Vicky Jenson's and Andrew Adamson's 2001 film "Shrek," loosely based on a twisted children's book by William Steig, was released as a direct criticism of the fairy tale tropes and clichés popularized by Disney-produced animated films like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Beauty and the Beast." While ultimately friendly and huggable, the title character was presented as gross and off-putting; he loves mud and filth, lives in a bog, picks his nose, farts. He is a literal ogre. Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) would ultimately find himself on his own hero's journey to rescue a princess (Cameron Diaz) on the back of a noble steed, a donkey voiced by Eddie Murphy.
"Shrek" was a massive success, won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (the first to win in the category), and popularized a particular casting trend for animated feature films moving forward. While animated films sometimes boasted a celebrity on its cast ("Aladdin" springs to mind), it wasn't until "Shrek" that live-action actors (often not typically known for voice work) would be so prominently advertised on posters.
The story may be infamous by now, but once the voice recording element of "Shrek" had been completed, Myers felt he hadn't nailed the part in a significant way, and he asked to redo his entire part in a Scottish dialect. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Myers explains how he came upon the decision to change Shrek's voice, and how Steven Spielberg encouraged him.
Fairy Tales Vs. Class
In the Vanity Fair interview, Mike Myers explains his view on fairy tales: that they are ultimately stories about class. Many fairy tales, especially as they are adapted by Disney, tend to be about working class women, or even serfs, who discover a talent/gift for attracting a potential mate from the ruling classes, or indeed possess a birthright to re-enter the ruling classes when they come of age. Cinderella requires a magical godparent to dress her in the fineries of royalty; Sleeping Beauty was raised unaware of her royal lineage; etc. Myers saw Shrek as a working class character, an ogre who lived on the outskirts of a typical fairy tale's caste system.
Myers explains that he, too, was raised in a working class household in Scarborough, Ontario, and he initially voiced Shrek to sound Canadian. He also felt that a Canadian voice didn't have the proper comedic "oomph." He asked to rerecord Shrek as being Scottish, figuring a Scottish working-class figure was not only more appropriate to the Euro-centric format of fairy tales, but also more in keeping with his comedic talents. Myers had previously played multiple Scottish characters on "So I Married an Axe Murderer" and on "Saturday Night Live." And who could forget Fat Bastard in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"?
It Wasn't Expensive
In the Vanity Fair interview, Mike Myers said his suggestion was turned down until Steven Spielberg, an executive producer on the film and co-founder of DreamWorks, told him he could try it once, just to see what happens. After recording, it seems, Spielberg sent Myers a thank you note, claiming Shrek was far better as a Scot than he was as a Canadian. Myers was also quick to point out that the rerecording was not as expensive as had been speculated, as he redid all his lines under the auspices of his original contract — he was not paid any additional money to do the film again — and redubbing was not arduous.
In the Vanity Fair interview, Myers doesn't reveal how much it did cost to redo his performance, but he does insist that it wasn't all that much. This was not a case of an actor's ego overwhelming or slowing a production. Indeed, this is a case of an actor following his instincts to perfect a role.
Although there is a more complicated side: Shrek is now shouldered with a spotty legacy that has more to do with comedy than actual Scottish culture. Myers was playing into a cliche about Scottish people all being working class, denying the culture its broader texture. Shrek is a Scottish character, but one could also argue that, because he lives in a world of ogres, living gingerbread monsters, dragon/donkey hybrid children, and literal fairies, then cultural accuracy wasn't necessarily foremost on the filmmakers' minds.
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The post Steven Spielberg Supported Mike Myers' Decision to Make Shrek Scottish appeared first on /Film.