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THE SMURFS

Know Your Enemy: Gargamel
If ugly had a name, it would be GARGAMEL. And if obsession had a face, it would look like Gargamel. This evil wizard is consumed by all things Smurfs: they're all he thinks about, all he talks about, and all he's ever wanted. A zero when it comes to magic and a negative 100 in the hygiene department, Gargamel is nevertheless always scheming up convoluted ways to capture the fabled Smurfs and drain them of their "essence” – the key ingredient in creating the most powerful spells! Gargamel will do anything to capture a Smurf, including chase them into New York City, all in order to become the most powerful wizard in the world!

Hank Azaria takes on the role of the wannabe wizard. "Gargamel is evil and pretty proud of it,” says Azaria. "He aspires to make the move from an awful wizard to a great one. That's why he is obsessed with Smurfs – he needs their magical blue essence to make himself more powerful.”

But Gargamel's relationship to the Smurfs isn't explained quite that easily. "I think he just hates the Smurfs – they're such a happy family and he's so alone with only his cat. He's driven by just plain-old hate. He's a pretty juicy character on so many levels.” Settling on Gargamel's vocal characteristics required a mix of different approaches.

"Gargamel's very theatrical – not only does he want to be a great wizard, he wants to be worshipped and considered a genius. He wants all that good press,” says Azaria. "We had a long discussion about whether he should sound Shakespearean and selfimportant, as if he was an old stage actor, or if we should make him more sarcastic instead of yelling all the time. In the end, you can't play Gargamel without screaming your head off. It just can't happen. The second you see a Smurf you have to lose your mind, or you're not Gargamel.”

Of course, it wasn't enough for Azaria to sound ugly – he'd have to look the part as well. Getting properly uglied up required hours in the make-up chair for Azaria. "It starts with the ears,” he explains. "Gargamel has big old ears and a big old nose and there's a lot of painting that goes on to make it all even.”

Then comes the hair – though Azaria was able to make that process an easier experience by shaving his head. "They apply Gargamel's strange monkish hair, and then the eyebrows come on and then I pop in some big, weird buck teeth.”

Those big teeth sometimes went flying out of Azaria's mouth during a scene. "They were hard at first,” he says. "It literally took practice to talk with them. And they did occasionally fly out of my mouth in the middle of particularly screamy takes.”

Gargamel's partner in crime is Azrael, his cat. And Azaria discovered that he had to not only figure out the relationship as characters in the story, but as live actors, working with a real cat, as well. "I wanted to make the relationship with the cat like a bickering married couple,” says Azaria. "If you're talking to the cat, it makes sense. And if the cat has a sort of bored attitude about it, it's even funnier.

Four cats would play the role, and in certain scenes, the filmmakers chose to employ a CG-animated Azrael (animated by Tippett Studios). Azaria says that though working with live animals always requires patience, the payoff is easily worth the effort. And sometimes, feline fate smiles on the production. "The real cat would actually give us the perfect meow on cue,” he says.

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