LIANE HANSEN, host:
Assemble ye minions at the nearest cineplex this weekend for the new, animated, 3-D film, "Despicable Me." It's the story of a very mean man who wants to become the world's top super-villain, and the three orphans who melt his heart of stone.
(Soundbite of movie, "Despicable Me")
Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (as Gru) You will not cry or whine or laugh or giggle or sneeze or burp or fart. So no, no, no annoying sounds. Right?
Unidentified Woman: Does this count as annoying?
(Soundbite of noise)
HANSEN: The main character is called Gru, and the actor who provides his voice is TV and movie star Steve Carell. He's in our New York studios. Welcome to the program.
Mr. CARELL: Thank you very much.
HANSEN: When you first read Gru's character, what did he sound like to you?
Mr. CARELL: He sounded very similar to how he ended up. He had an accent to me, and I couldn't really tell what sort of accent. And I don't think anybody can actually determine what accent I'm doing in the movie - which was by choice, of course. But I thought the character had a bit of an accent, and should sound threatening without being overwhelmingly so.
HANSEN: Yeah. The voice kind of flows between the count or Boris Badenov - or sometimes I would hear Alan Arkin in "The Russians are Coming."
Mr. CARELL: Oh, one of my favorite - I might have, sort of subconsciously been channeling it. One of my favorite performances ever.
HANSEN: Everybody should get from street.
Mr. CARELL: Get from street.
(Soundbite of laughter)
HANSEN: Throughout the movie, it's kind of like a running gag. You have to say, as Gru, light bulb.
Mr. CARELL: Light bulb. My son, who is 6, saw the movie. And we'll be watching TV or doing something, and he'll lean over and say, daddy, say light bulb. He just loves that word. He loved the way I said it in the movie.
HANSEN: It's wonderful 'cause it's just, you know, I've got an idea but just in that one word, light bulb. You do have kids. I mean, to a certain extent, do you make movies like these for them? I mean, you know, dad the big star now and...
Mr. CARELL: Sure. It's fun. You know - and I know it's kind of a clich� at this point, when actors do movies like this and they say, well, I did it to be cool in my kids' eyes and something for them. But I think even more than that, I was taken by the story. I just thought it was a very simple and beautiful story. And the animators are exceptional. Its a very - it looks different.
And I like to do things that could potentially be entertaining or fun or whatever...
Mr. CARELL: ...or moving, and this seemed to be that.
HANSEN: And then the little kids. I mean, you've got these three little, adorable, animated orphans. Oh, please. I mean, and you know, resonances of Miss Hattie's Orphanage in "Little Orphan Annie." I mean, how can you not - melt your heart?
Mr. CARELL: It does, and I think there's something for, you know, because there's that side of it. The three little girls are orphans, but I think the little boys who go to see the movie are going to enjoy all of the techno-gadgets and the big spaceship chases. And you know, there's a science fiction element to it...
Mr. CARELL: ...as well that I think's really fun.
HANSEN: So what are those little, yellow creatures? I mean, they're minions -although you can't say the word - but they look like, you know, allergy pills running around in farmered overalls.
Mr. CARELL: I actually like that description and from here on out, I will describe them as such.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. CARELL: They are - I have to say, I've done some promotion for this movie and everywhere I turn, there are the minions. There are minions at the premiere, there are minion dolls, there are minion inflatable balloons. The minions have become, I think, a cottage industry at this point.
HANSEN: They have. I mean, they've been a crawl on my television set for the last two months we knew this movie was coming out.
Mr. CARELL: They - you know what? They totally creep up on you. And whether you want to like them or not, you will like them by the end of this movie.
HANSEN: Yeah, they're a lot of fun. Is it true that voiceover work is easy money?
Mr. CARELL: Yes, it is, it is very, very true. Whenever I hear somebody complaining about how difficult it is, I want to punch them because it's really fun...
Mr. CARELL: ...and pretty easy.
HANSEN: Yeah, I know. You go in and it's, you know, like four hours, you know.
Mr. CARELL: Yeah. You go in...
HANSEN: Walk out.
Mr. CARELL: ...you do a silly voice, you walk out.
Mr. CARELL: It's funny: You go into a studio with a microphone, and on the other side of the glass are the directors and the writers and the producers. And they lead you through the script. And they would allow me to go off on tangents and play around, and see what else would be there - because frankly, it's all disposable anyway. You know, if it doesn't work, they just don't use it. So I just would give them 20 or 30 or 40 different options, and they could pick and choose at their free will.
