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A Chat With 'Despicable Me' Screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

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Thursday, Jul 8, 2010
PopMatters sits down with the writers of this week's CG comedy Despicable Me and learns a thing or two about supervillainy and serving up dinner to schmucks.
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Despicable Me

Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Cast: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Miranda Cosgrove

(Universal; US theatrical: 9 Jul 2010 (General release); 2010)

Friends for years, screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have written ten movies together, all of them comedies. Beginning with the wacky Bubble Boy in 2001, they also worked together on family comedies The Santa Clause 2, College Road Trip, and the animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who!.


The summer of 2010, however, will be a busy one for them, as two very different movies that they penned face off in theaters against each other. July 9th sees the release of Despicable Me, a 3-D animated comedy about Gru, a dastardly villain (voiced by Steve Carell) who schemes to steal the moon. The plan becomes complicated when his arch-nemesis (voiced by Jason Segel) possesses the shrink ray necessary for the plan and three orphaned girls choose him as their father figure. Then Dinner For Schmucks, their rewrite of the 1998 French comedy Le Diner De Cons, hits theatres July the 23rd. Not for the kids, it stars Paul Rudd as an executive who uses an excessively odd random acquaintance (coincidentally played by Steve Carell) in order to win a cruel dinner contest.


In this interview, the two discuss their upcoming movies and dish about life behind the scenes in Hollywood. I was surprised by how direct and concise they were and was delighted by their not-so-serious answers to my questions (at least, I think some of their answers weren’t serious!).


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You seem to have many projects in the works now. Is this a coincidence, or do you work on many things all at once?


We typically write two or three projects at the same time, all at different stages.  But this summer is a bit of a coincidence, because we wrote Dinner for Schmucks seven years ago.


Does having children make you a better writer? Do they inspire you?


We each have three kids of our own, and feel it would be very difficult to write a movie (like Despicable Me) about the parent-child relationship without that experience.  Kids are the best!  Inspiring, frustrating, wonderful.


I’ve read your blog, (cincoandken.blogspot.com/), and it’s very funny! Why have you stopped writing it and do you plan to start back up again someday?


We plan to start it up again every day.  Then stuff happens.  But now that we know someone’s actually read it, maybe we’ll get back on it.


You really dished some dirt about some of the people that you have worked with on that site. You photoshopped red demon eyes on a picture of Bubble Boy director, Blair Hayes, and said that the star of the movie, Jake Gyllenhaal, “read the lines as if he were mentally retarded”. Do you regret writing any of those things? Do you have more stories to tell about those whom you have worked with that you haven’t yet shared? 


Again, we weren’t really counting on people reading the blog.  Maybe we need to reconsider some things we said.  But not the demon eyes.  He earned those.


What do you think about the cliché that people in the entertainment industry are superficial and self-obsessed?


It’s true about everyone except us.


In 2006, you wrote that your remake of Le Diner De Cons was taken over by other writers and “most likely dead”. Now that it is being released as Dinner For Schmucks, what would you like to tell us about it?


Reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.  It’s alive—and really funny. 


Your current project, Despicable Me, is coming out this week; how and when did you come with the idea for it?


The concept came from a Spanish animator named Sergio Pablos—a supervillain stuck with three little girls.  We were pitched that about four years ago, and took it from there, instantly loving the idea.


How long did it take you from that point to the finished script?


The term “finished script” doesn’t really exist in animation, but we had a first draft in about six months.  And then we turned in our last rewrites four weeks ago.  It’s a long process.


Did you worry that a villain-centered movie would put audiences off?


Everybody loves a villain!  As long as they’re not being villainous to you.  We were just excited about the chance to center a movie around a villain, because they’re the most fun characters.


Are you worried about the movie’s summer competition?


We’re hoping that in a summer of sequels and remakes, a movie based on an original idea will stand out.  It’s a great movie, and we know people are going to like it.


Did you have any say in any of the characters’ designs? Who came up with what ideas?


We describe the characters as specifically as we can in the screenplay, and then the artists work their magic.


Have you seen the completed film yet? Did it meet up with your expectations?


We recently saw it and were blown away. Couldn’t be happier with the end result.


Despicable Me, and your upcoming project, The Lorax will be shown in 3-D. What do you think about the theory that all movies will be in 3-D someday?


It’s going to happen.  There are 3-D TVs for sale, 3-D DVD players ... it’s only a matter of time.


You worked on Horton Hears A Who! and now, The Lorax. Were you both Dr. Seuss fans as children?


Ken’s favorite book of all time is Horton Hears a Who!  And Cinco’s favorite Seuss book is The Lorax.  So we feel incredibly lucky to have been able to bring these childhood favorites to the big screen.


The Lorax has its dark moments, are you afraid that it will frighten children?


We’re counting on it.


Do you find The Lorax‘s environmentally conscious message relevant today?


More than ever.


Do you have any plans to write another Seuss-based movie? If so, what book would you like to adapt next?


No plans at the moment ... but Hop on Pop starring Zach Galifiniakis is kind of a no-brainer.


Some people have said that the past two decades have been a Renaissance for animated movies. Do you agree with that and are you inspired by recent animated movies?


We are definitely in another Golden Age of animation.  Films like Toy Story, Toy Story 2, The Incredibles, Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and Coraline absolutely inspire us.


Both of you have written both live-action and animated movies, do you prefer one to the other?


We honestly love doing both.  In live action, the process is much faster, but in animation (at least in our experience); we get to be much more involved.


You previously worked on The Santa Clause 2, the Easter Bunny-themed Hop, and now you are working on another adaptation of the Santa legend in 12 Days Of Christmas. Have you made any plans to write about other holiday-related myths?


Actually, 12 Days of Christmas was something we worked on years ago which is now definitely dead. 


Is there any upcoming projects that you would like to tell us about that I haven’t mentioned?


We would love to, but Universal might have us killed.


Is there a book or movie that either of you would like to adapt into a movie, but you can’t? If so, why?


We’d like to adapt our lives into a movie, but we can’t because no one cares.


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