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Talking it up with the ‘Shrek’ family

Special to The Times

AS the summer blockbusters battle it out for the box office crown, the latest entry from the most popular series of animated films ever warns us it ain’t over ‘til it’s ogre. “Shrek the Third” finds its sometimes-jolly green hero (Mike Myers) struggling with responsibilities -- both royal and familial. The usual cast of swamp dwellers and fairy-tale stalwarts is back, including Cameron Diaz (Fiona), Julie Andrews (Queen Lillian), Eddie Murphy (Donkey) and Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots). Myers, Diaz and Andrews, looking startlingly human in person, were joined at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills recently by “Shrek” rookies Amy Poehler (Snow White) and Justin Timberlake (Artie).

You were saying how little you got to see one another during the voice work process ...

Cameron Diaz: This is where we actually get to work with each other.

Mike Myers: I actually stalked everybody here. So I saw a lot of them, but they didn’t know.

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Amy Poehler: I did always feel like I was being watched.

Did you get much room to play with the script?

Julie Andrews: They give you leeway. I’m sure you [Myers] and Eddie and everybody embroidered a bit; I embroidered the tiniest bit, but I don’t have the biggest thing to do.

Diaz: [Mock bitterly] I’ve never had any freedom in the process, absolutely none. They’re like, “Stick. To. It.”

Poehler: No way! Do you go into Dialogue Jail?

Diaz: They’re like, “What are you doing?” [Diaz laughs and the jig is up.] I get to say “Shrek” a lot. [She and Timberlake launch into the Fiona variations of “Shrek!”]

Myers: Surely there’s a “Fiona” bank somewhere, where you can just go, “Give me a 27": “Fi ... o ... na!”

Justin Timberlake: For “Shrek VII,” you won’t even have to show up. I did some ad-libbing that, you know ...

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Diaz: Got cut?

Timberlake: Yeah, it definitely got cut, story of my life.

Myers: [whispers] Which one does he play?

[Whispers] Artie.

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Myers: [loudly] Artie! Yeah, you were great.

Timberlake: Thank you. Naturally.

Would you like to take this opportunity to slag your absent cast mates?

Timberlake: Nnnoooo ...

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Myers: I would like to come back as Antonio Banderas in my next life. He makes anything interesting. He’s like [sultry Banderas voice], “Mike, yesterday ... I had two pieces of bread ... and there was cheese in the middle ... I think they call it a ‘sandwich.’ ” [Myers drops his chin in his open palms adoringly] “You’re dreamy.”

Poehler: Antonio Banderas smells good too.

How much of yourselves do you think got into the characters?

Poehler: Not very much of mine. My character is very bossy and persnickety and kind of a little Type A. I hope I’m not that Type A. But these water bottles are kind of off ... [rearranges bottles on the table]

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Andrews: [to Myers] Where you’re lucky is you’ve got that wonderful accent ...

Myers: Well, thank you. I feel that ogres are working class, and I find the Scottish accent is working class. A lot of this is kind of about class.

Andrews: And being happy with who you are. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and also being compassionate toward others.

Timberlake: To me, the third one is even a little more edgy than the first two in regards to the adult humor. It really touches on all levels.

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Myers: That’s Jeffrey [Katzenberg of DreamWorks]. Jeffrey wants it to be better every time. The story’s better and the animation, like hair and fire -- you want to give a round of applause to the hair.

Andrews: The other thing is facial expressions. The quality of color and clarity ...

Diaz: But keeping it in the realm of an animated film rather than all of a sudden you’re feeling like you’re watching something live-action with animation in it. It’s still in that realm of make-believe.

I think kids will grow up with these movies and show them to their kids. Were there movies your parents showed you that stuck with you?

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Diaz: “Animal House.”

Andrews: “Bambi” for me.

Poehler: I was very intimidated to play Snow White because I loved Snow White in every incarnation when I was growing up.

Timberlake: Biggest one, for sure, “Sound of Music.” We watched that movie with my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles. It was like a holiday film.

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Myers: “Pink Panther” for me. My dad was a huge Peter Sellers fan. If you’re in for two minutes, you’re in for two hours at my house. And it was always a nice truce. Because my dad was from Liverpool -- he didn’t have a bad temper, but he was like a working-class guy -- he just laughed like a drain all the way through it.

Andrews: We speak Pink Panther-speak [with her husband, Blake Edwards, director of the Sellers movies]. You know the ultimate Clouseau? “What time do you have?” [answering abruptly, in Clouseau’s tortured French accent] “Yes, I know that, I know that. You fool.”

Do you think being in a “Shrek” movie gives you a certain kind of “cred”?

Andrews: I’ve got grandkids. As they say in Variety, I “rate tall.” I really do. “Granny’s in ‘Shrek.’ ”

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Poehler: It was amazing, speaking as someone who’s a freshman in the college of “Shrek.” I was so pleased to be a part of something that will last forever and ever.

Diaz: [Audiences] really invest in it. They just love this film. I love it when parents are always, “This is Fiona.” And kids look at me like [makes a face of total awe].

Andrews: And don’t think they’re not going to be impressed by the messages.

I wonder if they might in the future slip in other issues -- curbing dragon emissions ...

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Andrews: Oh, that’s a wonderful idea!

Diaz: That’s something I’ve been on Jeffrey’s ear about, that the swamp possibly could be in danger.

Andrews: Why not? What better way to get a message across than with something that’s so funny? It’s the thing to do.

Diaz: Well, hopefully, there’ll be a planet in four years.

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Myers: You know, Jeffrey’s bought a planet somewhere. I’m staying real close to Jeffrey, man. I wanna be on that rocket.


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