Just like in the Shrek franchise, the fairy tale characters in the spin off tale of Puss in Boots are not as you remember them from your childhood. Surrounding the feline hero, who is once again voiced by Antonio Banderas, are Humpty Dumpty, voiced by Zach Galifianakis and Jack and Jill, voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris.
What was your first impression of Humpty and what kind of research did you do for the role? How did you go about giving him a personality?
Zach Galifianakis: I interviewed the real Humpty Dumpty, who’s now 89 years old and living in Vermont. Chris (Miller, the film’s director) really gave me all the information that I needed to know in the context of doing the voice work for this movie.
All I know is vaguely from childhood memories of not Humpty Dumpty, but children throwing eggs at me, is that I don’t really know that much about Humpty Dumpty. But Chris filled me in and did do some specific direction that he saw on the grand scope of the movie. But to be honest with you, I didn’t really make that connection. I don’t know if I needed to for this kind of movie.
What is Humpty’s motivation in this?
Zach: The Humpty Dumpty character that I play, I never thought I’d say that sentence in my life, but I finally have, thank you Jesus! I think Humpty Dumpty is a little bit all over the place and he’s a little emotional, he is a little greedy, and I think he’s a little vindictive, but he is also trying to have a friendship I think legitimately, maybe.
I think down deep in his yolk that he’s an okay guy.
What were the challenges of creating this character?
Zach: I think one of the toughest things was trying to figure out a character with only a voice. When you start, they show you a mock-up of what the character looks like so far. And then, you have to find an attitude, and you’re limited to just using your voice.
Once the animators see you performing, like if I use my hands during a certain part, they’ll throw those in. But you really have to dig for more expression in your voice than maybe an actor would in a regular, live-action role.
With Jack and Jill, is there a perverse pleasure in taking fairy tale characters and making them dark?
Billy Bob Thornton: Yeah, absolutely, here’s the thing though. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes, when you’re kids I guess you don’t think about it that much, but you grow up and you notice, those things are pretty dark. And I can’t believe that we read those things. Hansel and Gretel terrifies me.
So in doing this and being able to make edgy, weird characters out of ones that are traditionally [not, has been great], You saw the pictures of Jack and Jill. Amy and I decided yesterday that something went wrong when they went up the hill to get the pail of water, and when they came back down it was a whole new world.
But it was a lot of fun doing it. I’m a rookie at this. So for me it was just a great experience, period. Chris is a terrific director at this stuff. I wouldn’t have known, left to my own devices, how to do something like this and Chris essentially just stood there and said, ‘Now say this and say it like that.’ And I’d go, ‘Oh okay,’ and I just did it.
I like working with a director in the animated world, because usually in live action movies the director’s the first guy I go over and grab by the neck. And I didn’t have to strangle him one time. So it was a lot of fun.
Amy Sedaris: I really liked my size in the movie. If I wanted to look like that in a regular movie they wouldn’t let me. They wouldn’t let me have a hump or over-tweezed eye-brows. So I was happy that I looked that way. I thought she was attractive. I loved that I had a husband; they never give me a husband in a movie, or children.
It was fun being part of a family. I have a niece, so in my family we compete for who is going to be the best aunt or uncle, and so far I’m winning. My brother calls himself, ‘Uncle Money David,’ but this is so much better.
This is certainly a different take on Jack and Jill from the nursery rhyme.
Billy Bob: Our characters were completely different than the image of them we saw as kids. Humpty Dumpty at least was an egg. I was telling Amy yesterday, my guy looks sort of like Henry Vlll’s mentally challenged brother.
But just like Zach said, I completely relied on Chris, not having done this before, so he pretty much gave me who the guy was. My only job was to come up with a voice that fit him. You look at the character’s drawing and you look at yourself. I weigh 144 pounds, and then you look at this huge guy.
I just had to sound like my voice had a little more weight to it. That was really the only thing I had to come up with. I just deferred to Chris every moment really.
What was the isolated recording process like for you, Amy?
Amy: I got to improvise a little bit, feel it out. I remember the first night I went in there I saw Johnny Knoxville’s documentary The Wild Whites of West Virginia, so I just went in there and tried to imitate every accent in that movie. [Chris] was like, ‘Why don’t you do something easier on yourself?’
He was good about let’s go with that voice and let’s improvise a little bit, but it was all there on the page really.