Exclusive: “Despicable Me” writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio — Hollywood In Ten
Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio must not have gotten the memo that Hollywood’s only interested in remakes, sequels and comic book adaptations during the mindless summer season. How else can you explain why the screenwriting duo behind “Horton Hears a Who!” were able to create a wholly original animated feature in “Despicable Me” and unleash it, in 3-D, on an unsuspecting audience? But don’t let me answer for them. Let’s go right to the sources for our latest Hollywood In Ten.
Hollywood News: “Despicable Me” wasn’t adapted from familiar source material, like other animated features. So where did the idea come from?
Cinco Paul: The idea, actually, came from a story proposal by an animator named Sergio Pablos (“Hercules,” “Tarzan”), and he basically proposed the idea of doing a movie about a villain who ends up with three little girls. We instantly loved it. Ken has two little girls. I have two girls who used to be little. And we instantly identified with the concept and were excited at the prospect of centering the idea around a villain.
Ken Daurio: We both, also, identified with the idea of trying to be a successful adult man with a job and have kids running around driving you crazy or going against everything that you are trying to do. We may not be super villains, but we can certainly relate with trying to get through your life and deal with your kids.
Hollywood News: Um, my 2-year-old son is currently watching “Caillou” so that I can conduct this interview with you right now.
Cinco Paul: [Laughs] There you go! See! And at some point, he will get bored with “Caillou” and want daddy.
Ken Daurio: We have done many calls where we have that little voice in the background! [Laughs]
Hollywood News: Your main character, Gru, is voiced by Steve Carrell. Did you write the character with him in mind, or was a lot of that work done later?
Cinco Paul: Initially, we had no one in mind. We just created a super villain, and there’s a lot to pull from when you are thinking about that mold. That’s what we did when we wrote the first draft of the script. And then when Steve Carrell came on board and we heard his first tests for his voice, he had come up with this voice that was like nothing anyone had ever heard before. It was half Russian, half Transylvanian. He really created this voice character which was really a help when we went on to write from that point on. It did, absolutely, guide us and give us new ideas.
Hollywood News: Carrell’s voice opened all new doors for you guys to explore.
Ken Daurio: Absolutely. We did write quite a bit of the dialogue once we heard that voice because it makes everything funnier, but also you know what kind of jokes are going to play better with that voice.
Hollywood News: From a writer’s perspective, what impact — if any — does 3-D have? Did you know going into “Despicable Me” that it was going to be presented in 3-D?
Cinco Paul: Oh yeah, that was the plan from the beginning. And I think in the initial phases, we didn’t write to 3-D. But as they got closer and they were doing more and more layout and animation, then we started to play with it more. The directors () also were asking us to come up with more things to take advantage of the 3-D.
Ken Daurio: And especially in a movie that has a lot of action, it allows you to use not just the space on the screen, but you can start to think about the space over the audience’s heads. And that’s really fun when you think you can bring a chase out over the audience, or that rockets and missles can fly out (into the theater). It was fun finding those moments in the story and taking advantage of them, but without making it cheesy. Like the old 1950’s movies, where the popcorn would coming flying out at the audience …
Cinco Paul: Here comes the knife!
Ken Daurio: Yeah. We found fun, creative ways to use that space over everybody’s heads.
Hollywood News: Tell me a bit about the yellow minions. I know these will be characters that the kids will gravitate towards. Just about every kid is going to want to own one. Yet it’s tough to determine exactly what these things are from the promotional materials.
Cinco Paul: Well, every villain needs his minions. And so our backstory, which is never really revealed in the movie, is that he created them. They’re all his own creations. And he has created as many as he possibly could. They’re not the brightest. But it’s quantity, not quality.
Ken Daurio: And what’s fun about watching the final version up on the big screen is that there are many clues (in) the background about the evolution of these minions. You can see where they came from, and discarded old versions, and plans (for new ones). It’s not at all highlighted in the movie, but it’s fun to look in the background and sort of see, “Oh, that’s where they sort of came from!”
Hollywood News: How long have you two been working on the film?
Cinco Paul: I think it was about four years ago when we first started writing.
Hollywood News: So when the movie landscape lays out and you see that the summer slate has a fourth “Shrek” and an anticipated “Toy Story” sequel, does something in the back of your mind say, “I don’t need this competition right now”?
Ken Daurio: No, that’s at the front of our minds. [Laughs]
Cinco Paul: Yeah, that kind of causes anxiety because last summer, I think, was a much more open field, animation wise.
Ken Daurio: And it’s true. There’s no way to say, “Oh, two of the biggest animated franchises ever are coming out on either side of our movie. That’s fine! We’ll be fine!” It’s hard to say that. But what I will say is that there’s something comforting in knowing that our movie is original. It is something that isn’t a sequel. So you just hope that people will appreciate that and at least want to check it out.
“Despicable Me,” starring the voices of Steve Carrell, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig and Julie Andrews (to name a few), opens in theaters on July 9.