Enjoy your blockbuster respite this weekend, folks, ‘cuz the summer movie onslaught picks up again next Friday with the heavily hyped release of Shrek the Third. For fans of the first two movies, Shrek the Third delivers more of the same and reacquaints you with all of your favorite characters: Shrek, Donkey, Puss-in-Boots, Fiona, Prince Charming, Pinocchio and The Gingerbread Man. (And parents will no doubt be please to learn that it accomplishes all of this in just over eighty minutes, not counting the end credits.) The story this time has Shrek traveling to Far, Far Away to find the heir King Harold’s throne. Unfortunately, the heir in question is a wimp named Artie, but this is a small problem compared to the coup d’état carried out by Prince Charming – and a rogue’s gallery of fairy tale villains including Captain Hook, Rumplestiltskin and many others – in Shrek’s absence.
Now that you know in precise detail what the movie is about, you might be interested to read this roundtable interview with Antonio Banderas and Mike Myers, who doesn’t do junkets very often. Both men were generous and charming and amusing – though Myers’ adoration of Jeffrey Katzenberg may be a pathological condition. Near the end, Myers talks about his upcoming projects, and Banderas addresses whether or not he’ll reprise his starring role in the big screen adaptation of Maury Yeston’s Broadway musical, Nine.
Give ‘er a read, why don’t you?
How did it feel to step back into these characters again?
Antonio: It’s an amazing experience just trying to continue respecting the procedure, the method that we have to follow, and trying to bring as much of yourself as you can or as this procedure will allow you to. And trying to understand the story and respect the voice. Many people come to me sometimes and they say, "Is that difficult?" And it’s not. I thought it was going to be because I never thought I was going to be called to do anything like this in America. But it’s not; it’s actually fun and fast and interesting.
Mike: How great does he talk? Come on! (Laughter) I fall in love with him!
Antonio: You know, when you’re doing these roundtables it’s just embarrassing to yourself to realize that you’re giving the same answers again and again, but it’s way more embarrassing when you do that.
Well, we haven’t heard what you said in the other rooms.
Antonio: I know.
Mike: I’m just digging his accent. That’s all. And his whole… thing.
Well, you guys don’t record together.
Mike: No, I only see him here! But I do fall in love with Puss-in-Boots and Donkey and Fiona when I’m in the booth and you can hear a little bit of the playback. It’s like, "My friends!"
But, yes, it’s very easy to get back. I love it. It’s a happy world. These guys – Chris Miller, Aron Warner, Andrew Adamson and, of course, our fearless leader Jeffrey Katzenberg – are completely dedicated to [the work]. And the animators are great actors. The animators bring it up off the recording; they are videotaping you, but I’d say it’s a third of yourself you see, and two-thirds their brilliant imagination. I’m excited to be part of a group of people that are tireless in making the film great. And I think [Shrek the Third] one is the best one.
Why do you think so?
Mike: Because they’ve honored [Shrek and Shrek 2]. And they’ve given you a sense of "Thank you for coming to One and Two, and now this is the third and logical progression of this story". It’s nice being around a group of people who feel that they’re the custodians of culture. They want it to be excellent.
Antonio: The feeling that you have being in this family is the feeling of people who want to leave behind a legacy, a landmark, and make history in motion pictures in general. I think that’s something that was very clear from the first one. I am one of the members of the cast who had the opportunity to be a fan of a movie in which I was not a part of. I remember the tremendous noise that Shrek made in the Cannes Film Festival competing with very thick Czechoslovakian movies. (Laughter) It’s a movie that is very well seen by many different audiences in terms of age, but also in terms of ideology, in terms of how you confront a movie. That is very interesting, because that is absolutely respected by the team. It would be very easy to spend way less money, knowing that Shrek is setup for different audiences and just go for the money. But they don’t do that. And you feel [inspired] by all this different kind of input.
Mike, do you remember the first moment you were approached to do Shrek?
Mike: It was at the reception of Saving Private Ryan. (Laughs) It was before the movie, thankfully, because after the movie I was like (shellshocked expression)… "My generation is horrible."
What was your first thought when they offered it to you?
Mike: Well, it was Jeffrey Katzenberg. And Jeffrey Katzenberg is just a great guy. He’s a great artist-industrialist. I admire him.
I’ll tell you a Jeffrey Katzenberg story if I may: there was a promotion for the employees of Wal-Mart. I had to hand in my script for Austin Powers 3, and, because I am the creator and writer and producer, there’s a thousand people in Los Angeles waiting for me, as I’m in New York doing the budgetary rewrites. It was never-wracking. And Jeffrey calls. He calls, like, ten times, and I knew he wanted something that I couldn’t give him. He says, "Would you do a recording for the Wal-Mart people?" And I said, "Jeffrey, you know I love how committed to quality you are, and that I would walk through fire for you, but this is one of those times that I can’t! I have thousands of people waiting for me!" He’s like, "I’ll come by. Don’t worry." And I said, "You can’t come by! I’m not going to go to a recording studio! I can’t! I’ve got New Line, a different boss I’m going to get in trouble with!" And he’s like, "You’ve got to eat dinner, don’t you?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Just come to dinner with me." I go, "Jeffrey, I’ll come to dinner with you, but it’s a half-hour. That’s all I have. I’m not going to record anything." He says, "Don’t worry, kid! You’re not going to a recording studio!"
I go to meet him at the restaurant, and he’s all nervous and not really listening. He’s asking me about hockey, which is always suspect. I’m like, "You don’t like hockey!" So I’m telling him how my Leafs are not doing well and whatever. Then he’s like, "Half an hour. I was honest. Now, let’s go. Let me drive you back." And I go, "No, Jeffrey, I’m not getting in the car." I thought I was going to get whacked. (Laughter) He’s like, "Just come on in the car! I’ll drive you!" I said, "Jeffrey, I’m two blocks away. I knew you were going to do this. That’s why I picked a restaurant that’s only two blocks away." He says, "Just go in the car!" I was like, "Okay."
