We interviewed Steve Carell, star of the animated movie, "Despicable Me."
In “Despicable Me” your character Gru is literally reaching for the moon. In what ways do you reach for the moon?
In real life what ways do I reach for the moon? It’s interesting because when I first decided to become an actor I didn’t reach for the moon at all. I set my sights kind of low in a sense. I set them within what I perceive to be the realm of reason. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with setting your sights high or setting them for the moon sensibly. But I felt as an actor I’d be better off if I could just make a living at it and set my sights on that first. I guess the one thing I set my sights high for are my kids. I really want to try to give them the best life possible and try to – I just want them to be happy. That to me will be my biggest reach, my biggest goal in life.
How would you say that you’re like Gru?
I relate to Gru in the sense that he’s a Dad. He becomes a Dad in the movie and he’s a first time Dad, so I really related to that. I have two little kids. And when I first became a father, I went through a lot of what this character goes through because he’s trying to figure out what to do with these little kids and they turn his life upside down. And then he finds that he can’t live without them. And it’s such a part of his life and a part of who he is that everything else makes sense because of the kids. That’s kind of how I felt when I had kids.
Would you say Gru is kind of a Grinch, or after seeing “Despicable Me” will we refer to our cranky neighbors as a Gru?
Oh, will it go from people being a Grinch to a Gru? I think he follows in that long line of curmudgeon characters, Scrooge, Grinch, Gru. I think, that’s interesting, because Gru is sort of a combination of Scrooge and the Grinch. I never even thought of that. Yeah, I don’t know if people are going to necessarily be calling our nasty neighbors Grus, but I hope so. It’s definitely that sort of guy who starts the movie and is pretty awful, terrible to children and he adopts these three little kids to facilitate this plot that he has. And he really is sort of a nasty guy, but then he turns and changes, which of course you’re expecting ad the Grinch does. But that’s a fun sort of change to watch happen.
How do you find a voice, so to speak, when playing an animated character such as Gru?
Well, the voice comes about. I came in with some different ideas for a voice. I thought it would be fun for the character to have an accent. And I didn’t want to be too specific with it because I thought it should be sort of fun and accessible. I didn’t want it to be from a particular country or region even, so it was just sort of a kind of silly voice, but at the same time I wanted it to be a little threatening, a little bit dark. Not so much that you would scare people but just a – people should be a little skeptical about who this guy is and in conjunction with the writers and the directors. We all get together in a room not unlike this and I just practiced different voices into a microphone and they’ll say, oh try that one again, maybe do this and so we’ll sort of adjust it together.
Your characters are usually fairly two dimensional. Was it difficult to act in 3-D?
I’ve never been in a 3-D movie before, so it’s fun to watch. I have to say and you never know when you’re doing a voice, you never know what it’s going to look like. You see little bits and pieces and you can work on something for a couple of years and not see anything. And then you go to see it, you put on the glasses and the character that you’re portraying is in 3-D and there’s one scene in the movie where your character is on a roller coaster and you really feel like you’re on this roller coaster going through complete with all the nausea that comes with it. So did it change my acting? No it probably improved my acting and it probably made me seem better. I think in general the animation makes you seem like a better actor because the animators are so talented, that you’re just supplying the voice, but they’re building everything else about this character kind of making you look good.
You were working with Julie Andrews in this movie? What’s it like to work with her and how would you say she’s like your actual mother?
Boy. It’s funny when you do a movie like this, you don’t get to work with people very often. Because you're just by yourself in a recording studio and you never even hear the other actors. I’ve met Julie Andrews a few times over the years. So I’ve gotten to know her a little bit and she is the sweetest, nicest, she’s exactly what you would think she would be like. But the character she plays is a rotten, terrible mom. I have a sweet nice mom, so I think my mom is more like the real Julie Andrews then the character that Julie Andrews plays.
Is there any particular aspect of “Despicable Me” you think will appeal to everyone of all ages?
