Carell's Next Role: In Real Estate Office?
It's not every day a real estate broker gets a call from Steve Carell of "The Office" fame (pictured left). Especially when the call isn't about the actor wanting to buy some South Florida property. Rather, Carell called because he found Boca Raton real estate agent Dennis Lambert's life fascinating enough to turn into a feature film (starring Carell, of course).
Lambert, 63, has lived two very full lives professionally. In the 1960s he started out a songwriter and music producer. Today he focuses his energy selling beachfront properties in South Florida. Lambert doesn't just have a wall full of gold records, he also has a large, dedicated Filipino fanbase who essentially kicked the whole story off with their passionate and persistent requests for a comeback concert tour. (Filipinos weren't the only ones to recognize him. Variety calls Lambert "an unsung hero of pop culture.")
Carell discovered Lambert after seeing the award-winning documentary "Of All the Things," which Lambert's son shot when the singer made that trip. Adapting the humorous documentary was a no-brainer to Carell and Hollywood studio execs given that Lambert co-wrote many hits, including: "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)," "One Tin Soldier," "Baby Come Back," "Nightshift" and "We Built This City," and co-produced "Rhinestone Cowboy."
The added story tension is already built in. Lambert chooses to sell the heck out of houses in a down market while quietly boasting career accolades, such as having four songs simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
AOL spoke with Lambert about this developing cinematic appreciation of his life and career, as well as what he knows second best: real estate.
A movie about your life is pretty flattering -- what do you know about it so far?
Lambert (pictured below during a concert): When I went to the Philippines to perform a few years ago, it turned out to be a magical few weeks for us. My music was well known there, and it was surprising. It provided us with an exotic, beautiful backdrop. The documentary found its way to the movie studios, who thought it could be an interesting movie to remake with a Hollywood cast.
Warner Brothers Pictures and Steve Carell took an interest. They're now developing it. The script is being written as we speak, so we'll see if it makes it. My son is the executive producer of the film and has been doing a lot of powwowing with the powers that be in Hollywood and Steve's group.
Is Steve Carell the person you saw playing Dennis Lambert?
Steve Carell wasn't the first person I thought of to play me. I imagined Tom Hanks or Dustin Hoffman because they're more my age, but Steve Carell is a terrific star.
Why did you go into real estate when you had such a prosperous songwriting career?
I'd always been involved in real estate as an investor when I was younger. I found myself drawn to a combination of opportunities. I liked making money and I liked dealing with the aesthetics of real estate -- how you could design, build and sell something was attractive to me. Later on, I got involved more squarely in the residential area as my focus.
I worked in New York and then I moved to South Florida and fell in love with selling beautiful homes in South Florida. I love walking into those beautiful properties and realizing what you can create. This is also a career where you can be creative and make money doing it.
What is it about Florida real estate that most appeals to you?
I've been in Florida for seven years and have sold and brought buyers to some of the most gorgeous settings. Most of the homes are gorgeous Mediterranean, West Indian-style and [Addison] Mizner-influenced homes. There are just so many lovely spaces -- from oceanfront to inter-coastal -- to share with people.
Did you end up selling homes to many of your music industry contemporaries?
I sold to a few friends from the entertainment business, but not everyone knows I switched to real estate. They don't know what I've been up to until now. With all this heightened press making everyone aware of what I am up to, I'm sure that will change.
Change in real estate would be good in this market. How has it been personally for you?
It's gone fairly well, but we all have had this seriously depressed market for the last three-and-a-half years. It's been particularly difficult for people who make a living solely in real estate. Most of those folks have had to find other things to do.
I had my music career, which has still been kind to me, to fall back on with a significant amount in royalties, so I never rely solely on real estate. I've been able to weather the storm.
The same is true for my partner, Bob Lawten, who came from IBM. These times have been so tough for the market that we knew we could do other things and we wouldn't be missed -- so little was going on.
So you never totally stopped your music career.
I was still doing some small stuff -- live gigs in various parts of the country when the opportunity presents itself.
Are you seeing any improvement now in the market overall?
Now we're seeing an uptick and renewed interest. We're hitting a new season and we didn't have a hurricane, which is great for business. If this continues we'll be out of the woods.
So will the Florida market recover?
I think, and my contemporaries think, that the market has been ripe for some time now. It's been showing signs of improvement and that significant opportunities are out there. We're surprised because nothing has really materialized yet. Interest rates are at a historic low. There is well-priced to-sell inventory. We are at a 10-year low price-wise. These prices represent prices lower than the run-up before the early 2000s. It's strange, because there's nothing in the way now. All the indications are there for a change. It hasn't happened yet though, but surely in time it will. Still, we're all a little surprised it hasn't happened yet.
Do you have any regrets about pursuing real estate given the market lows?
No regrets. I was always involved in real estate. I bought and rehabbed in California. I've developed some single-family homes. I've got to learn what real estate was all about. I like working with beautiful properties and people who are interested in them. I really like the process.
Are there any abstract parallels we can draw between the music industry and the real estate industry?
It's a stretch, but I think the creative aesthetic that gets people excited about a place is not unlike how people react to music when they are reacting to a song that makes them feel good.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Still in real estate if things start to turn around soon?
I don't think far ahead based on how the last three years played out. I plan for the future, but I don't let the future determine my life. These days, I think about the next two or three months, and it's been a lot more fun. There is a lot of interest in my story, and I now do some public speaking about my story. It's a story of second chances and renewal. Life doesn't end at 60. So who knows what the future holds?
For more on real estate brokers and related topics see these AOL Real Estate guides:
- How to Choose a Realtor
- Top Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent
- Terms Every Seller Should Know
- First-Time Homebuyer's Guide
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