Evil is the new black. But unfortunately for super-villain Gru (Steve Carell), he's just not that good at it.
The lead character of computer-animated movie Despicable Me, Gru finds comfort in doing evil, but unfortunately he faces strong competition from his arch-nemesis Vector (Jason Segel), an orange-jumpsuit-wearing nerd. Armed with shrink and freeze rays, Gru is constantly trying to one-up Vector. They compete in a plot to pull off the greatest theft in the history of the galaxy: steal the moon and claim the title of 'World's Best Villain'.
But fate intervenes in Gru's success; when he comes across three orphans, a previously hidden side to his character reveals itself.
Carell had always cherished the opportunity to play a villain but admits that was not what convinced him to join the project.
'The story is really sweet. That's what drew me to it,' the 47-year-old funnyman says. 'As crazy as Gru sounds, and as diabolical and mean and awful as he is, there is humanity to him.'
The role is not Carell's first as a voice actor, yet he understood the importance of bringing something new to a character. He wanted to give his villain a memorable voice with a unique quality, unlike anything heard before. He experimented with different accents and came up with one that's 'somewhere between Ricardo Montalban [Mexican actor best known as Khan in Star Trek] and [Hungarian Dracula actor] Bela Lugosi'.
Co-producer and former chief of Fox's animation department, Chris Meledandri, describes Carell as an actor and performer with the ability to elevate a character simply with his voice.
'Steve has great pathos in his voice, but his voice also carries his comedy effectively,' Meledandri says. 'It's rare that Steve will not give you a version of the scene that everybody agrees has just taken that comic or dramatic sequence and made it significantly better.'
The filmmakers say Gru reflects real people and their secret desires. But while most of us keep those wishes secret, Gru acts on them, and that's what makes him so appealing.
'When you're waiting in line at a grocery store - and the person in front of you has 25 items in the express line and decides to pay with a cheque - that would be the perfect time to use a freeze ray,' co-producer John Cohen says. 'There's a lot of comedy that springs from a character who gets to act out some of the things we wish we could do.'