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Exclusive Interview with Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

Inside 'Despicable Me,' 'The Lorax,' 'Hop,' and 'Dinner for Schmucks'


Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

May 21, 2010 - Screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (Horton Hears a Who!, Bubble Boy) are the creative masterminds behind Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures' animated family-friendly comedy, Despicable Me. The talented twosome also penned the upcoming Hop (formerly known as I Hop), the Easter Bunny tale with James Marsden and Russell Brand, and Dinner for Schmucks starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. And after turning over their work to directors to bring to life on the screen, Paul and Daurio are going to be tackling their first film as directors with The Lorax, based on the Dr. Seuss story.

Although Paul and Daurio typically sing their pitches to studio executives, I found out that, sadly, they do their interviews without warbling a single note.

Exclusive Interview with Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

Why are you taking the leap into directing?

Cinco Paul: "It’s something we've always wanted to do, you know? As a writer you’d love to be able to have more control, I guess. As a writer you have not that much control over the finished product, so it’s nice to be able to oversee the whole thing from start to finish."

Ken Daurio: "That was a really nice way of saying they always mess up your script."

Cinco Paul: "I was not going to say that, because in some cases they make it better. But, yeah, control is good. It’s no fun to go sit down and watch a movie that your name is attached to and see a bunch of scenes that you would never have put in the movie, you know? That’s kind of a rough thing to see sometimes."

Has that happened?

Ken Daurio: "Yes, it has. Yes, it has."

How do you normally react? Do you ever confront the director?

"There's a lot of crying."

Ken Daurio: "No. I mean there's nothing you can really do. It kind of goes with the territory. You turn the script in and then they can really do whatever they want with it from there. And so, yes, so that moment when you hand over the script and you sit and wait and hope, that is really the fuel that kind of makes you wish you were directing the movie at that point. So that's sort of how we got there."

Is there one specific project, without naming names, that you look back on and say, "That's the one we should have directed ourselves?"

Cinco Paul: "I would say that...yes. I think - I don't know. Yes, I’d say there's one, kind of our first experience started off really positively and then went really to a negative place. And that made us think, 'You know what? Some day we’re going to direct a film so this can't happen again.'"

But then it’s still taken you a while to get to the point where you're actually ready to direct.

Cinco Paul: "Well I think we always wanted to direct, but you sort of have to look for the right opportunity and a situation where someone's willing to give you a shot. And the time has finally come."

Is it more difficult when you're setting out to write an animated film than it is live action?

Ken Daurio: "I wouldn't say it’s more difficult, I mean now it’s, now having done it a couple of times now it’s certainly, you're looking at this giant mountain in front of you as you sit down to start writing the script because you realize it’s going to be, we're going to be working on the script for three/four years. And so in that sense it’s a little more difficult, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s great to be involved all the way through, as opposed to when you turn your script in and they go off and shoot it. So far with animation, you know, we've been involved in the whole process, which means even up to the last minute we’re involved in the changes that are being made and have a little bit more say in those changes. So it’s nice, it’s nice but it’s a big undertaking. Yes, it’s a marathon."

And when you get someone like Steve Carell who does like to throw in his own stuff and who takes things in his own direction, does that make it more difficult on you or is that really a joy when you have someone like that to work with?

Ken Daurio: "Well with Steve Carell it’s absolutely a joy. You know, we are just such big fans and he's made so much of what we've done better. He goes in there and he's great because he’ll record the lines as written and then he’ll have fun with it and expand and experiment. He really brings a lot of great stuff to the movie."

Cinco Paul: "Yes, and it’s interesting because I would say candidly he has never made a bad choice. He really hasn’t, which is pretty impressive."

Ken Daurio: "In ad-libbing and reading the lines."

Cinco Paul: "Yes, in ad-libbing and coming up with his own stuff. It’s always really funny and it’s true to the character. And so when you have someone like that, it’s a total joy."

With his ad-libs, did Steve Carell take the character any direction where you guys went, "Hey wait, why didn't we think of that?", and then you had to go back in and finesse it a little more?

Cinco Paul: "Well I think from the very first meeting with him, you know he was the one who came up with this voice for the character. We were just writing him as this evil villain and didn’t have necessarily this accent in mind, because the accent is crazy and didn’t exist and it was like something out of his head. So when we heard it for the first time, it really did open up kind of the door to writing for this character, you know? It gave you more personality. You could start to hear things that he would say. So from the very beginning he brought things to the character that we didn’t think of."

That must be fun to work with someone like that.

Ken Daurio: "Yes, it is."

Are you going to have him in The Lorax?

Cinco Paul: "We cannot say." [laughing]

Of course you cannot say.

Cinco Paul: "But I don't know."

But if all things worked out it would be great to have him, right?

Cinco Paul: "We would work with him."

Ken Daurio: "Yes. We worked out with him on Horton Hears a Who! and Despicable Me and so..."

And Dinner for Schmucks. Was that a different experience working with him because it was live action?

Ken Daurio: "You know, we were not involved. We wrote the original draft of that script many, many years ago, so we weren’t involved on the set with Steve at all on Dinner for Schmucks."

Cinco Paul: "That script was, in our minds, dead for years and then all of a sudden we heard, 'Wait a minute, it’s actually happening.'"

Ken Daurio: "That was a nice surprise, yes."

When you write something like that and you put it aside, is it something you even want to revisit? Or is it dead, it’s gone, it’s behind you?

Cinco Paul: "I think you always hope that some of these scripts that you write that you're proud of that are just sort of sitting there, will someday find a home and someday come to life. So that was really nice because we were actually always pretty proud of that script, but it was just sort of languishing there."

Ken Daurio: "But yes, there are others that you move on and you are kind of glad... You know what I'm saying? That was probably the best thing for that script."

Cinco Paul: "Yes, put it out of its misery."

Continued on Page 2

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