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Despicable Me Movie: Jason Segel Interview

Writer/actor Jason Segel of How I Met Your Mother and Freaks and Geeks fame is 6′ 4″, but plays petite and ultra-geeky supervillain Vector in the movie. Jason chats about his Dracula-obsession, wearing a Superman cape till he was twelve, and penning the highly buzzed-about new Muppets movie, out in 2011.

You’re used to playing a good guy. What was it like to play a bad guy?

It was exciting – I’d wanted to play a villain for a long time. Being a villain, you’re freed from your limitations. A normal person is forced to be regular, but a villain is, by definition, unhinged. So by playing a villain, I got to be anything I wanted to be; I didn’t have to worry about being grounded or normal. It’s the same with animation – the suspension of disbelief goes out the window and you can do anything you want. You’re not limited by how you look, and I look very particular. I’m a 6′ 4″ dude – a lumbering man. (The nerdy Vector voice) doesn’t sound right coming out of my body. But all of a sudden it wasn’t my body. I was this 5′ 3″ nerdy dude. And that was very exciting, not to be limited by how I looked physically.

To be in an animated movie, did you feel like you had to tap into your inner kid at all?

To be honest, it’s sort of my wheelhouse. I’m good at the R-rated comedies, and I’ve written a lot of the stuff I’ve done. But between this, The Muppet Movie and Gulliver’s Travels, it’s sort of where my heart is. To this day, my favorite movies are Labyrinth and Goonies. It’s a bit of who I am. When I was young, the goonies made me feel like I could do anything – that this crazy adventure could happen in my life. Because when you’re young, you don’t know these things aren’t true. I’m still drawn to that for kids – to feel like they can do anything.

Vector always wears an orange tracksuit. What’s your go-to outfit – something that makes you feel powerful?

For some reason I wear a suit every day when I write alone in my house. I want it to feel like a job and that I have to accomplish a certain amount of things during the day. So I get up, take a shower, and even if I’m not leaving the house, I put on a proper suit. And then I sit alone in my house and write. It’s very peculiar.

What kind of kid were you when you were growing up?

I was an odd kid. I wore a Superman cape until I was 12 years old. I’m not joking. I wore it under my clothes to school. What made me stop wearing the Superman cape was my older brother, who was a big jock. I remember going to his state championship basketball game, running up and down the side of the court in my cape saying, “You can do it, Adam!” And in the middle of a play, he came over to me and said sternly, “Sit the f**k down.” And that was the last day I wore the Superman cape.

At least it wasn’t your mom telling you couldn’t wear it.

Oh no, she encouraged me. And I remember getting a spanking in the Superman cape, which is just bizarre. You’re not that heroic when you’re getting spanked.

Are there any kids in your life who are excited for you to be in this movie?

I don’t have many kids in my life, but to be honest, I’m excited to be in this movie. I don’t think it’s necessarily just for kids. The beautiful thing is that it’s like The Muppets or The Simpsons – families can watch and enjoy it on their own level, versus, if you watch Barney, your kids enjoy it and the parents want to blow their brains out.

What attracted you to the villain role?

Villains were always the most compelling. I’m obsessed with Dracula. I don’t know why but it’s somehow stuck in my brain. He’s so misunderstood. The Disney villains nailed it; they were so compelling and evil. Ursula from The Little Mermaid is scary – but awesome and cool, too. I would love to see an Ursula movie, like how she became Ursula. And this movie explores how the villains became villains.

Can you tell us more about the Muppets movie you are working on?

We start shooting in September, and I couldn’t be more excited or proud. Nick Stoller, who directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to The Greek, is my writing partner. We’ve been writing it for about two and half years, and it’s finally getting made with a Christmas Day release next year. My goal is to bring the movie back to the late 70s and early 80s muppets. I’m asked a lot if it’s going to be a dirty version of the Muppets – not at all. The Muppets were my first comic influence, so I’m trying to restore them to their former glory.

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