Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jenkins gets in ‘Step’ during ‘amazing year’

If Oscar nominations came out today instead of next February, Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”) – likely as a supporting nominee – wouldn’t be the only lock in the bunch. In fact, the odds-on favorite to win the Best Actor award right now could be veteran character trooper Richard Jenkins, whose performance in Thomas McCarthy’s “The Visitor” is still knocking ‘em dead around the country, mostly in art house theaters.

“ ‘The Visitor' was just an extraordinary experience for me and one I thought I’d never have in film,” Jenkins said while promoting his latest movie, the totally wacky “Step Brothers,” opposite Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Mary Steenburgen. “To go from that unbelievable high to ‘Step Brothers,’ frankly, I was a little nervous.

“There was a lot of improvisational stuff going on (in “Step Brothers”), so it was remarkable to go from one to the other. These guys were so great and so generous. It’s just been an amazing year for me.”

In “Step Brothers,” Jenkins plays a single dad to a 40-year-old son (Reilly) before meeting and marrying a mother (Steenburgen) with her own goofy burden to bear (that would be another aging “boy,” this one played by Ferrell).

Jenkins, who co-starred previously in two comedies from the wild and crazy Farrelly Brothers, said he enjoyed trading quips and laughs with his co-stars in the latest romp from director Adam McKay (“Talladega Nights,” “Anchorman”).

“It was a little more scripted with Bobby and Peter (on “There’s Something About Mary”) then it was on this movie,” said Jenkins, 61. “I mean, I also worked with Jim Carrey (on the Farrellys’ “Me, Myself & Irene”), and Jim changes things and messes around. But, from my end, my stuff stayed kind of the same, and the Farrellys really are hilarious guys.

“On ‘Step Brothers,’ though, these guys said, ‘You (improvise), too.’ Adam kept saying, ‘No. no, you’re part of this, so you start responding to these guys.’ “

Of course, that quickly became no problem for the master Jenkins, who next makes his third acting turn for the Coen Brothers in “Burn After Reading” on Sept. 12.

(Look for my review of “Step Brothers” in this week's Sun News, as well as some funny banter between its stars. Then look for Ferrell, McKay and Reilly discussing one of their film’s most hilarious scenes on my post at Movie Zen.)

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