Four years after his last big screen adventure, the former supervillain-turned-agent of good Gru is back with “Despicable Me 3,” the latest animated family comedy from acclaimed screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.
Together with Illumination Entertainment founder Chris Meledandri, the trio became a force to be reckoned with right out of the gate in 2010 with Illumination’s first film “Despicable Me.” The blockbuster hit told the unique story of how the adoption of three orphaned sisters softened the heart of the world’s most devious supervillain, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell). The success of the first film, of course, to the 2013 smash “Despicable Me 2,” where the Gru meets the love of his life with Lucy (voice of Kristen Wiig), an Anti-Villain League super-agent.
“We ultimately landed on the fact that these movies are ultimately about family,” Paul, along with Daurio, said in a phone conversation this week from Los Angeles. “Although I don’t think we’ll be ever able to touch the emotion of that first movie, because there’s something special about Gru becoming a dad and the girls changing his life. We feel like each movie we’re going to expand the family, and deal with the challenges of things like sibling rivalry, or in this film, Lucy becoming a stepmom. She’s so accomplished as an agent, but feeling so insecure about being a mom now.”
New in theaters Friday, “Despicable Me 3” finds Gru and Lucy in a quandary after they’re both fired by the AVL after failing to apprehend the notorious former ’80s child star-turned-supervillain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) after he pulls off an elaborate heist. Out of work and going broke, Gru’s fortunes change when finds out he has a long, lost brother named Dru (also voiced by Carell), a very rich and successful pig farmer. Gru soon discovers, though, that Dru amassed his riches thanks to their dad, who, as it turns out was the world’s greatest supervillain in this time — and Dru wants his brother to get back into the game.
Paul and Daurio said the “Despicable Me” film series was never planned as a trilogy or even a franchise. In fact, their goal was just to get the first film made.
“We were hoping, ‘Maybe they’ll let us make another movie’ — not necessarily a sequel, but we were just hoping the company would get going and we would be on our way making films, never thinking this would become a franchise,” Daurio said. “We just thought, ‘This is this really a fantastic story about three little girls and this supervillain, and how they changed each other’s lives,’ and thought was going to end there.”
But once they were approached by Universal to create the first sequel, they realized that the first film had a theme that they could build upon in a meaningful way.
“When we met with Chris Meledandri about it, we realized, ‘Ah! Gru needs love.’ He found one kind of love by becoming a dad and now he needs another kind of love, so we found him romance with Lucy in the second film,” Paul said. “That was the same process with this third movie. While he has kids and while he has a wife, maybe there’s another kind of love that he hasn’t experienced yet, which would be sibling love — brotherly love.”
“Once the door opened to a sequel, everything became a possibility,” Daurio added. “Now it’s a lot easier for us to think of sequel ideas because we’ve seen how big the family can get and the opportunities we have for exploring the family dynamic.”
Also included in the “Despicable Me” family are Gru’s Minons, who, of course, got their own prequel movie last year. Like the possibilities with Gru’s story, Paul and Daurio said the opportunities for new and exciting Minion storylines are endless.
“One of the first ideas for this movie was that the Minions should go to prison. We thought that would be really fun,” Paul said with a laugh. “As writers, we just wanted to lock the Minions up for a little while. We just thought the Minions would play great in jail. That sequence is so much fun.”
While Paul and Daurio originally conceptualized the Minons on the page, they say the characters truly took shape, quite literally, under the auspices of director Pierre Coffin. The filmmaker, who has directed all three “Despicable Me” films and “Minions,” not only came up with the design of the yellow, pill-shaped henchmen, he also does all the voices for them.
Paul and Daurio said that for “Despicable Me 3,” Coffin was also pivotal in the shaping of the scene where the Minions inadvertently land in the middle of a singing competition, putting their unique brand of gibberish to work as only the characters can.
“That was an idea that Pierre came in with early in the process of making the film,” Daurio recalled. “He said, ‘I have this idea for a Minions scene and I can’t explain it to you, so I’m going to just show it to you’ — and he played us the Gilbert and Sullivan song you see performed in the film.”
While Denise Di Novi has been an influential producer since the early 1990s with such films as Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” and “A Nightmare Before Christmas” — and more recently with “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Focus” — she’s never really had the desire to direct. Intent on raising her two children, the filmmaker said in a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles said that producing gave her “a lot more flexibility” with her family life.
Ironically, Di Novi said, it’s a family dynamic that powers the dramatic thriller “Unforgettable,” which marks Di Novi’s directorial debut. Written by Christina Hodson, “Unforgettable” follows Tessa (Katherine Heigl), the devastated ex-wife of David (Geoff Stults), who after the end of their marriage finds love with Julia (Rosario Dawson). Complicating matters is the bond Julia forms with Tessa and David’s 6-year-old daughter, Lily (Isabella Kai Rice), pushing Tessa to get Julia out of David’s life at any cost.
With such of a female-driven narrative, Di Novi said the timing was perfect for her to transition from producer to the director’s role for the first time.
