic dramatic actor, and he's obviously a great comedic actor, and he has this great empathy, this ability to portray empathy on the screen. He has this wonderful every man quality, and he fit the bill. It was just another great plus that he was attracted to the material.

You can watch Steve Carell discuss the origins of his involvement with Welcome To Marwen -- as well as his apology for being in so many movies this year -- by clicking play on the video below.

Co-starring Leslie Mann, Gwendoline Christie, Janelle Monae, Merritt Wever, Leslie Zemeckis, Eiza González, and Diane Kruger, Welcome To Marwen arrives in theaters everywhere this Friday, December 21st.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.