Puss in Boots - Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas
Puss in Boots - The legendary hero Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas, right) has met his match in Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek, left) ©2011 DreamWorks Animation

Academy Award nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) has had a long on-screen relationship with Antonio Banderas, starring opposite him in many films, including Desperado and Once Upon a Time In Mexico. She now joins him as the voice of Kitty Softpaws in the Shrek franchise spin-off, Puss in Boots.

The movie explores Puss’s past, long before he met Shrek and his friends. Along with the tough, street smart Kitty Softpaws, and former friend and mastermind Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), Puss must become and hero to save his town.

What was it like voicing Kitty Softpaws?

Puss in Boots - Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek voices Kitty Softpaws © 2011 DreamWorks Animation, photo by Mathieu Young

Everything about this film was fun and exciting. To start with, it’s the first time I’ve worked with animation. I’ve wanted to do one for a long time. It could not have come at a better time, because now I get to share this one with my daughter.

I have become an animation expert since she was born, and I say with a lot of pride that even though I think I’ve seen every animated movie that’s ever been done, I think this one’s in the top ten for sure.

Kitty is a very good verbal fighter, and also a very good physical fighter. She’s also an amazing thief, one of the best that are out there. And she’s proud of it.

I enjoyed that she always wins, and that she’s always right. And even though Puss keeps fighting her and continues to try and prove her wrong, he can’t. It’s really a joy to be this kind of a cat.

What was it like to do your first animated movie?

Puss in Boots - Salma Hayek
Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) © 2011 DreamWorks Animation

Chris Miller is an amazing director, and I’m just grateful that I had some training with him, because it was my first time to do this and I was scared to be by myself, but I was never by myself. I really cherished the experience I had with him in this.

He trained me to do it, so by the time I got to [work with] Antonio we really had the character, I knew who she was, I was very solid, so that helped me.

He also took me out of a box, because he really pushed me to explore improvisation in comedy, and in these two years I think I’ve done so much better because of him. He really encouraged me.

How did you prepare for this role?

I didn’t prepare. Chris never showed me the script. I just showed up blind, there were no drawings or anything. At the beginning it was just Chris and me. He gave me a scene, he explained it to me, it reminded me of my grandmother who used to tell me the most amazing tales and you had to imagine everything. It was like that.

He would walk me through it, even the production design, he would explain to me, and then we’d do the scenes. But I really didn’t prepare. I wish I could tell you [I did] something method, but no.

What do you think of Antonio as Puss in Boots?

Puss in Boots - Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek
Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) join forces © 2011 DreamWorks Animation

Antonio is wonderful in this role. He was born to play this cat. We’ve been working together for a long time, and we’ve done many movies together. It’s always a pleasure and a joy. We were lucky to have a recording session together, even though they usually don’t happen, everybody’s so busy and in different places, but we managed to schedule it.

We were both improvising and some of the stuff that we did actually ended up in the film. He is so much this character, and I know him so well by now, that when I was recording without him, I could feel him there like a ghost saying the other lines.

I love him in this part, and know exactly what he would say as Puss, even when he was not in the room.

Did you act it out behind the mic?

Puss in Boots - Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek
Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) © 2011 DreamWorks Animation

I’ll tell you one thing that got physical with Chris and me. We were in the studio one day and the wall came down on us.

I’m not kidding. We are alive by a miracle. How it missed both of us I still don’t understand. The wall landed on the studio. I moved right before. I don’t know why I moved but I did and (the wall) fell. He saw it. It missed him by nothing. So I was very physical that day. I ran fast!

Did your daughter recognize your voice when she saw the movie?

You know, I was worried about that, because it’s like telling them [there is no Santa Claus]. She really thinks there are cats there. I thought I had some time, but I took her to see one movie and in the previews I see [Antonio’s] cat and I go, ‘Oh no, I have two seconds to break it to her.’

Before I could say anything, my character came on board, and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, Mommy, that cat sounds just like you.’

I said, ‘Actually, it is me.’ So I had to explain to her that it’s not real, that it’s drawings on the computer, and then you talk. I think she was a little confused for a couple of days, but now she loves the film. She’s so proud of me.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.