Steve Carell is back as Gru, as teased in the Despicable Me 2 trailer. And as much as the films are simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming, above all else, Carell appreciates what the Despicable Me movies commemorate.
“It celebrates family more than anything. I think it celebrates a sense of love and commitment to one another. At its heart, it's just a very sweet, kind movie with sort of these dark trappings. That's one of the things that attracted me to the first one,” Carell said to Movie Fanatic recently.
The film also plays to a child’s wit and does not dumb it down. “It's a movie that doesn't condescend to children. It plays to the top of their intelligence. And I know when I was a kid growing up, I wanted to be challenged. I wanted things that might be a little bit scary. The first one just made me feel good when I saw it, and that's why I wanted to do this one too because I think it does the same thing. And it's funny.”
Carell also appreciated how Gru has grown since the opening moments of Despicable Me. “I love the fact that this itself is an evolution. I think it's a natural extension of the first movie which I thought was smart. The characters changed and grew -- no pun intended,” he said and laughed.
“At the same time, the sense of the movie feels familiar. The tone of it is the same as the first one, but the family is different. That dynamic is different, and he's no longer officially a villain.”
Illustrated in this Despicable Me 2 clip, Gru is no longer a villain seeking world domination -- he has other priorities. He must find something to do with his life, especially now that he has adopted those three adorable girls. “Gru is searching for what he's going to do. And he thinks he's going to start a jam and jelly business, and that doesn't seem to be working out,” Carell said and smiled.
“He can't go back to being a villain, but ultimately something that will fulfill him. I think that is a very relatable thing for parents because when you do have kids, I found, it becomes all about the kids. And it's very easy to lose your sense of self within that. And you do kind of have to keep your career and that side of it intact because I think ultimately, that makes you a better parent as well.”
Carell himself has been on quite the career ride, from his early days on The Daily Show, through Anchorman and The Office, and now the Despicable Me movies and this Friday’s The Way, Way Back. When asked about all the success, the funnyman could not be more humbled by it all.
“Well, this is still surreal. I mean, I'm talking to the press for an animated movie that I'm going to be in? How did that happen? Like who cares what I have to say? Yeah, I don't think it will ever feel second nature. I don't think it will ever feel deserved,” Carell admitted. “So it's a continual surprise that it's continued.”
In Despicable Me 2, audiences discover that the former world dominating villain has a weak spot -- women and how to relate to them. Kristen Wiig stars in the film as a super agent who has to work with Carell's Gru. It is something that Carell can easily identify with.
“I bet most people do. In one way or another, not just in terms of girls or boys or dating, but I think even the most self-confident people at one point in their lives felt like an outsider or felt like they weren't being heard or seen or witnessed in some way. It definitely informs a lot about who Gru is now,” Carell said.
The actor himself had his own experiences with the opposite sex that could either lift him up or weigh him down. “I was so shy. And all you need is that one -- see that could go either way too -- you have that one time where the girl says, 'Hey. You're all right.' Then that boosts your confidence. But that one time where you get shut down, it stays with you. Personally, I was shy for a long, long time with girls.”
Finding the voice is something that Carell downplays as an accomplishment. Ever humble, as we have seen, the actor reported that the uniqueness that is Gru’s voice was something he did so he could replicate it. He never sought to create something groundbreaking that would resonate as it has done.
“We just started playing around with different voices that first session of the first movie. Didn't really know what he would sound like. Actually the look of the character changed quite a bit from the very first picture, the very first illustration that I saw,” Carell said.
“He originally was much more angular looking and sort of darker, more menacing looking than he ended up being. So I wanted the voice to match that, to be vaguely menacing, but also kind of approachable in a strange way and funny. And that's definitely the voice that made everybody laugh. That's the voice that made my kids laugh the most. When I went home and I said, 'What do you think of this guy?' They were like, 'That's it, Dad.' And no matter what I said, they laughed at almost everything. That was a good sign I was on to something.”
As a father in the film and in real life, Carell found a connection with Gru’s protectiveness in Despicable Me 2. Although he admits he would never go so far as to freeze ray one of his daughter's paramours.
“It's tricky because I don't want to be that over-protective dad, but at the same time I do want to protect them. And I understand what the character in the movie's going through because you don't want to see your kids get hurt. You know they're going to have their hearts broken at some point, and you can't ultimately protect them against them having that happen. But boy, I'm enjoying their childhood as long as I can.”
Lastly, one of the most popular aspects of the first Despicable Me film was Gru’s Minions. The world has become obsessed with the little yellow creatures that do whatever Gru wills. So, what would Carell do if he had Minions?
“A car wash because I figure they're sort of porous sort of sponges, and I think they would be perfect, just spin them around, drive a car through, and they would wash, wax, polish your car,” Carell said and laughed. “I can't imagine anyone could do it better than the Minions.”