I get in the car, he puts on headphones, he has a recording, he has it on big board that someone has marked "Jeffrey, hit this one and then hit this one". And I’m like, "You know what? I love you!" Nobody handed Jeffrey Katzenberg anything. This man has worked for everything. So I went, "Hello, people of Wal-Mart. I’m Shrek!" And it was only four lines of dialogue. It was easy. And he was like, "Thank you very much!" And the car speeds off.
But when he approached you to do the first one…
Mike: When he approached me, his reputation for being tireless had preceded him. So I said, "Yes." But he said it was this thing called Shrek, and I said, "That is the worst title in the history of movies." But I went to the Dreamworks campus and they showed me anything, and I knew it was going to be cool. But I never saw a script. I’ve never seen a script.
But you couldn’t imagine where it would all end up.
Mike: You have to understand something: I wanted to be an actor since I was four-year-old. I never thought I would actually get to be an actor. So everything is remarkable to me. I didn’t come from a showbiz family; my dad sold encyclopedias and my mom worked in the office of a factory. For me, this is all great.
Why do kids love him so much?
Mike: (Confused) Who? Jeffrey? Oh, Shrek! (Laughter) "Why do kids love Jeffrey so much?" God, if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that! (More laughter) I think the message is real good, which is that you have to accept and love yourself. And I think [the filmmakers and writers] are great entertainers.
Antonio: The films have many messages hidden in them. There’s a message about diversity, for example, that I think is interesting. I love the plots of the movies, but I don’t know if I love them more than I love the subplots. I love that kind of love-hate thing I have going with Donkey. But if you scratch a little bit behind the humor, they are two solitary characters who, in reality, are looking for friendship. They have nobody. You don’t know anybody around them. Donkey’s like he is with Shrek in the first one because he’s the only thing that he has. So as soon as Puss appears, he’s jealous; Shrek is the only thing Donkey has, and now he thinks it’s being taken away. I remember the first film hit me emotionally a couple of times. I remember when Shrek and Donkey are sitting under the stars and they’re talking to each other: that’s a great movie scene! There are beautiful messages for kids, and they pick them up. Absolutely.
And then you have audiences who just love the sight of Puss-in-Boots picking food out of his boot. Adults take it in one way, but kids are going to take it in another. Those kinds of double-meanings and triple-meanings are very important.
Mike: They’re great filmmakers. Even the framing is great.
When you have two series as popular as Shrek and Austin Powers, does it make it difficult to do something new?
Mike: Everything is new at one point. I remember my junket for the first Austin Powers. I was asked, "Are you afraid that you’re going to be seen only as Wayne?" (Laughs) I just make stuff. I love making stuff. I play the ukulele. I also draw. I’ll build car models as well. I’m man enough to say I’m that boyish. My best friend says of me that I’m the guy who says, "Hey everybody, look what I made!" (Laughter) The guy’s known me for thirty years.
Did you draw on your experience for Shrek’s fear of becoming a father?
Mike: It was all written. That’s the beautiful thing. I come in [to the recording studio], and they’ve done everything. With the Austin Powers movies, where it’s molecule one and I make it whatever… the yummy thing for me is that I get to come in and everything is done. But I love the Shrek babies. God, I want to have a Shrek baby. And Jeffrey said that he’s going to make that happen.
So you have no input into the direction of your character?
Mike: You’re completely a part of that process. It’s a constantly evolving process. Antonio was talking about it being a mosaic.
Do you know where number four is going to go?
Mike: I’m just always blown away. They go, "It’s time now to show you the basic idea." And then I go to the [presentation], and I’m always pleasantly surprised. That’s a good question that I wished I prepared an answer for.
And, Antonio, you’re going to have your own Puss-in-Boots movie?
Antonio: Apparently, yes. It’s going to be between the fourth and the fifth movies.
Mike: But they take it one movie at a time. The thing is that Jeffrey is a great artist, but he’s also a great industrialist. There is an amortizing of costs that can happen in projecting forth whether it is made or not, so it’s just a smart and efficient process. But he’s an artist; he’s responsive to audiences. If there’s a mandate for a fourth or fifth, Jeffrey will respond to that. The man is so dedicated. You know, since James Brown’s passing, the mantle of the hardest working man in show business has been handed down to Jeffrey.
But you’re all definitely coming back?
Mike: I would walk through fire for these people.
Would you work for free?
Mike: To be honest with you, if there was a revolution and you had to work for free, no one would be happier than me. Seriously, I would do this for no money.
And what’s this next movie you’re doing? And what about the Keith Moon biopic?
Mike: It’s called The Love Guru and it’s starting in August. I just spent the last two years touring it in little theaters around New York, which I did with Austin Powers. The average movie takes sixty months between the first molecule of an idea and it being in front of an audience. I’m actually ahead of that curve; I usually take thirty-six months. But because I write it and produce it, that’s my job from nine-to-five. But it will be filmed this August in Toronto. After that, there’s an opening, and that’s when I’ll probably do Moon. It’s written by Donald Margulies; he’s a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright who I love, and he’s done a great job. I’m super-excited.
Antonio, it’s been announced that Rob Marshall is going to direct a big-screen adaptation of Maury Yeston’s musical Nine. You starred in the Tony Award winning 2003 Broadway revival. Have you been approached to star in the film?
Antonio: I am having an interview with Rob Marshall on [Friday, May 11, 2007] in New York. I don’t know what’s going to happen. He may just have a completely different idea. At least, he said that he wanted to meet me. If it happens, it’s good; if it doesn’t happen, it’s good, too.