HANSEN: You're famous for your role on television, Michael Scott, manager of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. And you've decided to leave the character behind, and move on.
Mr. CARELL: I have. Seven seasons - my original contract was for seven seasons, and I plan on fulfilling my contract and then moving on after this next year.
HANSEN: And just because the show's in syndication now?
Mr. CARELL: No, actually, you know, it's funny, I've been questioned - and I was really surprised that this even caused any sort of stir.
HANSEN: Oh, are you kidding? Michael Scott, we love you.
Mr. CARELL: No. It really did surprise me because I look at the show as a great ensemble show, and I look at my departure as just one piece of that ensemble going off. And I have no doubt the show will continue and be incredibly strong. But I'm choosing to move on specifically because of family. I have two little kids. I'd like to be able to enjoy a bit more of their childhood while they're still children.
HANSEN: I have three scenarios for Michael Scott's leaving: He leaves to become Jim and Pam's manny; he moves to Florida with the new corporate owner, played brilliantly by Kathy Bates; or he reunites with Holly and lives happily ever after.
Mr. CARELL: I would preferably go with number three. That would be my choice. I think it would be nice for the character to find happiness, and I think - in terms of love and a family. That's ultimately what he's wanted the entire time. That's, I think, his driving force - is to be part of a family. And I think that's the kind of life that he's tried to create for himself at Dunder Mifflin.
And he's really utilized the staff there as his family because he doesn't have anything like that in his personal life. And I think if he were able to find happiness, apart from the office, in a soul mate - who I think would be Holly, because she's the one woman that truly got him.
Mr. CARELL: And it was understandable why. She saw the good in him. She saw all the positives, and the negatives did not matter to her.
HANSEN: Do you get any say in the matter?
Mr. CARELL: In terms of how it ends?
Mr. CARELL: I think some, yeah. I'm a producer on the show, so I'm going to definitely put my two cents in.
HANSEN: Absolutely, yeah.
Mr. CARELL: But I'd like it to - you know what? I'd like it to end in a subtle way, too. I don't want it to be this big ,sort of celebration or blowout. I want it to be - my favorite episodes are the ones that are kind of small and subtle, and examine the mundane. And so I would love it if it kept away from being a big, you know, ratings bonanza sort of episode.
I just think that would be more appropriate, and more logical and realistic, that - people leave offices all the time for various reasons, and I would like it to just be a kind of subtle reason that he takes off.
HANSEN: And Angela can make some cake for the conference room, yes?
Mr. CARELL: Yes. If she is still party planning chairman.
HANSEN: That's right.
Mr. CARELL: We'll see what happens with that.
HANSEN: Well, she and Phyllis have been arguing over this a long time.
Mr. CARELL: Yeah. They've been splitting the duties. That's turmoil there.
HANSEN: Do you think you're going to continue to gravitate toward comedies, or do you harbor some deep wish to do tragedy?
Mr. CARELL: You know, I think about that. And I think part of my problem is that I don't want to appear pretentious. I don't want to be the guy who mostly does comedies but then says, I need to show everybody my dramatic chops and what I can do, and what I'm capable of. Because I just I don't think that's a good enough reason to do something. I don't want to do it in order to prove to someone else that I'm capable of it. It just doesn't seem like a valuable reason to pursue something.
That being said, yeah, I mean, I'd love to do other, different things. But I love to do comedy, too. And I think I'll always try to base whatever I do on what would potentially be good, what I might enjoy doing, who I might be working with. But I'm actually looking at doing a more dramatic movie with Jay Roach, of all people, who directed "Dinner for Schmucks," and he also directed "Recount." And so he kind of can play on both sides as a director - the drama or the comedy. So that might be something in the works right now.
HANSEN: Well, it's good to know you have some jobs lined up, Steve.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. CARELL: Yeah, I'm trying to keep busy.
HANSEN: Actor Steve Carell. He is the voice of Gru, the evil villain in the new, 3-D animated movie "Despicable Me," which opened this weekend. He joined us from New York. Steve, thank you very much.
Mr. CARELL: My pleasure. Thank you.
HANSEN: You can hear more from our conversation with Steve Carell at NPR.org.