WorkingAuthor.com was in attendance for the press conference for Dreamworks’ Shrek Forever After in Los Angeles last week, a film that as of this Friday will cap nearly ten years of humor combined with heart, a storybook sensibility, and copious amounts of CGI. Original cast members Mike Myers (Shrek), Cameron Diaz (Fiona), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), and Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots) were joined by Walt Dohrn (Rumplestiltskin), Jon Hamm (Brogan), and Craig Robinson (Cookie) in a panel discussion briefly moderated by Ryan Seacrest. Seacrest – whose eight-minute role in the film was referred to as “fantastic” by Diaz and “pivotal” by Murphy – started things off with the actors’ overall take on the film, from the beginning to now, the final chapter.
Seacrest: Mike, […] looking back at all the years of the Shrek films, what has been one your favorite moments of the past ten years?
Myers: I think when Jeffrey [Katzenberg] said, ‘Would you like to be in an animated movie?’, I said “yes”; he said it was called Shrek – I said, ‘That’s the worst title I’ve ever heard in my life.” [audience laughter] [… I]n the process, the first time I saw it with an audience, the line “But you are beautiful to me” got a gasp from the crowd, who were so into the whole romance and the whole heart of it. […] I was so blown away that an animated movie could move people and that it was something that people could be invested in emotionally. I think that’s been the most satisfying thing to me.
Seacrest: Eddie, what’s been the secret to success for Shrek?
Murphy: The secret to success?
Seacrest: For this franchise, why has it been so successful do you think?
Murphy: I think it’s really funny and very well made.
Myers: Hold on, I just went on for 15 minutes. I wish I had done that.
Murphy: I really do think it’s really that simple – it’s really well made and it’s very funny and it’s smart, and those things […] add up to hits sometimes.
With Shrek and Fiona’s relationship being the catalyst of the outcome for all living in the land of Far Far Away, it was understandable that the chemistry between the two – and therefore Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz – was called into question. As Diaz put it, “we get to take the journey with them of finding that love again. You open up on them sort of in routine of a life they have taken for granted […] and then you get to see him journey back through, trying to regain and find his true love. And that ultimately is just a beautiful, lovely story. You just get to fall in love with Shrek and Fiona all over again.” Of course, as recognizable and talented the actors are, even they couldn’t take whole credit for the interactions between the characters they portray.
Myers: Well, the writing is so great, and all the filmmakers are so committed to it just being excellent that you’re just, uh —
Diaz: Following the script?
Myers: Yeah, well there’s that. But it’s kind of like a Lamaze birth back into the thing every time.
Diaz: I agree; it’s well-structured and it’s clear as to what the two of them are going through.
Myers: Mike Mitchell is a great director, Jeffrey’s a great filmmaker —
Diaz: The animators are […] great actors. They’re really the actors, the animators who put the look in our eyes and the chemistry between us.
Director Mike Mitchell and producer Teresa Cheng went further into the mechanics of Shrek Forever After, this time in the realm of 3-D.
Question: What was your inspiration for using 3-D for this particular sequel?
Mitchell: We use it for the roller coaster ride sequences when Shrek’s on a broomstick being chased by a thousand witches, but we also found that we could use the 3-D as a storytelling device and we really were conscious of that. […] I don’t know if an audience will notice any of that but it’s something you feel, much like surround sound.
Cheng: We wanted to use 3-D as a sort of immersive experience where you can hopefully as an audience member feel what he [Shrek] is feeling throughout the movie. […] When things are in deep space, you sense the world is different for him, or when it’s chaotic, you sense that. If you actually notice what you’re sensing, we didn’t do a good job. If you feel what he’s sensing, what he feels, then we actually did a great job of making this an immersive experience for the viewer.
Television actor Jon Hamm, known to the relative masses as Mad Men‘s Don Draper detailed his experience with voice acting as follows:
Hamm: It was a lot easier. Certainly less demanded on me. My role in the film wasn’t nearly as large as my role on the television show, so that was a lot easier as well. A whole different kind of acting and of being in a scene when you’re reading opposite people that have other constructed performances that you haven’t necessarily heard – and that again speaks to the incredible competence of the people that put this together to make that all seem seamless. I was learning as I went along, as who the character was […] – because it was a new character it was constantly being shifted […]. That was a really fun process to be a part of because it’s not happening live. It’s sort of deferred until they get it exactly right. And when you’re in the hands of people that want it to be excellent, that’s a very comforting and welcoming feeling. So, I tremendously enjoyed it and it was a very interesting thing to learn on the fly.
Interesting to hear were the actors’ real-life instances involving the star quality behind their characters’ voices:
Banderas: A woman came to me once in a supermarket with a little kid who was, like, five years old, and she said to him, “Look, look! This is Puss in Boots! This is Puss in Boots; can you do the voice?” And the kid just looked at me and looked at his mother and said “That’s not Puss in Boots, Mom. That’s Zorro!” […] What about you, Eddie?
Murphy: I’ve had people come up and do lines from the movie to me. They don’t really ask me to do [the voice]. The only time I’ll do the voice is […] if I’m watching movies at home on the screen and the movie’s not good. I’ll have [a shadow puppet of] the donkey come up and do commentary. He’ll be like, “This movie ain’t shit! I don’t wanna watch this!” Sometimes I take the Shrek ears and I’ll have this shadow of me and Shrek… I’ve had some wild times in the house.
And what would any press conference be without the inevitable party question —
Question: Are there any fairy tales you’d like to re-write? Like I want to know what Don Draper would re-write.
Hamm: I think the great thing about this franchise is that it takes the kind of classic fairy tale thing and puts it on its head. […] Not only this franchise but there are several who have done that quite well. […] I don’t think I could certainly do it any better than this; this is amazing.
Robinson: I would re-write The Lion King.
Robinson: I just, I wouldn’t let Mufasa die.
Shrek Forever After opens tomorrow, Friday May 21.