Antonio Banderas never would have thought a decade ago that he was going to still be playing Puss in Boots after his first appearance in Shrek 2. If you told him Puss would have his own movie, Banderas would have said you were crazy. Meanwhile, Salma Hayek, as a mother to a young daughter, relished in the idea of playing an animated cat who torments, then teams up with Puss and Humpty Dumpty (Zack Galifianakis) to steal magic beans from Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris).
Banderas and Hayek recently spoke with Movie Fanatic about the Puss in Boots phenomenon and how now that our favorite animated cat has his own film, it’s time for the spotlight to shine on the fine feline of the Shrek franchise.
Movie Fanatic: How does it feel to be in a big Hollywood movie where the two leads are Latino?
Antonio Banderas: You know what? When I first came to America 21 years ago, I did The Mambo Kings and somebody on the set said to me, “If you are going to stay here, basically you are going to play bad characters. You are going to be the bad guy in the movies.” In the 21 years, things have changed very much. So, in a way it is a reflection of what is happening in society. There are many generations of Latino people coming to this country. They work very hard to make their kids go to universities. Those kids have come out and they are now doctors, architects, bankers and on the Supreme Court. That has had a reflection in Hollywood. We are very proud that our Latinos are represented all over our culture. It is very good to have diversity for cultural interaction. This movie is going to be seen by kids who actually don’t judge in those terms. They are going to see the movie and see that the heroes have strong accents and that is good.
Salma Hayek: I feel very lucky to have piggy-backed on Antonio’s superstar career [laughs]. Thank God he’s doing so well because every time he does a movie, I somehow -- even if it’s a cameo -- I get to be in it. That’s how things happen. I’m sure someone else, maybe my double, will sneak in there too. It’s a good change to see that, that is for sure.
Movie Fanatic: You have a lot of chemistry in the movie as you did in Desperado. Oftentimes in animation, actors work alone. Did you two get to record together? You play off of each other so well in Puss in Boots.
Antonio Banderas: The technique is usually to work individually. I’ve been doing that for almost two years now with Puss in Boots. But, in this particular case, I asked our director, Chris (Miller), to give us the opportunity to work together. So, we had a session together [laughs]. Actually, I think it’s some of the best stuff we did together and it made it into the movie. If we had done that individually, it would have been very difficult.
Salma Hayek: This is my first time I did an animated movie. I was scared to be by myself. Chris is an amazing director. I really cherish the experience I had with him on this. He trained me, so by the time I got to work with Antonio, we really had the character. I knew who she was, so that helped me. Also, he took me out of the box. He really pushed me to explore improvisation and comedy. In these two years, I think I got so much better because of him.
Movie Fanatic: Did you see the potential for your own film the first time you were offered the role of Puss in Boots? How do you feel now that the cat is becoming the star?
Antonio Banderas: In the beginning, it was just a recurring character. I didn’t know that it was going to have a long career of 10 years now. I wanted to give him a voice that doesn’t match his body. It goes in the exact opposite direction. Cats aren’t supposed to talk like that. He doesn’t even talk like me. I created a voice for him that is deeper. I think that contrast is the source of comedy. I think it was at the Cannes festival in 2004 for Shrek, watching the movie in front of everyone, there were so many interruptions by the audience every time Puss talked. We were missing lines because people were laughing so hard at Puss. At the end, I had a dinner with Jeffrey Katzenberg and he commented to me on the possibility of a movie for just Puss.
Movie Fanatic: Salma, how did you prepare for this character? How did you find your inner feline?
Salma Hayek: I didn’t prepare. I never got to see the script [laughs]. Chris never showed me the script! I just showed up blind. There were no drawings or anything at the beginning. Chris would just describe the scene to me. It reminded me of my grandmother who would tell me the most amazing tales and you had to imagine everything.
Movie Fanatic: Salma, you’re been so successful as an actress. Are you looking forward to having young kids as fans after they discover you in Puss in Boots?
Salma Hayek: I sure hope so because I’m too old. The ones who have followed me are getting older with me and they don’t want to go to the movies anymore. So, I need a new generation or else I die [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: I was wondering what your daughter thought of you doing the voice of Kitty Softpaws? Does she know it’s you?
Salma Hayek: I was worried about that because it’s like the Santa thing in a way. Because she really thinks there are cats there. I thought I had some time. But, I took her to see a movie and in the previews I see Puss in Boots. I thought, “Oh no!” I felt I had two seconds to break it to her. Before I could say anything, my character came on screen and she said, “Oh my gosh, Mommy, that cat sounds just like you.” I said, “It is me.” I had to explain to her that it’s not real, it’s drawings. I think she was a little upset, maybe a little confused. Now, she loves it. She’s so proud of me.
Antonio Banderas: When I first made Shrek 2, my kids were still kids. But, now my son is 26 and he has a rock band in Brooklyn. So, now he says to me, “That’s a cool cat, dad.” That’s pretty much it from him.
Movie Fanatic: Is it very different being behind a mic and being in front of the camera? Did you find yourselves acting out behind the mic, physically?
Antonio Banderas: I get really physical when I’m doing it. Sometimes Chris had to remind me to get closer to the microphone because I’m unaware of what I’m doing physically. I know the thing is working when I see the guys in the booth laughing. It’s embarrassing to say this, but it’s easy. It’s fun. You don’t feel like you’re spending so much money as when you are doing live action. There’s 200 people there, spending all this money with each passing minute. In animation, if you want to throw out whatever comes to your mind, you’re allowed to do it. Chris will not say, “Don’t do that.” You’re putting together pieces of a puzzle. You take all that work and all these fantastic people on the creative side of the movie will put this together. [Pauses] You know, it’s just all amazing to me. I came to this country without even speaking the language. The fact that they call me to use my voice is such a paradox. When I got to America, I thought if there was something I could not do, it would be animation. Here I am.
Salma Hayek: I’ll tell you one thing that got really physical with Chris and I. One day in recording in who knows what scene in the studio, the wall came down on us. I’m not kidding! We are alive by a miracle. How it missed both of us, we still don’t understand. The studio wall broke and fell! I was very physical that day [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: Do you two enjoy the fact that the fairy tale paints Puss in Boots as a different nationality?
Antonio Banderas: Yes! The original Puss in Boots was French. This is a victory for Spain.
Salma Hayek: First the World Cup, and now Puss in Boots!