We chat to the Gruniverse’s new Anchorman…

Despicable Me 4 is out in cinemas across the UAE now (book here) and features a returning cast of loveable animated characters. There’s of course, the chief protagonist and bad boy gone good – Gru (voice by Steve Carell), his loving wife Lucy Wilde (Kirsten Wiig), the three ex-orphans – Margot, Edith and the adorable Agnes. And then there are the minions. But chief amongst the new recruits, and following in the footsteps of a distinguished line of Despicable Me villainy – Will Ferrell, who provides the hilariously French-accented vocal backing for arch baddie Maxime.

What’s On: Were you excited to join the Despicable Me universe?

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Will Ferrell: I’m a big fan, which is why I was so excited to be a part of the next chapter. I think it’s one of the more innovative animated film series out there, so I was thrilled to be a part of it and join forces again with Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell.

What makes this animated franchise so unique?

I think Despicable Me does a remarkable job of blending many things together: family, action, high-level animation, comedy and so much more. It’s one of the better franchises in terms of making it all come together.

These fun and endearing movies are beloved all over the world and by audiences of all ages.

Yes, because they have something for everyone! They have a generational appeal, as well as themes that work on a global level too. Audiences of the first film from around fifteen years ago are still enjoying the humor the same way they did when they were younger. And to have that collective experience of watching something with your kids and laughing at the same things doesn’t exist a lot. So, to be able to kind of hit that square is a very special experience.

You play Maxime, this French bad guy.

We played around with a couple of different voices at first, and this is ultimately the one that we landed on. The initial pitch to me was precisely that Maxime would be this French bad guy, and I don’t know why that would make me or anyone laugh; but it works, and I’ve never done that before. So, we worked on the voice until we found the right tone that allows Maxime to have a certain amount of menace to him and at the same time be perfectly silly and fit the tone of the movie.

What did you do to get the accent right?

It was definitely a challenge. I would start warming up with the script on my own, prior to coming into the recording session. I channelled a lot of Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau in my head, which I believe is sort of the benchmark for the silly French accent. And then Chris, our director, would help me with certain words along the way if I fell out of the accent. And I was surprised that, once we got going again, I was right back in the pocket. It was a fun challenge.

So, who is this man?

Well, we first meet Maxime at the school he and Gru went to. That’s when we learn that they were classmates growing up and that Maxime is this flamboyant character who likes to show off. Then we find out that he’s seeking revenge on Gru because he’s always resented the fact that when they were doing the school talent show as kids, he felt that Gru stole his song and he’s always held that against him.

He is a supervillain with an unusual army.

Maxime is a supervillain with an army of cockroaches at his beck and call, which he can summon to carry out his evil wishes. He has very special and surprising abilities.

And he has a cunning “femme fatale” girlfriend called Valentina, played by Sofía Vergara.

Yes, and he’s constantly annoyed that she is questioning his plans – which sets up a fun dynamic between the two. Maxime is not the best planner, and I think Valentina would love for him to think things out more to get better results; but he’s always in a rush, and he lacks impulse control. Maxime’s thoughts of revenge overpower any rational thinking he might have.

Maxime Le Mal is Gru’s longstanding high school nemesis from Lycee Pas Bon School of Villainy. If you had attended a school of villainy, what do you believe would have been your favorite subject?

If there was a subject on nefarious gadgets, that would be fascinating. I would love that class!

Maxime has his share of gadgets…

Yeah, a lot of ray guns and things like that; even though I love that his spaceship still runs on regular gas.

It’s a roach-shaped ship.

Everything about Maxime is roach themed!

This must have been a fun character to play and experience coming to life on the screen.

Well, I think it’s one of these things where you don’t know how it’s going to come together because you are doing your part in somewhat isolation. But then, when you finally get to see the final product, it is such a great feel-good moment. I loved watching Maxime and Gru and the other characters that are bopping along. It was a great cinematic experience! It’s really fun seeing how the story unfolds.

This film introduces the Mega Minions. If you could choose one of those five superpowers they each have, which one would it be?

I’ve always been told that I have smoldering good looks with laser-beam eyes, so I guess I naturally kind of already have that one; but I’m not very flexible, and I can barely touch my toes. So, I would take flexibility. I would love to be able to just bend down and touch my toes.

Overall, Despicable Me 4 has an extraordinary cast.

It’s an extremely strong cast, and everyone delivers in their own unique way. They did a great job at casting.

How was your collaboration with director Chris Renaud and co-director Patrick Delage?

I really enjoyed working with both Chris and Patrick. Chris is so affable, making you feel super comfortable. He encourages you to try any sort of impulse or thought you may have with the character. And, at the same time, he really does a nice job of providing you with extra jokes and alternate lines and things like that. It’s nice to know that you’re in such secure hands, especially with the legacy and knowing how great these movies come out.

And the animation is stunning!

That goes without saying. The animation just keeps getting more refined, and it’s truly spectacular to watch.

So, why should audiences go to the theatre to watch Despicable Me 4 on the big screen?

I think people should see Despicable Me 4 in theaters because it’s truly the best way to see it. We all enjoy comedy, and especially watching it with a crowd. It’s the way it was meant to be seen. You know, this movie delivers in ways that will be so satisfying to the fans that watch it for the first time on the big screen.

Despicable Me 4 is out in cinemas across the UAE now (book here)