“For Katherine’s character, there are definite emotions that come up when she sees her child being mothered by another woman and the husband she’s still in love with being happier with that other woman,” Di Novi said. “How do you deal as second wife with a first wife who’s clearly unstable? These are tough things that people deal with and I loved that they were written from the female perspective.
Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, “Unforgettable” also stars acclaimed actor Cheryl Ladd as Tessa’s mother, Helen. While Tessa and Julia are at the center of the conflict in “Unforgettable,” Helen is pivotal to the plot in that she’s effectively responsible for her daughter’s irrational behavior.
“She thinks she’s a wonderful mother who loves her daughter dearly, and her heart is so closed off because she’s lived this closed off perfectionism her whole life,” Ladd said in a separate phone conversation from Los Angeles. “She’s trying desperately to save and help her daughter, and she doesn’t realize how painful the things she says are to her daughter and not helpful. She has no idea, though. She thinks she’s being a wonderful mother, but she’s criticizing her daughter so much and it’s just like she’s throwing bricks at her. Plus, she’s working on her granddaughter, too, trying to make her the same way.”
UClirS9MPXruCH-uH063pDfg/videos?shelf_id=0&view=0&sort=dd" target="_blank">Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Francis Ford Coppola and more on his new YouTube channel.
Ladd feels that whether people want to admit it or not, they’re going to find Tessa, Julia and Helen relatable in “Unforgettable.” If you’re not or once were one of these characters in real life, you certainly know one or all of them.
“Some people really have a difficult time keeping it together under that mountain of pain and disappointment, and that mountain of insecurity,” Ladd observed. “For some people, they just snap and they just lose it.”
Katherine Heigl, Denise Di Novi and Rosario Dawson on the set of “Unforgettable.”
And if moviegoers are in denial that they’re one of these characters, Ladd hopes that “Unforgettable” will wake them up to the truth.
It’s such of a woman’s story, with all of the walls we put up and the image we try to project, and in the meantime are hiding our feelings, our vulnerability and things that bring us pain, because we have to buck up and get on with it,” Ladd said. “When you’re raised to just swallow your feelings and do the right thing at every turn and not misstep, it’s very difficult when life hands you disappointments or you make a bad decision — and you don’t even know how to start coping with the bad decision you made.”
Di Novi said casting the role of Helen was difficult because they wanted to find someone “as flawlessly put together as Tessa.” And while Di Novi found exactly what she was she was looking for with Ladd, she was slight hesitant because the “Charlie’s Angels” icon’s kind demeanor in real life is she’s the exact opposite of Helen.
“Cheryl is so sweet and gracious, I wondered if she could be this cold, uptight character,” Di Novi said.
Ladd, however, is thrilled Di Novi went with her gut and cast her because the idea of taking on such a cold and calculated character is why she loves acting so much.
“That’s why I was interested in doing the character,” Ladd said. “The nice thing about getting older and having a long career is when things come up, I can say ‘No,’ and if it’s something I feel that I’d really like to tackle, I say, ‘Yes.’ It’s a nice place to be, and I’m just finding that the characters at this age are deeper, wider, interesting and more challenging, and I love it.”
Ladd said that she couldn’t have been any happier working with Di Novi on “Unforgettable,” not just for what she did for her character, but for every character in the film.
Look at the picture Denise made. There’s not one false step from a character,” Ladd said. “Each character is so deeply real and deeply relatable in how they go about their lives and the hiding of their feelings. Everything comes from real truths from within these women, and that’s why I think it’s even more scary and relatable because you sense they’re real. It’s got it all I think Denise is going to be directing a lot of movies and I hope I get to be in some of them because she’s wonderful and so talented, and really knows how to tell a story from beginning to end.”
Big screen legend Alan Arkin has without question been one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood over the past 50 years, making indelible impressions in the mid-60s with such classic films as “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” and “Wait Until Dark.” The films signaled an auspicious debut for Arkin in the film industry, paving the way to such hits over the years as “Catch 22,” “Freebie and the Bean,” “The In-Laws,” “The Rocketeer” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Of course, Arkin’s career hit overdrive in 2007 with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for “Little Miss Sunshine,” which led to plum roles in such films as the 2012 Best Picture Oscar winner “Argo.” In short, Arkin has done it all — that is, with the exception of doing a movie with fellow iconic actors Morgan Freeman and Michael Change. But that’s all changed with “Going in Style,” a poignant comedy new in theaters.
In the film, Arkin, Freeman and Caine play Albert, Willie and Joe, respectively, a trio of lifelong friends who have toiled for decades at a steel mill. Trying their best to enjoy retirement, the friends are shocked to learn from the mill that all company pensions have been dissolved. All broke and with a mortgage foreclosure pending for one of them, Albert, Willie and Joe hatch a plan to rob the bank that’s involved in the pension fiasco to recoup what would be coming to them if they hadn’t been swindled by their company.
A remake of the 1979 comedy of the same name, director Zach Braff’s “Going in Style” is updated to reflect the financial crisis hitting seniors today. It’s a brutally honest reality to confront, but often times great comedy is rooted in truth, Arkin said in a recent phone conversation from New York.
