Mike Myers talks about reinventing the iconic character and his role in the franchise
In Shrek the Third, Shrek and Fiona become the reluctant rulers of Far, Far Away. Their wish is to find the rightful heir to the throne so that they can return to their home in the swamp.
The film finds Shrek, Donkey, and Puss N' Boots searching for the future King Arthur in a medieval high school. All the while, Fiona and her army of princesses must protect Far, Far Away from Prince Charming's impending, fairytale villain-laden attack.
Canadian born comedic actor Mike Myers has found great success with the charcters he has created over the years. From Austin Powers to Wayne Campbell, to even the The Cat In The Hat. Now, he returns to probably his most cherished, if not beloved character of all times. Shrek the Ogre.
Myers recently sat down to talk about his work on the film (as a note, Antonio Banderas was also in the room. But he did not field many questions. He basically sat, chewing on his necklace, staring at Mike as he blathered on. He did chime in a few times, though.):
Mike, you've played so many great Scottish and British characters, did you ever wish that you were born English?
Mike Myers: At every point I wished that I was born English. They need to make it colder in here. You could hang meat in this room. But, yeah...I grew up in a very English household. My folks were from Liverpool. I've said this before, but there is nothing more English than an Englishman that no longer lives in England. So, it was made very important until the point where my dad would keep me up late at night to see a classic British film. I love it. I love all things English.
Couldn't you just pull a Madonna and start speaking like that normally?
Mike Myers: I wouldn't want to. When I moved back from England...I lived in England for two years. I did have a slight English accent that was ridiculed out of me.
How easy is it to lose yourself and get totally silly with these characters?
Antonio Banderas: A lot. It is very easy. Sometimes I am just playing the character. I will move out of the way of the microphone, and they will have to tell me. Because I am moving around a lot. I am performing the cat. The animators look for that material, to see if they can put it back into the movie. It is just a very freaky experience when you go to the movie theater and you see it for the first time. In close-up you see those eyes. There are little touches here and there that I recognize as myself. The process is fun. As much as you know it, and you know the method, you can pretty much do what you want. No idea is going to be shot down. You just put it in the garbage later. You have to say the lines in many different ways. So they have a lot of material to work.
How would you say the Shrek movies have been developed over the course of these last three movies?
Mike Myers: I think it has been developed beautifully well. I think the writing on the movie is excellent. I am very excited to be a part of this. It feels like I'm on a Stanley Cup winning team. It feels like everybody wants it to be excellent at every turn. And they are tireless. The character of Shrek has developed. In the first one he had to learn to love himself to be loved. In the second one...This is nothing for a Canadian.
Antonio Banderas: But I am Spanish, man.
Mike Myers: I was distracted by his shiver. Forgive me.
Oh, you're talking about the cold. I thought you were talking about learning to love yourself.
Mike Myers: No. It is much more easy for a Spanish person to love themselves than a Canadian person...But, um...In the first one he had to learn to love himself to be loved. The second one he had to learn how to love himself to be married. In the third one, he has to learn how to love himself to believe that an Ogre could be a parent or be the king of a country. You feel that the third one honors the first two. There is weightiness, a heft to him. Except that he has that one last right of passage that he has to go through.
There is this conception that comedians are self-hating or unhappy when they are off the stage.
Mike Myers: I'd say that is one hundred percent accurate. Most comedians want to be the architect of their own embarrassment. They have horrible self-esteem issues. I would rather push myself into the mud. I don't want to be pushed into the mud. I think that is probably true. I think most people struggle with self-acceptance. But comedians get a chance to self externalize.
Over the course of this series, has there been any desire to tinker with the characters voice?
Mike Myers: I watched One and Two. I actually wanted to go the other way. I wanted to make sure that there was a consistency. I feel the custodial pressure. Because the first two were so graciously and well received, you kind of want the third one to maintain the course. You want to honor that. With Three, you have to say to the audience, "Thank you." We wanted the movie to be the best it could be. There is a slight difference. The voice is slightly different. The voice is slightly deeper. That was my concession to change.
Are you involved with what happens in Four? It seems that Four can only happen if Shrek and Fiona have a horrible split-up.
Mike Myers: You know? I don't know. I just show up and I do the voice.
So you don't have any say?
Mike Myers: It's so good, I wouldn't want a say in it. I have the joy of going to the DreamWorks campus, they put on a presentation, and I say, "Thank you for the lesson in filmmaking."
What is your process for creating a character?
