Casually attired in jeans and sweatshirt, Canadian-born Mike Myers is finally taking part in print interviews with journalists, eager to promoting the continuing saga of a certain large ogre in the much-anticipated Shrek the Third. While it is a rare occurrence for the comic actor to participate in interviews for the print media, Myers seems oblivious to that facet of the process.
“I’m put through a machine that just schedules everything and puts me hither and yon,” Myers says, laughingly. Almost a decade since a lesser-known literary character made his transition to the big screen, at the timer Myers was approached, clearly he had no expectations of what lay ahead. “At the time, I thought the idea was great,”: he recalls, chewing gum. “Jeffrey Katzenberg said ‘I would like you to be in an animated movie’. I like Jeffrey, so I said tell me when and what to wear. He said it’s called Shrek so I never know anything that’s going to be anything. I do my best and see what happens.”
Yet it seems Shrek notwithstanding, Myers remains selective in what he does, preferring to create characters for himself, which explains the low profile he has kept of late. “I write everything I do. On the average, it takes you about sixty months from the first molecule of an idea to it being in front of an audience. I’m actually somebody that creates his own stuff, so I’m well ahead of that curve always. In two months I’m starting this movie called The Love Guru that I’ve spent a year developing the character, which is what I did with Austin Powers. You know, the Marx Brothers used to tour their movies for six months and when I was on Saturday Night Live I had the luxury of trying it out that week and seeing what was going to be what. So after that with Austin Powers I would tour for a year and then take a year and a half to write and about a year and a half to bring it to people, so it always ends up being about three and a half years. “
So it is by no means odd that from the time he lays down his initial voice tracks for Shrek, the process lasts anywhere from 3-5 years. Now fully ensconced as the screen’s most enduring ogre, Myers loses some of the control that he has on many of his comedic projects, but at the same finds a way to have as much input as the filmmakers allow.
“The process is a strange one and it’s extremely well written and directed. I think that Jeffrey Katzenberg, Aaron Warner, Chris Miller, Andrew Adamson, all the writers and all the animators, have done such a great job that it is not so much input as it is trying to figure out what’s going on, because you’re not shown an entire script at any time, so you don’t get a sense of the totality. You see my questions were ‘Where exactly am I in the film?’ Like, ‘am I, anxious about being the king here?’ or ‘do I like this Arty character in this scene,’ because you’re never given an entire script. So occasionally I would rephrase. They’re very respectful to me and I feel like I’m on a great Stanley Cup team, I’m a rookie and they’ve let me take a few shifts.”
Shrek the Third follows Shrek and Fiona to the land of Far, Far, Way, as Shrek’s frogger-in-law finally croaks, Shrek either has to step up to the plate and succeed him as king, or scour lands afar in search of the other male heir, Artie. In the meantime, there’s an vengeful Prince Charming waiting in the wings to take over with fairy tales’ villains. Myers says that this Shrek is the best of the three.
“I think every serial character learns the same lesson and a different rite of passage, so you have to have a reason why you come back and visit them. Also it has such a sense of ‘threeness’ of it that smartly honoured the audience for having invested in 1 and 2 and they have delivered on 3. The first time you meet him he’s self-loathing who doesn’t feel he’s worthy of love, the second one he doesn’t feel he’s worthy of marriage and this one he doesn’t feel he is worthy of being the father of a country or of a child, so it’s a logical and smart progression.”
Having invested so much of himself in the projects he undertakes, including the Shrek franchise, the actor concedes that at this point in his career, it’s difficult to become merely an actor for hire. “It gets hard, I have to be honest. Many great scripts come my way but when you’ve invested a year and a half in something, then it becomes a year and a half of molecule versus, well do I just give that one up? And I love making stuff. I draw and play the ukulele as well, so I get just as much excitement out of figuring out ‘Here Comes the Sun’ or getting the shade right on a tree as I do making a movie. I was well indulged as a child by my relentlessly self-improving, working class parents to express myself. I have enjoyed it and so part of why I take so long too is I’m enjoying myself.”
Growing up in Canada, Myers was encouraged in his creative pursuits by his parents and his brothers, he recalls. “I don’t know if you ever watch C-Span, the British Parliament, because that was my kitchen. Sort of like, ‘I’d like to say something’. ‘Answer the question!’. ‘Shame – resign!’ It was like elbow slang just to be seen – to be able to talk at the table and most of my acting, for the first little while, I didn’t act from here because the table was here. When I went on stage at Second City I was like, ‘What do I do with my legs?’ “
When he is done with promoting Shrek, Myers will focus on Love Guru, his first original screen character since Austin Powers, whom he describes as “a Canadian who is raised in an ashram in India, becomes a guru and helps a hockey player who has fallen off the rails win the Stanley Cup.” Shooting on the comedy will begin in late August, but not necessarily with a franchised in mind. “I’ve never gone into anything with the intention of having a series. It’s one movie at a time thing and then if it connects with people they come back and say would you like to do another one, I address it at that time.” Myers also confirms that we haven’t seen the end of Austin Powers just yet. “There is a fully conceived idea for a fourth and I can just say that it’s from Dr Evil’s point of view, so if you balanced how much of it was Austin with Dr Evil, it’s more Dr Evil than Austin.”
Prior to that, Myers will do something a tad different: Play Keith Moon in a biopic. “About four and a half years ago I got a call from security that a Roger Daltry wanted to come, so he came and he said ‘I really would love you to play Keith’ and because I’ve drummed my whole life, I love The Who, I love Keith, I was fascinated by that time. I made Austin Powers because of my fascination and I grew up in an English house and there is nobody more English than an Englishman who no longer lives in England, so I was just inundated with English culture. Donald Margulies is the Pulitzer Prize wining playwright has written the screenplay and it’s great, so I’m excited. It will probably be Love Guru, and then Moon. “
There’s also a TV Christmas special, Shrek the Halls, in which Shrek discovers the true meaning of Christmas, so the low key Canadian is busier than ever, and he says, having the time of his life.