“Even the most outrageous comedy has to be rooted, even subliminally, in some kind of truth or else it has no meaning,” Arkin said. “I was thinking about that connection with the Marx Brothers. Interestingly enough, people don’t analyze the statements — and I don’t mean messages — but emotional statements that exist in comedy. People think having a good time doesn’t warrant examination. But even with the Marx Brothers, even though it’s a much more stylized version of what we̵
7;re doing, it’s the same idea: Three kids from the Bowery on the lower east side stickin’ it to the man. That’s what most of the Marx Brothers’ material is about.”
Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in “Going in Style.”
“Going in Style” also stars screen great Ann-Margret as Annie, a fiery grocery store clerk who wants to develop a romantic relationship with Albert, a longtime musician who worked in the steel mill to support his passion for music. And while Annie wants to make a different kind of music with Albert, they do at one point in “Going in Style” take to the stage to sing some karaoke.
Funny enough, Arkin, whose first feature film appearance came as a singer and guitarist with his group The Tarriers in the 1957 film “Calypso Heat Wave,” was a bit anxious to take center stage again 60 years later.
“It was a little bit terrifying because we didn’t know what song we were going to sing until the night before we did the scene, and we had no rehearsal whatsoever,” Arkin said with slightly nervous laugh. “They threw us up in the bandstand and I was amazed that anything worked at all.”
And while some actors use fear as a motivating factor in prepping for a scene, the comedy great, 83, said he’d prefer to leave that method of working to somebody else.
“I’ve had enough of that,” Arkin deadpanned. “I prefer these days of not having fear being a motivation for anything.”
Arkin has earned a stellar reputation over the years of being such a natural, and you can definitely feel it through his relatable character in “Going in Style.” Part of the relatability no doubt stems from the actor’s natural gift of improvisation, which he’s used quite often over the years.
“I spent a long time in improvisational theater, so I know how to work with dialogue. When it’s not working, I spend a lot of time changing dialogue,” Arkin said. “If people don’t like it, they can hire somebody else. I don’t spring new dialogue on people, but I change stuff a lot – I’ve done that on at least half the films I’ve worked on. I’m very happy to comply with writing that has texture, dimension and depth.”
Big screen icon has Ann-Margret has starred in many classic films over her illustrious 56-year screen career, including a pair of movies about two “Grumpy Old Men” (Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) from Minnesota in 1993 and 1995.
And while scripts containing the flavor of those films undoubtedly landed on the actress’ doorstep for the past two decades, Ann-Margret avoided taking any roles involving more grumpy old men — that is until an opportunity came about to work with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin that was too good to pass up.
In a recent phone conversation from New York City, Ann-Margret said her impressions of the legendary actors were exactly as she hoped they would be.
“I had done a film with Alan Arkin before, so I knew him and we’re friends. But to see these three guys together — ‘the boys,’ I call them — I saw them as teenagers; as 17-year-olds,” Ann-Margret said. “Sometimes when you look at someone and try to imagine what they were like when they were younger, and the boys are still the same.”
Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin in “Going in Style.” (Warner Bros.)
Opening Friday in theaters nationwide, “Going in Style” is a remake of 1979 comedy that starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strassberg, but in director Zach Braff’s version, it’s been updated to reflect the volatile climate retirees face in today’s society.
Caine, Freeman and Arkin play Joe, Willie and Albert, respectfully, a trio of lifelong friends whose pensions become a casualty of corporate America despite devoting their lives to their work. Hard-pressed to keep up with their bills, the retired steelworks hatch a plan to rob the very bank that ripped them off.
Ann-Margret plays Annie, a fiery grocery cashier who takes a liking to Albert, even though he feels his days of romance are far behind him.
“I think it’s cute that she gets a crush on Arkin’s character — this grumpy old man who never looks at her and never smiles,” Ann-Margret said, laughing. “But she gets this vibration from him. She goes after him. She’s been divorced for a long time, but she gets this feeling from him and feels blessed that she’s getting that feeling again.”
Ann-Margret said she felt blessed to work with Arkin again following their pairing as the in-laws of Tim Allen’s St. Nick in “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” in 2006, and the screen legend said in a separate phone conversation that he feels the exact same way.
“She’s an absolute delight,” Arkin said. “She’s like a kid doing her first movie. She’s game, she’s fun, and she’s got a wonderful sense of humor and will try anything. She’s just a delight.”
Ann-Margret said like the “Grumpy Old Men” movies, she was drawn to the script of “Going in Style” because it doesn’t treat men and women of a certain age as punch lines. Even though the film is a comedy and the characters up in their years, they most definitely are made up of substance, emotion and in Annie’s case in particular, passion.
“I love the fact that I’m playing this woman who is living, I mean she’s really living her life,” Ann-Margret, 75, enthused. “You’re not dead when you reach a certain age, and you can still have love and passion and everything if you’re lucky enough. You have to keep living and not sit home and watch TV alone. You have to participate.”