Steve Carell on Despicable Me
By Fred Topel | Images property of Universal Pictures
Steve Carell stars in Despicable Me but his animated likeness doesn’t look or sound much like him. Gru is a broad shouldered, bald villain with some sort of European accent. It doesn’t even sound like him.
Steve Carell on Despicable Me
“That’s what we played around with a lot initially and with the look of the character too,” Carell said. “They wanted him to be a bit sinister looking but also accessible. That’s a very tricky line to walk and we tried to do that with the voice as well. That’s part of the reason we didn’t focus on one specific nationality. I wanted it to sound sort of scary but not really scary, mostly funny and silly, but a little bit scary. So that’s what I tried to keep in the back of my mind, that underneath it all he doesn’t have a black heart, but he doesn’t have a heart of gold either. I’d say he sort of has a heart of bronze and he discovers that as the movie progresses.”
Carell previously provided voices for Over the Hedge and Horton Hears a Who, so the recording process was easy. “It wasn’t hard because once the voice was established, it really didn’t take much time to warm back into it and there would be breaks. I think we initially talked about it about 3 years ago so I think I started voiceover work about 2-1/2 ish. I think that’s right. And actually, in the world of animation, that’s very fast from inception to opening a movie and I think the animators did such a great job at putting it all together.”
After animation got underway, Carell started to see the character his voice was creating. “I thought the character’s physicality was fantastic. It’s interesting because you don’t really know how the character is going to move until you see it, and that’s maybe a year or more before you start seeing the first rough animation of how the character might be moving down the street or some of the facial expressions. It’s remarkable because it’s everything you’d hoped it would be and it’s also a little scary because there are little qualities of what you do that are incorporated as well. I loved the way the character looks and I think they did strike that balance between being a little bit sinister and being fun and accessible.”
Of course Gru learns a lesson in the end, with the help of three little girls he adopts, but there’s more to it than that. “The one thing about this movie too is I don’t think it’s condescending to children. I really think kids see that and they can feel it when they’re being spoken down to, and I think for the same reason, it’s appealing to adults because it then doesn’t seem like a kiddie movie. It just seems like a movie, a story that anyone can enjoy.”
Any parent can relate to the changes you go through when you have children. Even Gru feels it. “I think that’s one of the things I identified with in the script. Here’s a guy who has his life set up the way he’s accustomed to and then is introduced to these three little girls who essentially turn his life upside down. They change all of his patterns. They change everything about what he thinks is important, and I think, generally speaking, that happens when everyone has kids. You try to explain it to people who are about to have children, and I don’t anymore, because you can’t. It’s something you understand once it happens. But everything changes. It’s such a diametric change that you really can’t explain it. For me, at least, all of my career goals, all of my focus, everything just shifted and the importance was my children and that’s where all the joy came from as well and I think that’s what’s kind of touching about the character too. It doesn’t change him but it taps into a part of him that was always there that he didn’t know about which I think is what happens when you have kids.”
Despicable Me is out in theaters now.
For the trailers, poster, review and more movie info, go to the Despicable Me Movie Page.
Sources: Images property of Universal Pictures
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