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Latter-day Saint screenwriters talk about their movie careers, 'Despicable Me 2'

Published: Thursday, June 27 2013 9:50 a.m. MDT

Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio pose with a "Despicable Me 2" minion as Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment present the American premiere of "Despicable Me 2" at Universal CityWalk and Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City on Saturday June 22, 2013 in Los Angeles

Alex J. Berliner, AP

Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio are screenwriting partners, but they prefer to work independently.

They divide up scenes before coming together to read pages to each other.

“The goal is to make the other guy laugh,” Daurio said.

For them, the arrangement works.

Their resume includes such films as “Bubble Boy” (2001), “The Santa Clause 2” (2002), “Where is Fred?” (2006), “Horton Hears a Who!” (2008), “College Road Trip” (2008), “Hop” (2011) and "The Lorax" (2012). Most notably, the duo wrote “Despicable Me” (2010) and its forthcoming sequel, “Despicable Me 2,” which hits theaters July 3.

Paul and Daurio, both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently shared the story behind the Despicable Me series, the opportunity to work with celebrity voices, and other insights regarding their Hollywood careers in an email interview.

Coming together

Cinco Paul received his name after being born on Cinco de Mayo.

After graduating from Yale University, Paul won a short-film competition and received a fellowship at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Art.

Daurio began making films with a Super 8 camera at age 9. Right out of high school, he began directing music videos.

The two met when Paul wrote a musical for his LDS stake’s celebration of the sesquicentennial of the pioneers’ arrival in Utah, and Daurio had one of the leads.

Within a year they sold their first script. A year later, their second script was made into a movie.

The screenwriters said their LDS faith has played a significant role in their careers.

“Our beliefs have definitely had an impact on our careers, most obviously in the types of projects we’ve chosen to work on,” Paul and Daurio agreed. “We want to write movies that are uplifting, optimistic and for everybody.”

Singing pitches

In an effort to get noticed early on, the screenwriting duo used to sing story pitches to movie producers, according to a 2010 University of Southern California article.

The strategy hasn't worked every time, but it's worked often enough to open a few doors of opportunity, including “Bubble Boy,” a romantic comedy starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and the comedy “College Road Trip” with Raven-Symone.

‘Despicable Me’

In 2007, Chris Meledandri founded a film production company called Illumination Entertainment.

Daurio and Paul had written “Horton Hears a Who!” for Meledandri when he was at Fox, and when he started Illumination, they went with him.

“At our first meeting he pitched the idea of a villain adopting three little girls, and we were immediately hooked,” the writers said. “We wrote the first draft in about three months, but it was mercilessly rewritten for the next three years.”

One challenge was creating a villain in Gru, the main character voiced by Steve Carell, for whom the audience would root. The writers said they used flashbacks to show how he’d become a villain. They tried to never show him doing anything overtly evil — “just the deliciously evil things all of us wish we could do, like freezing other people in order to avoid long lines,” the writers said.

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