I think so. I think the fact that there’s a good story to it. It’s really funny that this character that I play, what happens is that he is the number one super villain in the world. And all of a sudden this younger guy comes and takes his place and is the better super villain. So my character has to regain his throne and the way he can do that is by stealing the moon. The only way he could steal the moon is to incorporate these three little orphans into his plot. And so he adopts these kids and it turns his life upside down. Just starting that off as a story is a really fun interesting story. You get to see all these different characters interacting with each other. And there’s a lot of action, there’s a lot of adventure, there’s a lot of cool gadgets in it. It’s almost like a spy movie in a sense, but seen through the villain’s eyes. And that’s different too. You rarely see a movie where the main character is the villain. So I thought that was kind of fun.
What’s your favorite scene in the movie?
Well, I’ve seen it three times now and I keep telling myself I’m not going to cry. And this one scene toward the end of the movie, when he’s reading a bedtime story to these girls, makes me cry even when I prepare not to cry, it makes me cry. And I think that’s because I have two little kids and I read to them and I identify with that.
Was there ever a role in a movie that you played that you didn’t necessarily like?
A role that I didn’t like? I can tell you the hardest role, just physically, was in "Evan Almighty" I had to wear a lot of beards and wigs and stuff. It doesn’t sound like much and I never wanted to be somebody that complained about this kind of thing, but it would take 4 hours in the morning to put on a beard and a wig, 4 to 5 hours and another hour to get it off. So 5-6 hours a day of just hair and makeup stuff, which I’d rather not do. I like the work of it, but not so much all of the pyrotechnics of the makeup. And it was really hot in that stuff and I am a big sweater.
Actress Miranda Cosgrove talks about “Despicable Me”
BY CAILEY CUMMINGS, REBECCA FREGOE, LIAM HIGGINS AND NICOLE LEONICK
Kidsday reporters, Ages 9 and 10, Massapequa Park
What do you think the funniest part of “Despicable Me” was?
There’s this line in the movie where I had to copy Steve Carell’s accent. I don’t know exactly what his accent was. It’s like a mixture of English and Transylvanian. I don’t know it’s a million things. It’s really hard to copy it. And I had to do it 50 times. Everybody in the sound booth, like the director of the movie and other people that were like just running the sound. They were trying to help me so they were all doing the voice and it sounded differently. It was just really hard to do. So that’s the funniest thing for me. When I watch that I laugh.
What was your favorite scene?
Probably when I was copying Steve Carell’s voice or there’s a pretty funny scene in the movie where Gru, Steve’s character, is reading us a book and he’s like this is garbage. I think it’s a real book.
Who was your favorite person to work with in “Despicable Me”?
Well, it’s weird because I didn’t really work with anyone when I was making the movie. I was alone in the booth. I would hear Steve Carell’s voice sometimes and I’d answer. So it’s kind of weird it would just come out of nowhere. But I think later because I ended up meeting everybody and I did all these promotional things for the movie with Steve Carell and Jason Segel. I think they’re my two favorites because they’re just funny and sweet.
Did you enjoy being a voice in “Despicable Me,” or would you actually like to be seen in that movie?
No, I liked doing the voice. It was totally different for me being in the sound booth. I went in my pajamas, my hair was messed up. It was really fun. I found out that they were filming me three days afterwards, so I was going in looking pretty bad. And thinking nobody would see me. And then they’re like we actually filmed you the entire time and we use your hand movements and your facial expressions in the character when we later go back in. So I was like oh, no. So then I started to dress up and try to look better, but yeah I had a really good time. It’s weird seeing my voice come out of the character.
As the voice of Margo, what is the difference of being a voice and acting in person?
I think you get to put a lot more into it when you’re doing a voice over because it’s like you have to bring a lot of life to the character so you get to really go over the top and go crazy, which made it really fun. Even though I go pretty crazy on “iCarly,” but I think I’m even more crazier in this movie.
How do you relate to your character Margo?
Well, in the movie I get to be a little bratty. I’m not really bratty in real life, but it was fun getting to do that getting a little mean to Steve Carell in the movie. And also my character is really protective of her two siblings. And I don’t have siblings, but I’m like that with some of my friends. If someone is being mean to one of my friends, I’m like hey, I always stand up for my friends.