"I've been 6' 4" since I was 12. I was 6' 4", 100 lbs. I looked like Jack Skellington," said Segel. "And kids used to stand around me in a circle and one by one they would jump on my back and the rest would chant, 'Ride the oaf! Ride the oaf!' It's true. So you either become funny, which is hopefully what I did, or you become a villain, which is where I got the idea for Vector. He's a guy who was horribly picked on and this is where he's ended up."
Jason Segel Despicable Me Press ConferenceCan you tell us what it's like to play such a delicious villain?
Jason Segel: "I was given a sketch very early, and I have a bit of a background in puppetry. So coming up with a voice to match this sketch I was given was my real inspiration. I had a few months to come up with a voice, and I came up with a few and I went in and they helped me choose. These guys are such geniuses. The one they ended up choosing was perfect."
Obviously, you look nothing like your character, but did you see any mannerisms that they picked up from you?
Jason Segel: "I'm going to answer that question twofold. One, I was very excited, the whole thing that drew me to doing an animated film is that you're freed from the physical limitations of your physical body. All of a sudden you get to be something that has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a 6' 4", kind of lumbering dude. And that was really exciting; puppetry is very similar. And then this guy is based almost wholly on insecurity. He just wants to prove to his dad that he's worthy, in this case the most evil person alive. So I kind of drew from there. It was very freeing. I think for all of the cast, you'll probably notice, that nobody is doing their voice. Steve, myself, Russell [Brand], Julie [Andrews] - no one is talking like they normally talk and it's because all of a sudden you're freed from the physical limitations of how you look, which is amazing."
How is voicing an animated character different or similar to voicing a puppet?
Jason Segel: "Well they're very similar experiences. Like I said, the thing that ties them together is the idea that you're not tied to your physical body. So being able to voice a character that looked nothing like me was very exciting. If I did that voice as an actor, you would call b.s. You would say, 'No, that's not what he sounds like.' But all of a sudden I could be 5' 3", wear an orange jumpsuit, and be nerdy. You know, in real life I'm, like, SUPER good looking. [Laughing] And so to all of a sudden play a character that was nerdy was very exciting to me."
Where does this fit in with your sense of humor as far as the improv style you use, like you did with Forgetting Sarah Marshall?
Jason Segel: "Well, what's cool about doing this animated film - this is the only one I've done, so I have no other frame of reference - is that you go in for three hours every few months. I probably went in six times over two years, something like that. And I think the goal is, from their standpoint, for me to give them as much material as I can possibly come up with, and they choose the funniest and the best and the most on-story. So every time it was just three hours of intense effort, trying to be as funny as I could and be on story and improv and give them as much material as I possibly could."
Does it fit with your sense of humor?
Jason Segel: "Yeah. I actually am more proud of this movie than anything else I've ever done. There's something very special about the idea of a family being able to go to a movie and everyone enjoying themselves, genuinely. It's something The Muppets did beautifully and The Simpsons kind of does it, but parents aren't placating their kids when they take them to this movie. They're enjoying it as well. So there's something really great about the idea of a family walking out of a theater and everyone's had a really great experience and is enjoying themselves. I think a family getting along for a few hours is a special thing, funny enough."
Which one of Vector's gadgets did you love and wish was real?
Jason Segel: "Which do I wish I had? I wouldn't mind the shrink-ray, because I would like to make a lot of foods bite-sized so that I could eat them constantly."
When are we going to get a chance to hear your music again?
Jason Segel: "I'll play it for you later, tonight. [Laughing] I wrote some of the music for Get Him to the Greek. I wrote 'Bangers and Mash' and 'Supertight'. You know, that's a real side job for me but I enjoy it. I taught myself to play piano when I was 17 to pick up girls. When you try to pitch a real musician these songs, they write them too musically, and when you try to pitch them to comedians they write them too funny. And I somehow found a middle ground because I'm not that good a musician and I'm not that funny. So it ends up being perfect."
Did it work to pick up girls?
Jason Segel: "Well, I remember the first thing I did was I found a really not-that-intelligent girl and I told her that I wrote 'Your Song' by Elton John. I was like, 'I wrote this for you.' And then I lost my virginity."
Do you think that animated movies are like an actor's workshop, in a sense?
Jason Segel: "It's a very unique experience in that you're not working with any of these actors in any of these scenes. You're alone in a booth. To me it felt like a test, if I could be funny and good and on-story. On-story, to me, is a big part of improv. It's very easy to come out and say funny lines that you've thought of the night before, but to be on-story is the real challenge. So you're in there for three hours trying to give them material they can actually use. I have a million jokes I could say, but to try to make it on story and valuable to them was something that was a challenge, and I really enjoyed that idea. It's just you alone, which is kind of awesome because a lot of the time, other actors really slow me down, because they're not quite as good as me." [laughing]
We heard you did a conga line with Miranda Cosgrove and Steve Carell for the film.
Jason Segel: "Yeah, we got to play with the minions a bit, who I think are the cutest element to the movie. The minions are Steve Carell's/Gru's assistants, kind of the architects of his plan. We did a little conga line with them. It was a bit awkward, because, to be honest, it's midgets in outfits. And at one point I had to come up with something funny and I said, 'Hey, can I throw this ball off of your head and see if it bounces back to me?' And one of the guys in the outfits said, 'You've got to remember, I'm a real human being.' And then I felt really awkward."