Archive for March, 2009

Surprising Voice Behind New ‘Shrek’ Villain

When the first Shrek hit the silver screen in 2001, it wowed audiences with its fairy-tale storyline, its witty pop culture asides, and its impressive cast of voice actors: Mike Myers played the titular ogre; with Cameron Diaz as Fiona, his love interest; and Eddie Murphy as his wise-cracking donkey sidekick. In the two subsequent Shrek movies, other actors came on board to lend their talent and star power to the franchise — Antonio Banderas, Justin Timberlake, even Larry King.

And for the latest and last movie in the franchise — “Shrek Forever After” — Myers and the gang returns along with new A-list talent, like Megan Fox who plays “The Princess in the Tower.” But for the movie’s chief bad guy, the silken-tongued Rumpelstiltskin, Dreamworks hired the voice talent of Walt Dohrn.

Who?

Unlike much of rest of the cast, Dohrn doesn’t regularly walk the red carpet or make appearances on Letterman. Instead, he’s a writer and animator who started out working on “SpongeBob SquarePants” before landing a gig on “Shrek 2.” Since then, he worked his way up to Story Editor for this movie. So how did a guy with a below-the-line job land an above-the-line part? We tracked him down and found out.

“It just stuck,” he told me.

During the very beginning of production, Dohrn and his colleagues would hash out the characters and plot with storyboards, mouthing out all the voices. Later, he recorded the dialogue of many characters, from Puss-in-Boots to Fiona, as a part of a scratch track for the animators to animate to. Everyone loved the way Dohrn brought Rumpelstiltskin to life.

“The whole time, we thought we’re going to find an actor for the part,” he said. He didn’t know that he would be the actual, official voice of the movie’s villain until Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffery Katzenberg made the decision. By that point, Dohrn had already played the part, in various capacities, for over a year.

He said that he initially found working opposite the likes of Mike Myers daunting but those worries were soon assuaged. “He was great. He’s a filmmaker himself so he knows what it’s like to make a movie. And he’s been doing the part so long that really knows the inside of Shrek’s head.”

The animator-turned actor also revealed how he got into the part. “My character shouts a lot. So before going into the booth, I would drink, like, 20 cups of coffee and get good and yelly.”

So would this gig tempt him into the Hollywood fame machine? “It was sort of a joke around the office that I would go on to pursue my acting career, like appearing on ‘Law & Order’ or something.” In the meantime, he seems plenty happy finishing up the movie in time for its May 21 release date.

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