Question: So… do you think it was crucial looking back that you gave Shrek a Scottish voice?
Well ah I the… the origin of the Scottish voice, originally I er recorded like three quarters of Shrek with a Canadian accent, which is my accent, um, I think that this fairytale does talk about class in a weird way, a fairytale world, ah, you know Lord Farquaad had an English accent, and I thought the, the, my Canadian accent, I am working-class, it has a working-class quality that I thought an Ogre, an Ogre would be working-class, and because half of my ancestors are from Scotland, and are working-class, immediately came to mind that a lovable working-class accent is the Scottish accent.
And it’s effortless for you of course isn’t it, to do that accent?
MM: Well if you’re a Canadian comedian you’re issued a French Canadian accent, and a Scottish accent ‘cos almost everybody in, in Canada is from Scotland, ultimately.
What kind of feedback have you had from people about er the character of Shrek and the fact that he is so gloriously Scottish?
MM: Well um… from, Scottish people are always super complimentary which is nice, and er super… they’re a lot like Canadians, like, you know, if you’re a Canadian you’re just happy that it gets mentioned in something, like, what’s that song, ‘You’re So Vain’, you know, er “dah, dah, dah, du in Nova Scotia” and we’re like “Whooo!” “With the total eclipse of the sun”, any time Canada’s mentioned. Um, and that’s the way its been for a lot of Scottish people, but um what is kinda great is… just how happy people are to, they… just, you know, very old people, very young people, er seem to be enjoying the Shrek series of movies and what’s nice is that all, all I do is the voice, so I get to agree with them hardly but it is actually a very good series.
You clearly saw some magic when you agreed to play this role way back, but you couldn’t have imagined that it was going to become this phenomenon.
When Jeffrey Katzenberg came up to me and said “I would like you to be in an animated movie”, I was like “oh, okay, that sounds great”. He said “it’s called ‘Shrek’ “, and I thought that was the worst title ever and I thought “just forget it, I’ll see what it is, but boy that’s a crappy title”, and ah I had no idea that, er it would take off the way it did. What I did know is that they were completely dedicated to all of the movies being quality, and every time they go out, the movie is a better story, the characters are better developed, and the animation improves, and so it is remarkable to be part of this entire… thousands of people all puling together to make this thing great.
Why do you think no-one had thought beforehand that it would be a funny notion to turn fairytales on their head?
MM: Um, there was actually er, er just to give credit where credit’s due, er there was, er the Second City Theatre Company in Chicago er had er done a lot of fractured fairytales, and er there was the fractured fairytales er, er cartoon, um, I think that they did this in the complete and utter history of Britain, er the early Python guys, ah, it is, and so it can’t claim er… complete… first time, but it is the first time in a major motion picture, and how they’ve turned fairytales on, on the head… sorry, how they’ve turned fairytales… how they’ve turned the form of the fairytale and explored what’s, you know, true about it and, and what’s kinda crazy about it, er has been so deftly done. The idea that um she’s a, an Ogre girl with a pretty girl spell thrown on her, the idea that the Ogre, who’s traditionally a villain, is the hero, and, you know, Prince Charming is traditionally the hero is the villain, is, is amazing and brilliant. And that they’ve taken… a lot of fairytales are about beauty, you know, and, and what beauty is and how it’s important to be beautiful and they’ve, they’ve said that er you know beauty comes from within and er, and you’re, you know, the, the path to happiness is self-acceptance and not relying on what other people think of you. Even if you’ve been cast as a villain, you’re still the hero of your own play, and your own life, and I think that, I think that’s why its resonated so much with people, is that… the basic concept is sound and then the execution is amazing.
In Shrek the Third, Shrek gets the opportunity to become a King… doesn’t think he’s up to it, but I think more importantly in Shrek the Third, he’s got to face the most difficult role that man gets thrown at him – fatherhood.
Do you think this is why the, the, you know, it’s as strong as the previous films, its got these really believable elements in it?
MM: You know the film is based on the idea of accepting yourself and, and loving yourself and giving your own sense of self-worth to yourself, and er in Shrek One, Shrek had to learn the lesson that just because he’s an Ogre, you know, he is still able to be loved. Er, in the second film he overcomes his own self-hatred of being an Ogre and says “you know, I, I can be married”. In the third film he faces fatherhood. That even though he himself believes that Ogres can’t make good fathers, by the end of it he realises that he actually can be, and that’s… it’s the same lesson at three different times of his life, and I think that’s why this film has such a tremendous impact on people, is because you get such a sense of it being a trilogy and about a life, and we’re just meeting him at different points of his life. I mean, sometimes you see it with sequels that they don’t have any reason to exist, and this movie keeps having a great reason, because he still has to learn that lesson of loving himself.
I wonder whether it dawned on you, or have you given any thought to the fact that you’re very rare among actors in that you’ve been given the opportunity to be an icon with two different figures, Austin Powers obviously and now Shrek.
MM: Well I, I, I’ve had, I’m even, I, I’m even more appreciative. I had er a whole host of characters that I got to be on Saturday Night Live, then I got to do Wayne’s World which was unbelievably fortuitous that that did well, and then Austin Powers has been am embarrassment of riches, and then Shrek. So I, I, I do feel very lucky that… I just, I, I don’t know how it happened. I, I’m an idiot from Toronto who just wanted to be an actor, so… this is kind of amazing!
Where do you hope that Shrek Four might go, because there are so many more fairytales for you guys to plunder?
MM: Huh, huh. Well I er, I, I… the, one of the fun parts for me is um… I come and give voice to a very well developed character, and I get to live in this fantasy world of Shrek that I love, and a whole bunch of very, very talented grown-ups around me conceive and design and all I have to do is perform, so I don’t know what they have in store, but I know it’s gonna be great.
And finally, what have you done with your Shrek doll? You must have one!
MM: Oh, oh, my er yeah my Shrek doll goes on my Christmas tree! Yeah, so… er, yeah, it’s up there with like hockey players and, and Santa, and stuff.
Have a Shrekky little Christmas, that’s the message.
MM: I, I do, I Shrek the halls!
Yeah, yeah! Which is a good plug for the TV spin-off?
MM: It is, yes. Not my first day in show business!