Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: ‘Despicable Me 3’ screenwriters Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio

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.”

Universal Pictures

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.”

Interview: Denise Di Novi, Cheryl Ladd talk ‘Unforgettable’

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.”

LINK: See

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.”

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.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.”

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