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If you like Steve Carell, you’re going to love Steve Carell’s new costar, Steve Carell. The actor pulls double duty voicing dastardly dad Gru and his long-lost twin brother, Dru, in the latest installment of Universal’s wickedly popular Despicable Me series.
“I’m always excited to see what they have in store for the next step of Gru’s life, but finding out he has a twin brother and playing opposite the character I’d already established was really, really fun,” says Carell, 54. “I admire how we touch on sibling rivalries and what you find out about yourself through your own biological connections with people.”
To that end, reformed supervillain Gru is as biologically connected as ever when Despicable Me 3 picks up (on June 30). He’s nestling into newlywed life with his three daughters and secret agent wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), but Gru’s happy home is uprooted when a botched mission leads to his unceremonious firing from the Anti-Villain League and a subsequent chance encounter with his well-coiffed brother Dru, who tempts Gru with a return to erstwhile criminal ways.
Separating brother from brother was a hazardous mission unto itself, especially for Carell. “I knew I wanted them to live in the same world,” the actor says of the brothers’ accents. “Since Gru clearly doesn’t come from any country specifically, and it’s sort of a catch-all accent, if you will, I wanted his brother to not have the exact same accent but be from maybe a country a couple countries over.” Geography be damned, you’ll undeniably hear the fraternal link. “Whereas I see Gru as being pretty cynical, a little bit of a grump, darker, more cynical, and more sarcastic, Dru is ebullient and happy and earnest and joyful at all times, so I tried to target a lighter voice and an upbeat delivery. They needed familial similarities in their accents but be distinctive enough that clearly they were very different upbringings.”
Voicing his fourth Despicable Me movie (assuming you count Minions, which you absolutely should), Carell is more than familiar with his recording booth habits, but the actor humbled at the idea that he swapped between both characters with lightning speed. “I’d do one character for the first part of the session and then switch over. I couldn’t sit there and just talk to myself back and forth — I’m not that good,” he laughs.
The challenge of differentiating a Dru from a Gru didn’t just fall to the voice actor; character designer Eric Guillon, who’s responsible for the majority of the now-famous characters in the franchise, had to contend with his past creation to re-imagine a new one. “Should they look exactly the same? Same face, same body? The final version of Dru — blonde hair and white suit — was one of the first options that I created, playing with the contrast, and we went through different options but eventually went back to that first one where we felt the personality of Dru was most defined,” says Guillon. “Often the first idea is the strongest.”
Indeed, the brothers are physiologically identical — in all ways, you’ll notice, but follicles. “With the hair, there were so many possibilities, but the most difficult part was the shape of Dru’s head,” he says. “How can we create a haircut on a head that doesn’t have a forehead?!”