In the animated feature Puss in Boots, spun off from the popular Shrek franchise, actor Zach Galifianakis voices Humpty Alexander Dumpty, an odd egg who grew up in the same orphanage with Puss (Antonio Banderas) until the friends had a falling out. When the two damaged characters cross paths again years later, they team up, with the help of Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), to continue their childhood quest for the fabled magic beans, in order to grow a beanstalk that will lead them to the goose that lays the golden eggs.
At the film’s press day, Zach Galifianakis spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about playing the famous nursery rhyme character with a snazzy wardrobe, having no idea where his middle name comes from, how director Chris Miller really helped him shape his voice performance, how blown away he is by the finished look of the film, and that he would do voice-over work again, in a heartbeat. He also talked about starting rehearsals for the political comedy Dog Fight after Halloween, how much he’s looking forward to working with Will Ferrell and getting to shave his beard for the role, that he’s heard they’re writing a script for The Hangover 3 (which the cast is all interested to read) but knows nothing more of the film’s status than that, that he’s hoping to continue for a Season 4 of his HBO series Bored to Death, and that he will be doing more episodes of Between Two Ferns, if he can get guests to show up without their publicists. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: Could you ever have imagined that you’d actually get to play Humpty Dumpty, in your career?
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: I never did. I haven’t thought about Humpty Dumpty, ever. It’s still an overweight character, even in animation. “Oh, you’re playing an overweight egg.” “Oh, great.”
At least he has a stylish wardrobe, though.
GALIFIANAKIS: Somebody said he looks like he’s part of the Steampunk movement, and I thought that was funny. He’s pretty snazzy. I like his look. It’s a good look, for an egg.
Where do you think his middle name, Alexander, came from?
GALIFIANAKIS: I have no idea! It’s ridiculous that I have not asked that question. I didn’t want to sound stupid and ask, “Where did he get this name?,” and have someone say, “It’s from the fairy tale!” That’s what I feared. It’s a proper middle name, for a ridiculous first and last name. I like it. It makes sense.
Because you’re voicing an egg, was the character just totally open to how you wanted to interpret it and what kind of personality you wanted to give him?
GALIFIANAKIS: When I got the job, I asked questions like, “Do you want me to change my voice? Is there a certain accent you want me to do?” And, they were like, “No, just talk.” I was like, “Oh, I guess I sound like an egg, in real life. I didn’t realize.” You amp it up a little bit, for storytelling purposes. But, (director) Chris Miller really is the one that developed the character. Since you really don’t see what else is going on, you have to trust that the director knows exactly what he needs. To be honest with you, sometimes directors don’t know, but he did, and thank goodness. My confidence, at first, was not that great, just like with anything that I do, but he made me feel at home and comfortable. After the first couple of sessions, you really get into a nice little warm pattern. He came up with it. I just brought my voice. You improv, here and there, but I don’t know how many they used in the movie ‘cause it’s a kids’ movie and I probably just went off the rails a little bit.
What did you think when you finally saw what it would look like? Do you see yourself in it at all, or does it feel very separate from you?
GALIFIANAKIS: It doesn’t feel like me too much. But, I may have been getting lost in the animation because I was so impressed with the facial movements and the physicality. The real hard workers of these kinds of movies are the animators – the people who somehow translate, through their mind and through their hand, what you have done with your voice. That transference is what I’m amazed by. You can go record your voice and give it some inflection, here and there, but it’s the animators that are the real storytellers here. I’m just blown away by it. It’s a pretty movie.
Now that you’ve had this experience, do you want to do more voice-over work?
GALIFIANAKIS: I would do it in a heartbeat. I really had so much fun. Every time I left the recording, I just was in the best mood. Not a lot of jobs, in general, do you leave your job and feel like it’s really easy and fun. I’d love to do it again. The thing is that this was exceptionally easy because I wasn’t doing a wacky voice. I was just doing my voice, so it made it really easy.
What’s the status of Dog Fight? Are you already in production on that?
GALIFIANAKIS: We start rehearsal after Halloween, and then we start shooting. We’re getting ready to start shooting that. It’s a political movie, set in the South, about two guys running for Congress – Will Ferrell and myself. It’s a movie about how the sausage of politics is made, and is a heightened reality of the real political world, which is, within itself, completely absurd. I’m really looking forward to it. Jay Roach is directing it, and Will is a really nice person. He’s a gentleman. I can’t wait to start working on it. We’re not playing our usual stuff, which is good. And, I will get to shave, thank god.
Do you think The Hangover 3 is going to happen? Have you heard any updates on that?
GALIFIANAKIS: I have heard that they are writing it. That’s all I know. I know that they’re writing it, and I know that we are all wanting to read the third one. Whether we do the third one or not is still up in the air. That’s all I’ve got on that one. It really is.
How do you feel the third season of Bored to Death is, compared to the first two?
GALIFIANAKIS: Well, I think there’s more intertwining of the three guys than there was in the first episodes. The main difference is just that the fabric of the show is more intertwined than it was before. Before, it seemed like we all had our story points, but now they seem to be more mingled with each other. My character moves in with Ted Danson’s character. It’s the most fun show I’ve worked on. I have to say that I love working on it. I hope it comes back. I don’t know the status of that either. I’m out of the loop about everything.
Do you just wait for the phone call?
GALIFIANAKIS: No, I don’t even do that! I don’t even think about it. I’m like, “Oh, yeah, that’s right, I’m on a show called Bored to Death.”
GALIFIANAKIS: Yeah. The thing with that character, Ray Hueston, is that I can be like that, in real life. I can be that curmudgeon. It’s funny to be sour. I do it as a put-on, in my real life. I do it as a character, in my real life. I love playing a curmudgeon. I just love playing a sour guy. Now that it’s in its third season, you do get to sit with it more and you know exactly how to act, and the writers know how to write better than they did for the first season because there’s a history established. That’s why I don’t want the show to go away. I think that we’re all in a groove and we don’t want to stop dancing. Did I really say that? Jesus! It’s one of those TV shows where the ratings probably aren’t that high, but the critics like it. To me, I would rather be involved with a show like that, then some mega-huge success thing.
Will you be doing any more episodes of Between Two Ferns?
GALIFIANAKIS: I will be, if I can get the guests to agree to do it without asking me so many fucking questions. I’m like, “Just show up! We shoot these in a garage. Don’t bring your people. Just show up, like a human being. Don’t bring your make-up people. Just show up.” And, most of them have. They all do. It’s the coolest thing to have Charlize Theron show up and just sit on a rock with you and go, “So, what is this?” That’s the attitude I like, not publicists asking me all these questions. It’s hard to find people like that.
But, don’t they end up having more fun, when they show up without all of that?
GALIFIANAKIS: Yes! We’re not pranking anybody. Everybody is cool. No offense against the publicity world.