Fairytale goes on for ‘Shrek’
HOLLYWOOD — Thing is, fairytales are defined by their endings.
Cinderella stuffs her dainty hoof into the glass you-know-what. The cross-dressing, child-devouring wolf is eviscerated by the woodsman. The third little pig’s house proves remarkably fortified.
So what to make of a fairytale — even one with a satirical bent — for which a happily ever after may be years, even decades, away?
As the brain-trust behind the Shrek franchise will tell you, the lime-skinned ogre and his posse of fantastical parodies have become the stars of their own never-ending story.
With Shrek the Third out on Friday, plans are already being drawn for a fourth and fifth Shrek feature, bridged by a spin-off centered on Antonio Banderas’ swashbuckling feline, Puss In Boots.
On TV, there’s Shrek the Halls, a Christmas special set to air in December. And if that didn’t suffice, a lavish Shrek musical is bound for Broadway.
Yes, sometimes dreams do come true — even for studio executives.
Not that it ever occurred to Mike Myers that his patented Scottish brogue would one day signal the dulcet sounds of one of the industry’s most formidable franchises.
In fact, the Canadian superstar recalls, when he was first approached about the CG-animated project, based on the children’s book by William Steig, nearly a decade ago, his initial reaction was “that’s the worst title in history.”
Myers, 43, remembers the day well.
“I was at the reception of (Saving) Private Ryan,” he says.
“(I heard about Shrek) before the movie, thankfully.”
Title aside, Myers was consequently won over by a visit to the DreamWorks animation campus as well as the enthusiasm of studio co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, the executive responsible for the resurgence of Disney cartoons in the 1980s and ’90s.
Still, Myers recalls, “People would say, ‘Mike, I hear Shriek is coming out.’ Nobody could figure out the title.”
Given this, does he find it remarkable that he’s now discussing Shrek the Third after the first two movies grossed more than $1 billion US combined?
“I wanted to be an actor since I was four. Everything is remarkable to me,” he responds.
“I didn’t come from a show business family. My dad sold encyclopedias and my mom worked in the office of a factory. So for me this is all great.”
Rejoining Myers for Shrek the Third are Cameron Diaz as Shrek’s true love Fiona and Eddie Murphy as wise-cracking Donkey.
Six years after the original, Diaz now admits she had little clue what she was doing while performing Fiona for the first time.
“I didn’t know how she would fit in. It’s different with animation — you come in and you don’t have time with the script, you just go in, they have a storyboard for what you’re doing … It’s a whole different process.
“With the first film, I was completely thrown off by it. I was learning how to do it.
“Now three films later, I’ve gotten to know who she is. I have a relationship with her … I want to protect her and look out for her. It’s easier for me to come in and know who she is … She means a lot to me … I’m going to do these movies for as long as they’ll have me.”
Picking up where Shrek 2 left off, Shrek the Third finds the titular ogre still living in — and temporarily ruling — Far Far Away, the kingdom overseen by his frog king father-in-law, voiced by John Cleese.
When the frog croaks, Shrek is faced with either having to permanently occupy the throne and never see his beloved swamp again — or convince teenage cousin Artie ((Diaz’s former beau Justin Timberlake) that he should wear the crown.
Meanwhile, while Shrek, Donkey and Puss In Boots are searching for the future king, a vengeful Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) launches a coup against Fiona and her mother, the Queen (Julie Andrews).
Mom and daughter are aided in fending off the assault by the so-called Princesses — Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel — voiced by Shrek newcomers Amy Sedaris, Amy Poehler, Cheri Oteri and Maya Rudolph.
“The joy of being part of the Shrek world,” notes director Chris Miller, “is that people want to be a part of it.”
In concocting this latest story, producer Aron Warner explains, “What we started at was what’s the next logical place for Shrek to go — what’s the next step in his life and how do we make it funny? … The first Shrek set the tone for parody, which was then taken by lots and lots of people in lots of movies and we didn’t want to repeat that we’d already created.”
In other words, Shrek the Third had to look more than just Hoodwinked 2.
Says Banderas, a Shrek fan before he leapt aboard the franchise in 2004’s sequel, “The feeling you have of being in this family is being around people who want to leave a legacy … I think that was very clear from the first film.”
And, speaking of legacies, what should audiences expect from Shrek 4, which is due in 2010?
Warner and Miller are understandably mum on the subject, although, given what happens in this sequel, some plot points are a given.
As Andrews predicts, “I think grandma’s going to do a lot of babysitting.”
Fairytale goes on for ‘Shrek’