Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 11:49 UK

America's comedy darlings endure disaster date

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

A scene from Date Night
The Fosters (Tina Fey and Steve Carell) see their scheduled romantic time go seriously awry

He is best known as the star of the American version of The Office.

She came to prominence as the brains behind US TV comedy 30 Rock and for her award-winning impersonations of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Now Steve Carell and Tina Fey are joining forces for the first time to bring their comic talents to the big screen in Date Night.

They play married couple Phil and Claire Foster, who go out on regular romantic dates as an escape from the combined stresses of work and raising two children.

But when they throw all caution to the wind and dispense with their regular dinner for two at a local steakhouse for a trip to New York City, things take a disastrous turn.

Pole-dancing routine

What follows is a comic caper involving spectacular car chases, fleeing from baddies and run-ins with the cops - all because the Fosters adventurously decide to steal someone else's dinner reservation.

"This is the first time we've worked together and now we're nemeses!" jokes Fey of her co-star.

The pair actually crossed paths once before - at an improvisational theatre in Chicago - but met "just in passing" before both going on to soak up the limelight.

WHAT'S A DATE NIGHT?
A scene from Date Night
It's when a married couple pre-arranges a regular night out for some romantic time away from the daily rigours of family life
A candlelit dinner or trip to the movies are popular ways of trying to recapture the first flush of love
Steve Carell says he and his wife prefer to stay at home, order in pizza and watch TV

While Carell has starred in a series of movies including Little Miss Sunshine and The 40 Year Old Virgin, Fey insists she is "a writer first", having started her career penning sketches for US TV institution Saturday Night Live.

"This was a wonderful vacation from the writers' room which is the most disgusting, torturous place," she shudders.

"It was a luxury to have a script come in that was in really good shape that you just get to be an actor for."

Carell, on the other hand, says it's "fun to be able to do both" acting and writing, and hopes a let-up in his movie career will enable him to script.

The pair - along with director Shawn Levy - worked together to drop improvised moments into Date Night - including a scene where the Fosters perform an excruciating pole-dancing routine.

"It was fun because we were improvising and clearly didn't know what we were doing," says Carrell.

"In the weeks leading up to it, every time I remembered that day was coming I'd have a little bit of stomach ache," Fey recalls.

Levy, whose other credits include the Night at the Museum films and Just Married, adds: "There is no scene in the finished movie that doesn't have some improv.

"Nobody ever got a good comedy from being rigid and tight."

Gritted teeth

Aside from the film's comic stars, Levy persuaded several actors more commonly associated with dramatic roles to join the cast - often allowing the jokes to be made at their expense.

Action star and pin-up Mark Wahlberg spends his time on screen as a deadpan hero unable to wear a shirt - much to the amusement of Fey.

"His chest is prettier than my face!" jokes the actress, while Carell adds: "He had a great sense of humour about poking fun at his own image."

Goodfellas actor Ray Liotta is another notable scalp, who was keen to star opposite the comedians as a hardened mobster.

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
It ended up being a gift - every time I played her I made $400! I haven't been in touch with her…
Tina Fey on mimicking Sarah Palin

"Everyone else who acted in the movie was a fan of Steve and Tina's," declares Levy. "Talent wants to work with talent."

But the film-maker admits there may a problem with marketing his movie outside of the US, where date nights are part of the nation's fabric.

The popular practice of arranging "quality time" together has helped propel the movie to the top of the North American box office.

"It's a bit more of a used term in the US. It's not only not popular here [in Europe], it's an anathema, the whole idea of scheduling romantic connection time," Levy says.

"It flies in the face of all the ideals of spontaneity and passion."

As for Carell, he reveals that his own favourite date nights involve not leaving the house at all - although he says the effort of arranging 'couple time' with his wife is always worth it.

"I never regret it because experiencing private time with my wife is nice - I like her," quips the star.

Fey, meanwhile, harks back to a teenage experience which seems to have little to do with dating for long-established couples.

"One date told me I could be really pretty if I lost some weight," she says through gritted teeth.

Date Night opens across the UK on Wednesday 21 April.



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SEE ALSO
Fey wins Emmy for TV Palin spoof
13 Sep 09 |  Entertainment
Palin's mimic 'glues down ears'
22 Oct 08 |  Entertainment
Fey spoofs Palin in VP debate
14 Oct 08 |  US Elections 2008
McCain meets Palin double
02 Nov 08 |  US Elections 2008

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