On day six of the Cannes Film Festival a revelatory performance by Steve Carell has become the talk of the town, and has set in motion the inevitable talk of "Oscar buzz" that tends to spread like widfire on social media at this time of year.

The funnyman taps a dark vein in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, which is screening in competition for the Palme d’Or. He plays troubled millionaire philanthropist and convicted killer, John du Point, in a role that marks a rapid departure from everything Carrell has done before.

Miller’s film tells the story of du Point’s disturbing obsession with the Olympic gold medal-winning Schultz  brothers, who are played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

Carell attended the all-star press conference that followed today’s early morning screening, but said the darker tone didn’t cause him to change his methodology.

"I don't think characters in films know that they're in a comedy or drama," he said.

Miller has a gift for eliciting award-winning performances, having helmed the late Philip Seymour Hoffman to his Best Actor Oscar for Capote, and directing Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in the roles that earned them both of their respective nominations for Moneyball. When asked by he went with a comic actor for such a dark role, Miller said the clincher for him was Carell’s response to the question of what a life without humour might be like. "I saw him go to a dark place," Miller recalled. "I think all comedians are dark."

Foxcatcher will be released in Australia by Roadshow Films. The release date is yet to be determined. Watch a scene clip below.