Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph discuss what its like to reinvent the classic princess archetype
In Shrek the Third, Shrek and Fiona become the reluctantly 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.
Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph are new to the world of Shrek. They play two of the four princesses in charge of saving Far, Far Away from Prince Charming and his evil minion. Both comedic actresses are current cast members on the long running skit show Saturday Night Live. Poehler plays Snow White, and Rudolph lets her hair down as Rapunzel. Here's what the duo had to say when they recently sat down to talk about the film:
Amy Poehler: Oooh, there's good light in this room.
Maya Rudolph:This feels like a very good room. Sometimes rooms are different.
Amy Poehler: We're going to make you change your life. We change lives.
Maya Rudolph:There's a good vibe in here.
Amy Poehler: Do you guys mind if we sage the table?
Maya Rudolph:No, go right ahead. Shit, sage the table.
Did each of you get to play your favorite princesses, or were you jealous of each other's princesses?
Maya Rudolph:I didn't really think about it. They said, "Do you want to be in Shrek?" And I said, "Yeah. Great."
Amy Poehler: I was psyched to play Snow White, considering the way she had been played before. I was also excited about the idea of playing her different. My modern day take on her was that she was running a small business out of her home. So she is kind of a task master. But she does have a lot of folks she's looking after. She is kind of the straight man to all the hilarious dwarfs. If you have a lot of men living in your house you really have to be on the ball.
Maya Rudolph:Yeah, that bathroom is not spic and span. Lot of little dudes.
Amy Poehler: And animals.
Amy Poehler: Maya got to play a blonde and I got to play a brunette. That was exciting. A little switcheroonie.
How did creating these characters compare to the characters you create weekly for SNL?
Amy Poehler: These characters were created already. Which is different. On the show, we pretty much all create. And this is a totally different thing when you step in and they hand you everything. "Here you go, my dam." As opposed to, "Lets make this happen. Oh, my god! What should we do? Lets just get McDonalds."
Amy Poehler: The food on this was better than on SNL.
Is it more challenging to find the voice for a public figure, or a fairytale?
Amy Poehler: Well, we are playing iconic characters here. And everybody has an opinion about them. In some ways, it was a lot of pressure to play Snow White. I wanted to be funny, and do a good job. But I also wanted to respect the tradition of it before throwing it out the window.
Maya Rudolph:There wasn't a moment where I went, "This doesn't feel like the Rapunzel I remember." There just wasn't one of those moments.
Amy Poehler: All I remember is the person yelling at Rapunzel, "Let down your golden hair." In most of the fairytales, the dudes got to do all the fun stuff anyway. Ladies were sleeping and they got rescued.
Maya Rudolph: Not in this fairytale.
Amy Poehler: In this one, the princess rescues herself.
The women do have a bigger role.
Amy Poehler: It is kind of nice that at the end of the day they do realize that they have to take care of themselves. They bond together, even though Rupunzel makes the mistake of choosing the guy over the girls. But she learns her lesson.
Maya Rudolph: It was a wig. So, that's what really happens to you when you ditch your friends for a dude.
Amy Poehler: You lose your wig.
Maya Rudolph:I think its important to teach young girls that.
Do you have a boy or a girl?
Maya Rudolph: I have a little girl. She already saw the movie. She's a little young for it. She was like, "What the hell?"
Amy Poehler: She sat through the whole thing?
Maya Rudolph: She did. She was nervous through the whole thing. She didn't like the trees.
Within two years, you are going to be so sick of these things.
Amy Poehler: She's already pointing to the newspaper saying, "Shek, shek!" We watched it with her, and I was wondering if she knows which one I am. I know she recognizes my voice. Right at the end she pointed at Fiona and said, "Mama!" I've done my job.
Amy Poehler: You know what that means? Cameron has to raise your baby now.
Maya Rudolph: That's okay.
Amy Poehler: No. You hit the jackpot.
Maya Rudolph: I should probably ask her that today.
How old is your daughter going to be before you let her watch one of her dad's (Paul Thomas Anderson) movies?
Amy Poehler: That's a good question. 45.
Maya Rudolph: Forty-five, yeah. She has seen a lot of the new movie being made.
Amy Poehler: Did she have a teeny-tiny directors chair and a beret?
Maya Rudolph: She did. She was like, "Action!" I kept saying that she was the mascot for the movie.
Did either of you have any good improves that stayed in the film?
Maya Rudolph: Gosh, I was trying to remember what we improvised. I don't know. It was a really nice environment in that way. We had what was written but we could also bring our own stuff along the way. I don't really remember what was what anymore.
Amy Poehler: I will say for animated movies, I have been really lucky that the script was in good shape. (Church bells ring) Ooh, it's those bells outside.
Maya Rudolph:Yeah, I know.
Amy Poehler: Excuse me guys, lets take a moment for the Lord, shall we? The lord is reminding us that's why we're all here. So, anyway, the script was in good shape. They knew what they wanted. But we did get to play around.
Maya Rudolph:I think, when we did the song, I played around. Do I do it as Christina Aguilera? I had to figure out what kind of genre it would be. That was really fun to do.
Late in the film, you decide to play Rupunzel straight. Why do you think you decided to go in that route, as opposed to some of the stuff you've gone for on SNL?
Maya Rudolph:I don't know. She didn't feel straight to me at all. She felt like a total character. It wasn't me. To me, she was this kind of like cocked sort of person. We did collaborate ideas. This is the one we came up with. I think it ended up that everyone kind of sounds like themselves.
Amy Poehler: Yeah, I was going to say that. The four of us, really. It kind of seemed like they wanted recognizable versions of everybody. I'm assuming that they found something special about all of us being together, too. It was kind of nice to be included in that group of fine outstanding women.
I imagine that the two of you had opportunities to discuss working on this together. But did all four of you ever get together?
Amy Poehler: No, today is the first day that we're all together, here.
Amy, you are doing a voice in Horton Hears a Who?
Amy Poehler: Yes, I'm doing a voice in it. I play Steve Carell's wife, the mayor of Whoville. Ms. Mayor.
Do you do a character voice there?
Amy Poehler: Yeah, I do more of a ho-hum voice, kind of like the very typical sweet mother. She has a really spazzy son, so she is the beleaguered mother. And her husband just thinks that this whole world is just living on the tip.
I'm assuming that tonight's SNL is going to be a repeat?
Amy Poehler: Oh, shit! Maya! We've got to get the hell out of here!
Maya Rudolph:Oh, fuck.
They both run out of the room without explanation.
Shrek the Third opens May 18th, 2007.