Interview: Steve Carell of 'Despicable Me 2'
With a glowing tan, a few day's worth of stubble and a contented look, Steve Carell is more than glad to talk about the task of re-voicing Gru, the ex-villain at the heart of "Despicable Me 2." We spoke with Carell in Los Angeles about strange voices, the art of adding heart and why everyone wants to be a Bond villain ...
MSN Movies: The number one question I have is -- does doing the Gru voice give you a sore throat? Or do you need a slightly sore throat to do the Gru voice properly?
Steve Carell: Neither.
Neither? It just comes naturally?
(In Gru voice) No. It just comes naturally, and you do it forever, and nothing ever goes wrong.
Now I mean I'm trying to picture ... you drop into it so swiftly. When you're getting ready to do these films, do you do it around the house? Do you find yourself like startling the pets by going, "Get off couch now"?
Not really, no. I mean it's just, it's ... here's the thing: It's not really an accent. It's not a discernible country of any sort so there is no doing it wrong. Which I think I tend to try to set the bar low for myself, and so in this way no one can accuse me of not doing this accent properly 'cause it's not, it's not an accent.
Right. The voice is like from Europe-slovakia.
(Laughs) Exactly. Somebody once describe it as a combination of Bela Lugosi and Ricardo Montalban. So it's yeah, it's like there's kind of an eastern European vaguely Transylvanian Latin American vibe to it.
Like sexy Count Chocula.
(Laughs) If you will, sure.
The pitch for this film is essentially a variation of Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief," where an ex-villain is brought in to find villains who are still at large. When they pitched you on that plot did you go, "Okay, this I can get into"?
Oh yeah. I mean I thought the script was great. It's the same writers that wrote the first one, so I felt like we were all in good hands from the get-go. And the same directors, same producers, so they had done such a good job with the first movie that I was very trusting of what they were going to do with this one. Also in terms of the family, I thought it was a very logical extension of the first as well.
Because that's the great thing about this character and why we like him is that his heart suddenly grows 10 sizes too big.
And he falls for these kids and becomes the best dad that he can.
When you became a parent did you have a lot of that apprehension of "I'm going to do this wrong and put the diaper on their heads"?
Oh sure. I think everybody does. I think, I'll never forget when our daughter was born them actually giving us the baby at the hospital to go home. I thought, "This is not, you can't just give this baby to us." And they put the baby in a carrier and said, "Good luck."
And you said, "Can't we keep her here with the trained professionals and plenty doctors and great looking gear?"
Right. You know, 'cause something bad is going to happen. We're not up to this at all. So I think that's a very natural feeling for people to not know whether they're up to the task. But they almost always are. And the other thing that I learned is that no matter what people tell you, no matter how many books you read, it's always going to be different in the practice. It's, yeah. It's just you will learn as you go.
There's this great saying you can't learn to plow by reading books.
That's true, yeah.
You have to get out there.
You have to do it.
In terms of these films, Gru has the flamethrower. He has the jam guns. There's a lot of mayhem in these in that great, silly, classic, Looney Tunes way. Is it nice to be in a kid's film that accepts that kids will always find violence and physical comedy funnier than non-violence?
I look at the minions, and it dawned on me when I was watching the second movie. And I saw it for the first time about a week ago. It dawned on me that the minions are the Marx Brothers. They are, or at least as close to Marx Brothers as I've seen in the modern day. They are very, they're broad. They're slapstick. They are physical. But there's also an underlying love between them all, which you definitely feel with the Marx Brothers as well. They're brothers. They're a unit. They're in this together. So yeah, I mean I think everyone was surprised that the first one did as well as it did. But I get it now after witnessing what people liked about the first one and what I think people are going to like about this, I get it you know? It's the minions are hilarious, the story about the family is funny and tugs your heartstrings a little bit without being cloying and overly sentimental, and there are lots of cool gadgets. There's that whole spy story in the second one.
It's really influenced by the '60s Bond look and feel ...
... those kind of John Barry musical stings and that great, retro-futuristic design.
Were you somebody, when you were growing up watching James Bond films, did you want to be James Bond? Or did you want to be blowing stuff up, have the cat in the rotating chair and the lair in the hollow volcano?
Absolutely. I mean everybody wants to be a Bond villain. That is the coolest. To be able to portray a Bond villain, that is the feather in any actor's cap. So for sure. You know James Bond is very, very cool, but I knew early on that I wasn't the James Bond type either.
So you immediately shaved your head, got a black turtleneck, and a white cat.
I shaved my head. Yes.
And I just started practicing.
And that worked out well for you?
Yes. You expect me to talk, Mr. Carell?
No. I expect you to die ...
Thank you so much for getting that.
For more on "Despicable Me 2," check out our video interview with the cast and crew: