THE SMURFS 2
He's back and out for blue! Unbelievably enough, the repulsive and nasty GARGAMEL is now a global superstar, admired by countless fans who find his Parisian magic stage show astounding and his "evil wizard" act charming. Regardless of all the fame and fortune, he still desperately seeks what he really wants -- to be the most powerful conjurer in the world and capture the Smurfs to extract their essence! Creating the Naughties and kidnapping Smurfette is just the beginning of a dastardly plan that might be his ticket to power.
Hank Azaria once again steps into the madness of this wicked wizard. "He's a miserable, angry, sad person, and the Smurfs are so happy that he takes it personally," says Azaria. "He hates them for how happy they are. And, because he's an evil wizard who is obsessed with Smurfs, he naturally concludes that they are all that is standing in his way from becoming the world's most powerful wizard."
For Azaria, revisiting Gargamel is sweeter the second time around. "It was easier this time. It's such a weird character that it made me nervous the first time," recalls Azaria. "I have to credit Jordan Kerner; he really wanted to make sure the character stayed medieval and antiquated, and Raja Gosnell wanted to make sure that he was heightened and always passionate and crazy. Now, Raja and I have a good shorthand with each other, what we want to try and what we want to do -- it's very pleasant, it's a really fun job, coming to work and making these little creatures come to life every day."
In fact, for Azaria, playing Gargamel is like no other role. "It is like being in another world. It really is odd," describes Azaria. "The experience of making the movie is a little bit insane, since I'm mostly yelling at, screaming at, and chasing nothing -- except on the occasions when they bring in a real cat."
And ah, that cat. Azrael -- the only "special someone" in Gargamel's life. "I think it's really funny that he has this intensely intimate relationship with a cat that is smarter than him," says Azaria. "The cat knows better than he does, and when the cat meows he can tell what the cat is saying. I find that amusing."
"Azrael really is smarter than Gargamel," says Gosnell. "And the cat lets him know at every turn."
"They are essentially an old, annoyed at each other married couple, and the romance has gone out of their relationship," adds Azaria. "Every film, I try to get in the line, 'Why did I ever marry you?', saying it to the cat, but they never really keep it in there; one day, if we keep making these movies, one day I'll be able to say that."
"The relationship between Gargamel and Azrael was very much Hank's creation," says Gosnell. "Hank really didn't want to be monologuing the whole movie -- it was better for him to have a character he could bounce back and forth with, even if it is a cat."
Kerner says that realizing the character of Azrael meant walking a fine line. "Azrael definitely has a voice, but isn't a talking animal," he says. "Azrael can say 'meow,' and Hank, as Gargamel, can reply with, 'Why are you angry with me, because we left Paris?' Meow means 10 million things to Gargamel." On camera, the cats Cheeto and Krinkle, along with a few other hero tabbies, did most of the heavy lifting as Azrael; for his facial performance and scenes requiring a fully animated cat, the filmmakers call on Sony Pictures Imageworks for the CG cat. Voice actor Frank Welker gave the tricky kitty his meow.
It's said that the clothes make the man -- and surely that was never more true than about Gargamel. Azaria spent hours in the makeup chair every morning to help get him into character. "The overall look with his head being shaved, the teeth, the hair and everything, it changes him so much," says makeup effects department head Todd Tucker. "When he gets into that makeup, he can't help but go into Gargamel zone."
"The wardrobe gives him a padded belly and back, his posture changes, he hunches over for the character," adds Tucker. "His whole body movement, everything about him changes pretty drastically, so it's a very different character than Hank is for sure."
"As soon as Hank steps out in makeup and hair, he completely inhabits the role. He becomes Gargamel," says Kerner. "It's in his posture, it's in the way he carries himself, it's how he modulates his voice. He puts up with all the makeup, he puts up with shaving his head completely bald, he puts up with the big teeth we put in his mouth, and he's having so much fun doing it that he'll immediately give you ten variations on his performance."
It takes about two hours, all told, to turn an actor into an evil wizard -- about 90 minutes of makeup, followed by 20 to 30 minutes of hair.
As might be fitting, Gargamel's robe gets a makeover for The Smurfs 2 -- one deserved by the toast of Paris. "We changed the lining of the cape, making it red," explains Montreal costume designer Veronique Marchessault. "It also had to be kind of magical, because at one point he's in his robe, and then, seconds later, the squirrel wings appear." Gargamel uses those wings to fly off of the Eiffel Tower into the portal he conjures at the Trocadero Fountain.
Playing Gargamel in the Smurfs films has been a virtual rediscovery of Azaria's childhood imagination. "You get to play like you're a child; you're imagining these little creatures. I had three imaginary friends when I was a kid, and I would spend a lot of time with them," says Azaria. "It's like I'm doing that again, only I'm a little more angry at these imaginary friends than the ones I grew up with. I'm playing with a pretend cat, pretending to do magic, and waving a magic wand, and then somebody makes a light effect happen. When you're a kid, you always dreamed you could do things like that, and then you get to do it as an adult, and then they pay you -- it's pretty nice."
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