'Me' Too: For Gru, Another Shot At Global Domination

Jun 22, 2013
Originally published on June 22, 2013 1:07 pm

There will be hits and misses at movie houses this summer, but it's a decent bet Despicable Me 2 will end up in the that-went-well column.

The star, a would-be world-dominating supervillain named Gru, is a hulking, blustering figure with an appetite for mayhem — and a surprising soft spot. He'll boast that he's about to pull off "the crime of the century," then sit down to read his little girls — he's recently, reluctantly, adopted three of them, and they're adorable — a bedtime story.

Physically, Gru is quite a spectacle. He's got the body of Herman Munster and the bald head of a Bond villain; his gigantic torso is supported by skinny little legs, and he's got bug eyes and a long, banana-shaped nose. The animators must have had a field day with him.

Steve Carell, who voices Gru, told NPR in 2010 that when he was developing the character, he just felt he needed an accent.

"I couldn't really tell what sort of accent. And I don't think anybody can actually determine what accent I'm doing in the movie — which was by choice, of course," Carell says.

But Gru sounds like he might be Russian, another tip of the hat to those old Bond villains.

Despicable Me writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio say Gru is something of a personal fantasy.

"Gru, as we conceived him, is basically the guy who does everything we wish we could do but can't. He's the guy who will freeze everybody in line at the Starbucks" so he can get his coffee faster, Paul says.

Daurio and Paul talk about Gru as if he's their child — or their alter ego. They've written out Gru's entire life story, including his rough childhood.

"It's rare that you get to see the villain's back story as we've gotten to see Gru as a little kid and his horrible mom," Daurio says.

Gru has flashbacks. In the original film, we see him as a little boy in a pretend spacesuit, trying to impress his mom with a picture of him landing on the moon. She just sneers. In Despicable Me 2, he remembers being teased on the playground when he tried to give flowers to a girl.

Gru's revenge? Supervillainy.

"With gadgets and weapons and cool cars — the whole deal," a delighted Gru says. (There's Bond again.) Daurio and Paul, both huge 007 fans, say Gru's assistant, Dr. Nefario, is inspired by Bond's gadget wizard, Q.

"And Dr. Nefario is getting on in years, so he may have not heard you right," says Daurio. So when Gru asks him to make a dart gun, Dr. Nefario makes a fart gun.

Between the scatological humor and the Bond-style gadgets and weapons, says Guardian film columnist Ben Child, the Despicable Me filmmakers have knocked it out of the ballpark once again.

"It's extremely hard to do a sequel that's as good as the original," says Child, "and this one actually did just have me literally crying tears of laughter at certain points."

In Me 2, Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League, a sort of secret FBI. He's a single father now, so he's had to give up his life of crime for tea parties and playing princess. Daurio and Paul both have daughters, and they wrote those scenes from personal experience.

"Ultimately the story of Gru is the story of all men who are villains until they become dads," Paul says.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

NPR News is taking a closer look at the media for children this month. Now, one of the summer's big movies for kids, "Despicable Me 2". The title alone tells you a bit about the film's offbeat humor. It stars the hulking, evil villain named Gru.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME 2")

STEVE CARELL: (as Gru) We will have the capability to pull off the true crime of the century.

SIMON: Who would adopt three adorable little girls? Now for all his bluster, Gru is a bit of a softy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME 2")

CARELL: (as Gru) Sleepy kittens, sleepy kittens. Three little kittens loved to play. They had fun in then sun all day. Wow, this is garbage.

SIMON: NPR's Elizabeth Blair talked to the "Despicable Me" screenwriters about making an animated super villain super funny.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: One reason Gru is hilarious is the way he looks. He's got this big, huge chest and short skinny little legs. He's bald with a long pointy nose. He's full of himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME 2")

CARELL: (as Gru) That's right baby. Gru's back in the game.

BLAIR: And a social misfit. Steve Carell is the voice of Gru. When he was developing the character, he told NPR in 2010, he just felt Gru should have an accent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

CARELL: I couldn't really tell what sort of accent and I don't think anybody can actually determine what accent I'm doing in the movie, which was my choice of course.

(SOUNDBITE FROM "DESPICABLE ME 2")

CARELL: (as Gru) Oh, you've got a big pulling on my leg.

BLAIR: "Despicable Me" writer Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio say Gru is something of a personal fantasy of theirs.

CINCO PAUL: Well Gru, as we conceived him, is basically the guy who does all the stuff we would love to do but we just can't. You know, he's the guy who will freeze everybody in line at the Starbucks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME")

CARELL: (as Gru) Freeze frame, freeze frame, freeze frame.

KEN DAURIO: If someone's annoying him he will tell you. He will point out your flaws.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME 2")

CARELL: (as Gru) FYI - your dog has been leaving little bombs all over my yard and I don't appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Sorry. You know dogs. They go wherever they want to go.

CARELL: (as Gru) Unless they're dead.

(LAUGHTER)

BLAIR: Oh, Gru is evil. Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul talk about Gru as if he's their child or their alter ego. They've written Gru's entire life, including his rough childhood.

DAURIO: It's rare you get to see the villain's back story as we've gotten to see Gru, you know, as a little kid and his horrible mom.

BLAIR: Gru has flashbacks. We see him as a little boy in a pretend space suit trying to impress his mom, who just sneers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME 2")

CARELL: (as Gru) Look, mom. I drew a picture of me landing on the moon.

JULIE ANDREWS: (as Marlena) Eh.

BLAIR: You might call the grown-up super villain Gru's revenge.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME 2")

CARELL: (as Gru) With gadgets and weapons and cool cars. The whole deal.

BLAIR: Gadgets and weapons and cool cars - sound familiar?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLAIR: Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul are huge fans of old James Bond movies. Gru looks a little like the bond villain Blofeld. Gru's assistant, Dr. Nefario, is inspired by the bond character Q.

PAUL: Just the same way that James Bond has Q...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, GOLDEN EYE")

DESMOND LLEWELYN: (as Q) This is a class four grenade. Three clicks arms the four-second fuse.

PAUL: ...Gru has a mad scientist to create all of his gadgets and Dr. Nefario is getting on in years so he doesn't...

DAURIO: He may have not heard you right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME")

RUSSELL BRAND: (as Dr. Nefario) This is the new weapon you ordered.

(SOUNDBITE OF FART)

CARELL: (as Gru) No, no, no. I said dart gun not...uh, OK.

BLAIR: In "Despicable Me 2," there are even more gadgets and weapons.

BEN CHILD: It's sort of James Bond times a thousand.

BLAIR: Ben Child writes a movie column for the Guardian in London.

CHILD: It's extremely hard to do a sequel that's as good as the original and this one actually did just have me literally crying tears of laughter at certain points. It's absolutely fantastic.

BLAIR: In "Despicable Me 2," Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League, a sort of secret FBI. He's a single father now, so he's had to give up his life of crime for tea parties and playing princess with his girls. Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul both have daughters and wrote those scenes from personal experience.

PAUL: Ultimately, the story of Gru is the story of all men who are villains until they become dads.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DESPICABLE ME 2")

ELSIE FISHER: (as Agnes) I know what makes you a boy.

CARELL: (as Gru) You do?

FISHER: (as Agnes) Your bald head.

CARELL: (as Gru) Oh, yes.

FISHER: (as Agnes) It's really smooth. Sometimes I stare at it and imagine a little chick popping out. Peep, peep.

CARELL: (as Gru) Goodnight, Agnes. Never get older.

BLAIR: The girls in "Despicable Me 2" just keep winning over Gru's villainous heart. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.