A meeting with actor Steve Carell wouldn’t be complete without a laugh or two, and sure enough within the first minute he’s got me in stitches.
The 50-year-old may be the star of Despicable Me 2, but he’s definitely not the main one. Instead, it’s the cute, googly-eyed, indecipherable and mad little Minions that steal the spotlight in the highly-anticipated sequel to the 2010 animation.
“What are you saying?” Carell says, putting on a stern face. “You come in and you throw that in my face. It’s the Minions this and the Minions that.”
Smiling, he adds: “There’s no competing. I saw the first movie with my kids, and what did they love the most? Not Dad, or what Dad had done, it was the Minions.
“I honestly can’t deny that they are, by far, the star of this movie. They’re funny, ridiculous, and physical and violent in a fun, benign way, but also incredibly loveable.”
The Minions – voiced by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud – are set to steal even more of the limelight, he reveals.
“A year from now, they’re getting their own film. They’re already making it,” says Carell.
In Despicable Me 2, produced again by Chris Meledandri, former super-villain Gru is attempting to turn over a new leaf and turn his back on crime, focusing on being a devoted dad to the three orphan girls – Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher).
“I’m a parent with two little kids, and I identified with the story in the first film because it was honest in its depiction. Having kids completely changes a person’s life, in all the best ways,” he explains.
“Here’s a guy who, in the first movie, was evil, and a genius at all things nefarious, then these three little girls come into his life and it changes him.
“It taps into something he never knew existed. This one’s an extension of that - he’s a great dad but he has all sorts of complications to deal with.” Those complications include his eldest child Margo becoming aware of boys.
Carell goes on: “Then, there’s his career. He’s making jams and jellies, which taste terrible, and that’s not a career choice for an evil mastermind.
“And his kids want him to date, which is a huge, huge problem, because he’s not good with women and it’s completely out of his comfort zone.”
Carell admits his two children with actress wife Nancy – 12-year-old Annie and Johnny, nine – encouraged him to take the role, but they weren’t the sole reason.
“It’s definitely something that they enjoy,” he says. “But more than that, it’s a fun character and a very sweet story. [The movies] are smart, funny and heartfelt without being overly sentimental. They hug the heart strings just enough.”
Reprising the Gru voice was surprisingly simple, the actor admits. “It’s so easy, you can’t believe it – like, at the drop of a hat. You don’t have to prompt me too hard and I will do the voice,” he says, and does it.
But while he’s sometimes tempted to use the Gru voice for everyday activities, he says: “I generally don’t walk around doing Gru. Sometimes my kids’ friends will ask me to do it but that’s pretty much it.
“I don’t want to overdo it because then people will really start hating me. Like, ‘Oh, he’s doing Gru again. Eurgh’.”
And he teases that Gru could go back to being bad if there was ever a third film.
“He’s never far from being a bad guy. He’s a dad in this one, but he still has his despicable overtones,” he says.
“I don’t think his essence will ever change.”