Mike Myers: I take a lot of time between movies. It's usually three and a half to four years. I haven't made that many movies. When you create and write and produce the movies, it just takes forever. Something hits my ear, and it just kind of happens. It was music in the case of the Austin Powers movies. I was driving home from hockey practice and I heard "The Look of Love." And I went, what happened to all the swingers? Then I started doing the voice, and I toured the character for about a year before bringing it to a studio. I've done the same thing with this movie I'm starting in two months called The Love Guru. I've been doing the character for about six months, performing it in secret shows. Then I spent about a year and a half writing it. Now we are filming it in August. I take a page out of the Marx Brothers playbook. They would tour their movies for years before putting it in front of the camera. I do tons of read-throughs, too. There are two things that you have to chart in a movie. That is the dramatic goal and your "A" laughs. They have to be figured out to get that comedic momentum. It's more journeymen. It's like being an engineer. I have put in the time. I'm there. I am a 9 to 5 guy. I come in at 9 and leave at 5.
Who is The Love Guru?
Mike Myers:The Love Guru is a Canadian kid who was left in India, raised in an Ashram, becomes a guru, and has to help a star player for the Toronto Maple Leafs that has gone off the rails. They work together to win the Stanley Cup.
Are you developing any other characters for that film?
Mike Myers: I'm on the fence. There are a couple I could do. But I'm not sure. There are so many forces at work that are hard to juggle.
You're not playing the hockey star?
Mike Myers: No. No, I am not.
Is there another Austin Powers film coming up?
Mike Myers: There is one coming up. The only thing I will say is that it is entirely from Dr. Evil's point of view. It would be the first of his trilogy.
Antonio Banderas: I would love to be the hockey player, man!
You mentioned the T word. Another trilogy. Isn't that a huge commitment?
Mike Myers: That was a joke. I just love the bluster of saying that it's a trilogy. Yes, it is a twenty-five part series. I'm just joking
Are you surprised that you are one of the biggest comedy stars in the world, and it happened through just a couple of characters like this?
Mike Myers: Yeah. I wanted to act as long as I can remember. I remember, my dad was funny. He was from Liverpool, and one of my biggest joys was to make him laugh. One of the greatest feelings was, that no matter what was going on, if there was a funny movie playing, it took precedents over whatever was going on in the house. There was a truce. It made the house smell nicer. Everything was good about the house. I love comedy. Blah, blah, blah. It's hard to talk about it without it sounding so precious. I did TV commercials. Gilda Radner played my mother when I was eight. I fell in love with her. I cried when it came to the last day of this four-day commercial shoot. My brothers called me "Sucky Baby". I was "Sucky Baby" for many years. Then one of my brothers said, "Hey, Sucky Baby, your girlfriend is on this stupid show and it doesn't even have a title." It was Saturday Night Live. I had found what I loved to do. I wanted to be on the show since I was eleven. Then I got on the show. Which was crazy. I wanted to be in Second City, and I got hired my last day of high school. And then I did Saturday Night Live a few years later. And then a few years after that I got to act in a movie and have my own Clouseau, which was something I really wanted to do. Then Jeffery Katzenberg called me up and asked if I'd like to be in this thing called Shrek. I said, "It has a very bad title." A lot of people were coming up to me before it came out going, "Hey, yo, Mike! Shriek!!" I'd be, like, "Wait for it. It's good. Don't worry." Shriek? Anyway, I am very surprised. You want to do it as a kid, but you never actually think that you are going to get to do it.
Is there anything daunting about it?
Mike Myers: Well, its trickier than I thought. I'm from Toronto. It's a lot more laid back. When you are thrust into different environments, there is an odd adaptation period. And then there are times when unfair, unkind, untrue things are written about you. That bothers me less now. When I was younger, I would say, "I can't believe that. I'm not on the UFO Alien Sex diet where I only eat salmon." In irony, I am on it now. But you think its crazy. You go, "How can they do that?" But on the other hand, my friend form Toronto came down on the fourth of July, and I wanted to see the fireworks. We were rushing to the Southside Sea port. But it had started already. We thought we could watch it from the bridge, but a cop told us it was completely closed off. Then he went, "Hey, Mr. Myers. Go ahead. Don't worry about it." So I walked on the bridge entirely by myself. Me and my best friend. We watched the fireworks by ourselves. So, at the end of the day. It isn't so bad.
Do you think you will ever go back and revisit some of your old Saturday Night Live characters? I heard there was going to be a Sprockets movie. Is that dead in the water?
Mike Myers: No. Nothing is dead. There is no committee that meets and has a five-year plan. Its much more informal than that. The way I would want to do a Dieter movie is to do it super low budget. I'd want to do it on camera phone. Something that is more apt to it. Maybe on Etch-A-Sketch. That is what I would like for it. Now, the Coffee Talk Lady movie I could do. I love doing the character. I have so many planes that are circling the airport. An average film takes sixty months from when I first think of the idea until it gets up on the screen. I actually move faster than that. Because I create it, its about 36 months.
You could go on the View for a day as the Coffee Lady.
Mike Myers: That might be fun actually.
Shrek the Third opens May 18th, 2007.