As Steve Carell is poised to make a lot more appearances on the silver screen, he could have company from an "Office" co-star.
Jenna Fischer, the receptionist-turned-saleswoman on the NBC sitcom (who, of course, isn't leaving the show), is putting the finishing touches on "The Giant Mechanical Man," an offbeat love story she both produced and stars in.
The film tells of a female zoo worker who falls in love with a street performer (the silver-painted, motionless kind), with each of them resisting pressure from friends and family not to get together. "It's mostly a comedy, but it's a sweet comedy. There aren't any pratfalls," the actress told 24 Frames. Currently in postproduction, the movie -- which also stars Topher Grace -- is seeking a distributor and could well end up at film festivals later this year.
Fischer said the story, which reminds a little of Miranda July's indie hit "Me and You and Everyone We Know," aims for a sort of human plausibility. "It's not a question of will they fall in love, but how do they fall in love," said the actress. In an art-imitating-life turn, Fischer also met husband Lee Kirk on the film. (Kirk wrote and directed.)
After a string of smaller roles in studio comedies, Fischer, who turned 37 Monday, had a more prominent supporting part in the Farrelly brothers' recent "Hall Pass." She says she's hoping to take even more of a leap into film -- as a producer on "Man," she's gotten her hands dirty with nitty-gritty issues such as financing and casting -- while keeping her schedule in mind.
"Television work takes eight months out of the year, so you really only get to pick one film a year. But I'm trying to pick one that really gives me the most artistic expression," she said.
In the case of "Mechanical Man" that meant deviating from some romantic-comedy cliches. "As a producer, I see a lot of these scripts about a woman who falls in love, and she's always a fashion editor or an ad executive or someone at a fun, fast-paced New York creative job that looks like it doesn't exist, and then she falls for a scoundrel who challenges her point of view," Fischer said. "I didn't want to do that."
Photo: Jenna Fischer at the "Hall Pass" premiere in Los Angeles last month. Credit: Paul Buck / European Pressphoto Agency