After opening last week in theaters, The Smurfs have already raked in $50 million worldwide at the box office per Box Office Mojo. Not too shabby for a bunch of little blue creatures, and their arch enemy Gargamel, who have managed to bounce back in full force more than twenty years later.
Sitting down with the voice behind the evil antagonist, MovieLine spoke to Hank Azaria about his role in the successful live action/CGI flick that was directed by Raja Gosnell.
Talking to the actor, who is also famously known for his portrayal of not only Moe, but Apu and Chief Wiggum in The Simpsons, Azaria touched on shaping the iconic villain in modern times.
“It’s funny you ask that. I realized on set, kind of at the director’s urging, that I wanted to give Gargamel some different colors other than losing his mind when he sees a Smurf. So I wanted to make him sarcastic at times, and kind of off the cuff, and a little laid back. I even didn’t want to commit to an evil laugh, feeling that that was just clichéd. And then I discovered really quickly, as you just said, that there is no way to play Gargamel without truly committing. Truth be told, the more passionate and more out there I got, the better it seemed to work. I couldn’t deny it. I’d look at playback and say, “Yep, that was better.”
With live action pictures taking over, and Azaria being a seasoned star who has mainly worked in animations, the Queens native also talked about the challenges of becoming a “living cartoon”.
“It does. I felt sort of uniquely qualified to do something like that. As a cartoon actor, you start with a voice because it’s really all you have — even if it’s your own, or whatever character voice you come up with. I’ve gotten to do that a lot in film, too: play oddly voiced, usually half-naked characters for some reason. But! Clothed or not, you start with the voice. Or I do anyway. And then the body tends to follow that. In this, you have a prosthetic helping you out, what you look like. But you are a living cartoon. I found that within that prosthetic, for example, you almost had to work face like a mask. It’s why, in the end, I went for “the bigger, the better,” because things wouldn’t read if you were subtle with them. So I spent a lot of time as a living cartoon, which I found cool since I’ve spent so much time being an actual cartoon. It was fun being a living cartoon. I enjoyed it.”
Check out Hank Azaria in his role as Gargamel below with a clip from The Smurfs.