As a prelude to the triumphant Shrek series, Chris Miller’s spin-off Puss in Boots is a charming, comical account of an adorable cat on the run from the law, trying to capture a golden goose. With its release on December 9, Miller was present at the films press conference, joined by leading stars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, the former playing the leading role Puss, whilst the latter stars as his love interest Kitty Softpaws.
Although being a child-orientated production, the panel were on fine form at the central London event, as Salma Hayek discusses her frightening near-death experience whilst recording, whilst Miller also revealed his rather impressive impersonation of Banderas, much to the Spanish star’s surprise.
The stars were also discussing previous nicknames they were once a victim of, and given Hayek’s rather revealing outfit, she certainly had one that isn’t relevant any more.
Chris, why has it taken so long for the scene-stealing Puss in Boots to get his own gig?
Chris Miller: It took just long enough for it happen. I think the idea has been out there ever since Puss first appeared in that first Shrek film, and the size and scope of that character and the personality that Antonio infused that character with, and to couple that with the giant big eyes we always felt that we had a weapon of mass destruction here, but it just took time. It took a little while for the right kind of story to form, but its all about timing, and we knew it was just a matter of time.
And Salma, it’s been said that when you were doing the voice of Kitty Softpaws, there was a day when you were almost injured and indeed came close to death when a wall fell in – was it as serious as that?!
Salma Hayek: It’s true. We were recording in the studio and all of a sudden the wall came down, and I barely moved and it crashed a chair and, it sounds funny, but it really crashed the chair I was in.
Chris Miller: The wall brushed past my shoulder. I just remember this image of Salma being swallowed by this wall, and she was wearing one of those little pork pie hats that day, which I just remember being flipped off her head as she disappeared for a second. And then saying, “I’m okay.”
Salma Hayek: What was really strange, and I think its peripheral vision, I don’t know what it was, but I was talking and all of a sudden my instincts just said “run!” and I didn’t know why. If I had not run and thought about what was going on, it could have been very bad.
So do you think it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that you may have used up one of your nine lives?
Salma Hayek: Is it nine lives here? Because it’s seven lives in Mexico.
We’re more generous.
Salma Hayek: In Mexico and Argentina its seven lives, I’m really pissed off about it.
Antonio, at what point in the portraying of Puss did you realise that you had hit upon an iconic movie figure and one that would not only entertain your children, but children all over the world?
Antonio Banderas: I don’t know if I’ve got to that point yet. After visiting the character now four times, what I know is that it was really rewarding when we opened Shrek number two and it was in the Cannes Film Festival competition, and the movie produced 12 applauses, in front of the intellectuality of Europe, and suddenly everyone was talking about this cat in Cannes, and that was cool. At this particular time, audiences all over the world can decide if the character is going to have a longer life or not, and it seems that we are going to go in that direction because the response in the United States has been great and it has been unbelievably surprising in Russia, where it went through the roof and was something like the third biggest box office hit in their history, so we are very happy with it and the character. And, well, I’m still just amazed that you could have died Salma, in an animation movie. It’s just unbelievable given all that we have done together in Desperado…
Salma Hayek: After all of the stunts we’ve done together... dying in a recording studio.
At the beginning of the movie the Puss comes out with a whole list of his nicknames and aliases, what were the nicknames that you three had when you were kids, or perhaps have been given later?
Salma Hayek: Bitch. Nah, I’m just kidding.
Antonio Banderas: I will give it to you, if you promise not to use it in the future… When I was a little kid, maybe six or seven years old, and thank God nature has corrected it, but I had huge ears, and in school everyone called me Dumbo, so don’t please use it here or call me Dumbo Banderas in the future. But they have been corrected by nature.
Salma Hayek: Lemme check if you’ve had an operation.
Antonio Banderas: No, there has been no operation. So, what about you, hunny?
Salma Hayek: Mine would not make sense in English.
Antonio Banderas: Try us.
Salma Hayek: You are just gonna take the Mickey out of me for the rest of my life. I was the youngest person in my class and then when puberty hit, I was still looking like a little boy while all the other girls were developing. So the boys used to call me ‘la nadadora’. It’s very difficult to translate. But don’t worry, it doesn’t work anymore. The nickname wouldn’t work today - at all.
Antonio Banderas: No, definitely not.
Chris Miller: I can’t follow that. Mine was usually something along the lines of, “dammit, Chris!” Which came from either a parent or parental figure throughout my youth, which shaped who I am.
Antonio and Salma – you’ve worked together on-screen, and you’ve now worked together in a recording studio. Just how much more challenging is it to build a relationship in a recording studio as a performer, as opposed to running around with a gun in your hand, and performing stunts in Desperado?
Salma Hayek: After 18 years of knowing Antonio and working together, being friends, it was not challenging at all to form a relationship with him, and I know his character so well, because I have a four year old who has watched those films over and over and over, so I felt like I had a ghost in the recording studio talking to me because I could almost hear him saying the lines, not to mention that Chris is such a good imitator of Antonio.
Chris Miller: Oh boy.
Antonio Banderas: You are?
You’ve got to do it now.
Chris Miller: OK. “Fear me… If you dare.” (Note: Round of applause – it was pretty good)
Salma Hayek: So much fun. It was so much fun.
Antonio Banderas: The same thing. We know each other very well and somehow when the new lines were coming and I knew what Salma was going to say, I knew more or less what she was going to do with those lines so I just tried to bounce, and we fight very well on the screen I think, we can produce a lot of comedy in soft fights between men and women. Salma is independent, free-spirited, a fighter, sexy of course, so I knew pretty much how she was going to play those lines, so I tried to bounce that back, knowing also the limits and parameters of my character.
Salma Hayek: I tell what is really great though; every time I have had to work with Antonio, there have been bruises, cuts, and all kinds of things from all the crazy stunts, so to be able to have that cat jump on the roofs and be so athletic and so fantastic when your 45, to be able to have the animators do that and you just put the voice over it and there’s no pain you have to suffer – that is so cool.
And finally, a question for Salma – Puss uses his big eyes to get his own way, I wondered what techniques you use?
Salma Hayek: My character or myself?
Antonio Banderas: No comment.
Salma Hayek: I think I am very good at adjusting to anything and to any situation. Being malleable is a great weapon and I’m a very, very good strategist. I have created the most extraordinary strategies in my head for my career, but it has not always offered me the parts that were in my plan, so unfortunately I have not been able to follow the exact strategy. However, I take it one day at a time and I see what comes in. Sometimes I decide not to take something because I’m proud and I think I’m better than that, and then after you’ve stuck with your strategy long enough you have to pay the rent and you end up taking something even worse than all the other stuff they offered you, because you had been so proud not to take it. But you just have to adjust and sometimes for one reason, sometimes for another reason, there is no strategy in the end, but there is the ability to do the best that you can with what you have, and this is my advice.
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PUSS IN BOOTS IS OUT ON FRIDAY