Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek PUSS IN BOOTS Interview

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In Puss in Boots, the adorable little creature with the deep voice who became a fan favorite in the Shrek films gets to go on his own adventure. A notorious fighter, lover and outlaw, Puss (Antonio Banderas) sets off with the tough and street smart Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and his childhood best friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), in search of magic beans to grow a beanstalk that will lead them to the fabled goose that can lay golden eggs. Making things rather difficult for them is the notorious Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), who will do anything to see that the trio does not succeed.

At a press conference for the film, Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek talked about how lucky and proud they are to be a part of the film, working without a script ahead of time as the story was developed along the way, and how the got the unusual opportunity to do a voice recording session together. Check out what they had to say after the jump:

Question: When you both first came to this country, you had to struggle to get work. How does it feel to be in a big Hollywood movie like this, where there are two Latino leads?

ANTONIO BANDERAS: When I first came to America, 21 years ago, I did The Mambo Kings, and somebody on the set said to me, “If you’re gonna stay here, you’re gonna play bad characters. You’re gonna be the bad guy, in movies.” In these 21 years, everything has changed, very much. In a way, it’s a reflection of what is happening in society. There were many generations of Latino people coming to this country, coming from difficult political or social situations in their own countries, and they worked very hard to have their kids go to universities. Well, those kids came out and they are now doctors and architects, or they are on the Supreme Court. That has a reflection in Hollywood. So, we are actually very proud that our characters are Latinos, and I think it’s good for diversity and cultural interaction. This movie is going to be seen by kids, and they don’t judge, in those terms. They’re going to watch the movie and see that the heroes actually have a strong accent, and that is good.

SALMA HAYEK: I just feel very lucky that I have been able to piggyback ride on Antonio’s superstar career. Thank god, he’s doing so well because every time he gets a movie, I get to sneak in it, even if it’s a cameo. I think that’s how things happen. I’m sure somebody else is going to sneak in because of it. It’s a good chain. I’m very proud to be a part of this movie.

Antonio, did you see the potential in Puss in Boots, from the first moment you were offered the character? How do you feel now that the cat is a star, in his own right?

BANDERAS: In the beginning, it was a recurring character. I didn’t know that he was going to have a long career, of 10 years now. The story with the cat has to do with the first choice that we made, providing him with a voice that actually doesn’t match the body and goes exactly in the opposite direction. The cat is not supposed to talk like that. He doesn’t even talk like me. I created a voice for him that’s deeper and bigger. That contrast is the source of comedy because it’s not supposed to be like that. We were in competition with the movie at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, and suddenly there were 12 eruptions in the movie, of people just laughing. After that, I had a dinner with Jeffrey Katzenberg and he told me the idea of possibly continuing with the character in the Shrek series, and then the possibility of having a movie for him, later on.

Salma, how did you prepare for this sexy character?

HAYEK: I really didn’t prepare, at all. I never even got to see the script. (Director) Chris Miller never showed me the script. I just showed up blind. There were no drawings, or anything. In the beginning, it was just Chris and I, and he would explain it to me. It reminded me of my grandmother, who used to tell me the most amazing tales, and you had to imagine everything. He would walk me through the production design and explain it to me, and then we’d do the scenes, but I really didn’t prepare. I wish I could tell you something method, but no.

How did you explain to your daughter that you are the voice of Kitty Softpaws?

HAYEK: You know, I was worried about that because it’s like telling your child about Santa. She really thinks there are cats there. I thought I had some time, but before I could say anything, my character came on in the previews and she said, “Oh, my gosh, mommy, that cat sounds just like you!” So, I said, “Well, actually, it is me.” I had to explain to her that it’s not real. It’s drawings in the computer, and then you talk [for the character]. She was confused for a couple of days, but now she’s so proud of me.

BANDERAS: Ten years ago, my kids were still kids, but now my oldest is 26, and he’s got a rock band in Brooklyn. He just said to me, “That’s a cool cat, dad.” That was pretty much his comment about it.

Did you guys get the opportunity to record together at all, during this process?

BANDERAS: The technique is basically just to work individually. I’ve done that for almost 10 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 did a session, and I actually think some of the stuff we did together made it to the movie. The session was great. We improvised a little bit and just did what we wanted to do. If we would have done that individually, it would have been very difficult for the other person to match what the other did.

HAYEK: It was great. I’m just grateful that I had some training with Chris because it’s my first time doing this. I was scared to be by myself, but I was never by myself. Chris Miller is an amazing director. I really cherished the experience I had with him in this. He trained me with it, so by the time I got to Antonio, we really had the character. I knew who she was and it was very solid, so that helped me. And also, he really pushed me to explore improvisation in comedy. In these two years, I think I’ve gotten so much better because of him. He really encouraged me, and it really helped me, by the time I got to do this session with Antonio.

Salma, are you looking forward to having young kids as fans now, and having them discover your work?

HAYEK: I sure hope so! The ones who discovered me a long time ago, don’t want to go to the movies anymore. I need a new generation, or else I’ll die!

Did either of you get physical at all, during the recording process?

BANDERAS: I do, actually. I get really physical. Sometimes I go off the microphone and they have to pull me back. It’s just so amazing to me, still. I got to this country without even speaking the language, so the fact that they call me for the use of my voice is such a paradox. When I came to America, I said, “If there’s something I cannot do, it’s going to be an animation movie.” And, here I am. I have a lot of fun. I know that it’s working when I see that they are in the booth laughing, and Chris actually laughed on my take sometimes. We ruined a lot of the best takes because of laughter. It’s almost embarrassing to say this, but it’s just easy and fun. You don’t feel that you are spending as much money as you do when you are working on a traditional movie and everybody is just rushing you because there are 200 people there. You’ve got a machine to record the voices there, and if you want to throw out whatever comes to your mind, you’re allowed to do it. It’s almost like pieces of a puzzle. Then, they take all of that work and these fantastic people on the creative side of the movie put it together in unbelievable ways. Already working in this for 10 years, when Chris showed me the storyboards, I pretty much knew what the final result was going to be. It’s a lot of fun, believe me!

HAYEK: One thing that got really physical with Chris and I was when we were recording 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, we still don’t understand. The wall broke and landed on the studio floor. I moved right before it fell. I don’t know why I moved, and then it fell. It missed Chris by nothing. So, I was very physical that day. I ran fast!

As a producer on the film, did Guillermo del Toro influence your performance, at all?

BANDERAS: No, because he stayed behind the scenes. He supervised all of the editing, and I suppose, to a certain point, because he’s also Mexican, he checked out how the Latino feeling of the movie was portrayed. But, he visited the recording studio once, and has traveled with us in promotion. With him, you feel secure, in that aspect. You know that the Latino aspect is going to be there.

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