Puss and Kitty; Ah, the Adventure and Romance!
Antonio Banderas of Zorro fame, gets to make the sword mark of the “P” rather than the famous “Z” in the new film featuring the most fearless ladies’ man/rogue of them all, Puss in Boots.
Using his lethal “cute kitty” big-eyed stare, Puss can charm the hardest of hearts but it’s not so easy with rival rogue and thief Kitty Soft Paws (voiced by Salma Hayak whom Antonio romanced previously in the feisty Robert Rodriguez film Desperado). Kitty is no pushover and is her teaming up with Puss on a quest for the magic beanstalk beans of fairy tale lore, an act of love or treachery?
We are in Beverly Hills with the feisty Latin actors learning that their special chemistry works in a voice recording booth as well as on the live action screen. Do they get physical in the recording booth and why is Puss is so endearing to fans? What do the two actors’ kids think of them playing cats?
Kidzworld: Salma, did your 4-year-old daughter recognize your voice when she saw the movie?
- Salma: You know, I was worried about that because she really thinks there’s real cats there [on screen]. I took her to see another movie and in the previews [for this film] I see his cat and I go, ‘Oh no, I have two seconds to break it to her.’ And before I could say anything, my character came on board and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, Mommy, that cat sounds just like you.’ So I said, ‘Actually, it is me.’
Kidzworld: Did that confuse her?
- Salma: 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.
- Antonio: Ten years ago when my kids were still kids [it might have confused them] but now my oldest is 26, he’s got a rock band in Brooklyn, so he just said to me something like, ‘That’s a cool cat, dad.’ And that’s pretty much his comment about it.
Kidzworld: Well, Puss IS a very cool cat! You two have good chemistry on screen and a history together in Desperado. Were you able to record any of the voice work together?
Antonio: The technique basically is just to work individually, and I was doing that for almost ten years now with Puss in Boots. But this particular case, I asked our director, Chris [Miller] to give us the opportunity to work together, so we recorded a session. Actually, I think some of our stuff that we did together made it to the movie. Probably the worst enemy of an actor is to be a little bit self-conscious in whatever you’re doing so we improvised a little bit and just did what we wanted to do. If we would have recorded that individually it would have been very difficult for the other person.
- Salma: It was great. I’m just grateful that I had some training with [our director] because it’s my first time I do this and I was scared to be by myself but by the time I got to Antonio we really had the character. I knew who she was, I was very solid, so that helped me. And also Chris 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, and it really helped me by the time I went do this session with Antonio.
Kidzworld: How did you prepare to play a sexy cat?
- Salma: I didn’t prepare. They never gave me the script so I just showed up blind, there were no drawings or anything. At the beginning it was just Chris and I and he gave me a scene and 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. He would walk me through, even like the production design, he would explain to me. I wish I could tell you some method I used or something, but no.
Kidzworld: Are you looking forward to having young fans now with this?
- Salma: I sure hope so, because the young ones who liked me a long time ago don’t want to go to the movies anymore, so I need a new generation or else I die.
Kidzworld: You two are famous lead actors now but, being Latinos, how hard was it when you began in this business?
- Antonio: When I first came to America, twenty-one years ago, I did the movie The Mambo Kings, somebody on the set said to me, ‘If you are going to stay here, basically you’re going to play bad characters. You are going to be the bad guy in movies’.
Kidzworld: And then you play hero Zorro!
- Antonio: In these twenty-one years everything changed very much. In ways it’s a reflection of what is happening in society. We are actually very proud that our characters are also Latinos, and I think it’s good for diversity, for cultural interaction, because this movie’s going to be seen by kids who don’t judge in those terms, they’re going to watch the movie and they’re going to see that their heroes they have strong accents and that is good.
- Salma: I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to piggyback-ride onto Antonio’s superstar career. Thank god he’s doing so well, because every time he gets a movie, I get one somehow, even if it’s a cameo, to sneak in it. And I think that’s how things happen. I’m very proud to be part of this movie.
Kidzworld: Antonio, in the beginning, what potential did you see is this character of a little cat..uh, with boots and a sword? Now he’s a big star.
- Antonio: At the beginning the character was just a recurring character, you didn’t know that it was going to have a long career actually of ten years now. The story of the cat has to do with the first choice that we made, providing him with a voice that actually doesn’t match the body. It goes exactly in the opposite direction, a cat is not supposed to talk like that. And he doesn’t even talk like me, like Antonio. I created a voice for him that is set deeper and bigger. And I think in that contrast is the source of comedy, because he’s not supposed to be like that, and that creates actually the comedy.
Kidzworld: How did the idea of Puss starring in his own movie come to you?
- Antonio: I think it was in the Cannes Film Festival, we were in competition there with the first movie (Shrek) in 2004. Suddenly it was like 12 interruptions because people were just laughing. After that, I had a dinner with [DreamWorks Animation chief] Jeffrey Katzenberg and he commented to me that we might possibly continue the character in the series of Shrek movies. I loop the movie later on in Spanish too and I also do the Italian version of it.
Kidzworld: Do you move around a lot behind the mic? Do you get physical and wave your arms around when recording?
- Antonio: I do actually. I get really physical. Sometimes I move away from the microphone and they have to pull me back. It’s amazing to me still. I got to this country without speaking the language. The fact they called me to use my voice is such a paradox. When I came to America, I never thought I’d be able to do an animated movie. I know the thing is working when I see everyone in the booth laughing. We just ruined a lot of the best takes laughing. If you want to throw in whatever comes to your mind you’re allowed to do it.
- Salma: I’ll tell you one thing that got physical with Chris Miller [director] and me. We were one day in the studio 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. It’s true. 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.[we laugh]
Kidzworld: Yikes! Silly question Was Puss always an orange cat like in the first French version on the fairy tale?
- Antonio: Do you have anything against orange? Don’t know,
Kidzworld: Orange is good. Did famous director and one of the producers on this film Guillermo del Toro have anything to do with the actors and the creation of the characters?
- Antonio: He was kind of supervising all the editing and also to a certain point to, because he’s Mexican, just checking out how the Latino feeling of the movie was portrayed. He visited the recording studio once and when we went to New York to promote this. You feel secure in that aspect. The Latino will be there. It won’t be “St. Richard” but “San Ricardo” with all the letters in their place and situation like that.
Kidzworld: Salma, could you visualize Kitty Soft Paws’ pain when she gets hit in the head with the guitar by Puss? Not a great way for him to win her heart.
- Salma: More than pain, the humiliation. To lose that fight it was just embarrassing. I was embarrassed to pick a fight with him.
- Antonio: [to Salma] You were supposed to be a man. I hit you because of that. [Puss did not know the disguised “Kitty” was a she].
By: Lynn Barker
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