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Welcome To Marwen star Steve Carrell: Mark Hogancamp was dished this terrible adversity and never lost his humanity

Role play: Steve Carell as Mark Hogancamp and Merritt Wever as Roberta in Welcome To Marwen
Role play: Steve Carell as Mark Hogancamp and Merritt Wever as Roberta in Welcome To Marwen

Steve Carell and Leslie Mann team up for Welcome To Marwen, the true story of Mark Hogancamp, who created an imaginary town called Marwen after the horrific attack which took away most of his memories. The cast talk to Kerri-Ann Roper.

Steve Carell is deciding whether or not he should order a cheeseburger for lunch. He’s weighing up the calories — not that calorie counting is something he needs to be concerned with. Just ask his co-star, Leslie Mann, on his latest project, the film Welcome To Marwen.

Carell plays Mark Hogancamp, the artist who in 2000 was attacked and brutally beaten outside a bar after revealing he had a penchant for wearing women’s shoes. Hogancamp spent 43 days in hospital and, as a result of the brutal attack, lost nearly all of his adult memories.

Following his recovery, Hogancamp created the mythical Belgian town Marwen and a Second World War fighter pilot character in doll form, Captain Hogie. As a tribute to the women who aided his recovery in real life, Hogancamp created alter ego doll characters for them all and subsequently started taking photographs to create a storyboard.

In Welcome To Marwen, Mann plays Nicol, Hogancamp’s neighbour and the newest doll character he adds to Marwen.

She reflects on starring alongside Carell in 2005’s comedy The 40-Year-Old-Virgin versus their latest project.

“Back then, he was the nicest person in the world and he is still,” she says.

“He’s gotten better looking over the years,” she says with a smile, adding: “There have been articles written about how he’s getting better looking with age and it’s true, and you can’t quite put your finger on it — what it is, is it his hair?

“He just looks so handsome now. I think it’s because inside, he’s just this beautiful person and it’s like (his beauty) is coming out on his face”.

For Carell, now 56, there was a definite sense of responsibility attached to portraying a character based on a real-life person.

“For sure, there was a responsibility to it,” he says.

“We all felt that. We kept reminding ourselves we’re doing this movie and it’s a movie and it’s fun, but at the same time, it’s a person’s life and that wasn’t too far from our thoughts. There was a seriousness to it, there was certainly a weight to it. It was important, but very rewarding at the same time.”

It’s a responsibility the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis, echoes.

“What I hope is that it’s a celebration of the best parts of this person. You try to make sure that you’re being true to who they are and presenting them in a positive light, that’s what I hope to do,” he says.

The female dolls based on the women who helped Hogancamp recuperate are played by a range of star actresses, including Nurse Jackie’s Merritt Wever, Game Of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie, Janelle Monae and Diane Kruger.

At one point in the film, doll character Captain Hogie proclaims: “Women are the saviour of the world.”

The message is not lost on the cast following a year in the film world when movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up have dominated headlines.

Carell says: “It’s one of the things I love most about (the film) and that’s the real Mark (Hogancamp), and in meeting him, he’s the first person to say all of the people he truly admires and trusts are women.

“The woman who found him and saved his life after he’d been beaten up; the woman who is his caregiver; the nurses at the hospital — his friends are mostly all women and in this fantasy world he creates; his posse; his crew; all of the powerful people in his life; are women.”

“I admire that,” he adds. “It’s relevant now certainly, but it’s all true, and it’s an important part of who he is.”

Zemeckis, who won a best director Oscar for 1994’s Forrest Gump, concurs.

“This film speaks very profoundly to the healing power that women have,” he says. “Certainly in our hero’s life, they were very important, and he honoured them with creating alter egos of them in these dolls. It’s a celebration of everything that makes women important and wonderful in the world.”

As a character, Hogancamp is the living embodiment of the line ‘Not all heroes wear capes’ and Carell is in keen agreement that heroes “come in different shapes and sizes”.

He says: “He is a hero in my mind because here is a guy who was dished this terrible adversity and through it all, he never lost his sense of hope or humanity and kindness.

“To meet the real Mark, there’s not a cynical bone in his body and to retain that level of kindness after having something so terrible happen to you, that’s a really heroic and brave thing.”

In 2019 Zemeckis and Tom Hanks will be reunited for the sci-fi film Bios, due for release in 2020.

Zemeckis will be a producer on the project, but is upbeat about the prospect of working with Hanks again.

“It’s a magnificent project, a great script and Tom’s going to be great in it,” he says.

Welcome To Marwen is at cinemas now

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