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Puss in Boots – Chris Miller interview

Puss in Boots

Interview by Rob Carnevale

CHRIS Miller talks about some of the challenges of making animated Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots, working with Rodrigo y Gabriela on the film’s score and what advice he would give to anyone wanting to follow in his career footsteps.

Q. Why has it taken so long for Puss to get his own film?
Chris Miller: It took just long enough for it to happen. The idea has been out there ever since Puss first appeared in that first Shrek film. The size and scope of that character, the personality that Antonio infused that character with just sort of demanded it. And couple that with the giant big eyes and we always felt like we had a weapon of mass destruction here. But it just took time, it took a little while for the right kind of story to form, and it’s all timing so we knew it was just a matter of time.

Q. You voice lots of characters in the film – Boy Blue for instance… Do you share any similarities with any of them?
Chris Miller: I thought my performance as Guard Number 3 was far more devastating! I think I get any roles in these films because I come really cheap. When we make the movies we spend a lot of time in our editorial suite, and we record what we call temp tracks of everything even before we bring Antonio or Salma, any of the performers, so we test material. So, what ends up happening is myself and my writer Tom Wheeler will play all the boy parts, and our producer Latifa Ouaou will play every woman in the film. And we get a chance to see them to know how it works. Somehow we end up landing a few of those parts.

Q. Can you talk about the soundtrack and working with both composer Henry Jackman and Rodrigo y Gabriela?
Chris Miller: We were so fortunate to have Henry Jackman as our composer. He was perfect for this film and it gave him an opportunity just to do something that was completely orchestral with a Latin flavour. We brought Henry in as early on as we could. We have that advantage in animation because you can look at the whole movie fairly early on, even if it’s in a rough state and is going to change. Henry is just a great story-teller with his music and I think he elevated the storytelling in this film tremendously. We also were fortunate enough to have Rodrigo and Gabriela, this incredible guitar duo from Mexico, and Henry set a beautiful stage for them to collaborate and participate. It would be so easy to fall into a situation where they would turn into a couple of session players, which they are not! They are incredibly inventive. So, Henry created a structure to the score that allowed him to hand it over to Rodrigo y Gabriela and they added another layer to the sound that I just think gives it such a rich and authentic Latin flavour.

Q. At the beginning of the movie, Puss recalls his aliases and nicknames. So, what were your nicknames when you were growing up?
Chris Miller: Mine usually was something along the lines of “damnit Chris!” And that came from either some parent or parental figure throughout my youth. But it shaped who I am.

Q. What films inspired you when you were younger?
Chris Miller: I would say Monty Python & The Holy Grail, I loved that film. It’s hysterical. I just remember seeing it and I was far too young to watch the film, probably about six or seven, so it would have to be one of those viewings where you were on the staircase peering through the bars at the TV set, and no one knowing that you were awake. So, that was forbidden fruit in that way. But also Terry Gilliam’s animation in that film was sort of inspiring to me, and I’ve never laughed harder at a movie, at such a young age.

Q. What advice would you give to someone to get to where you are today?
Chris Miller: Going right off of what Salma just said, once you can find out or discover who you are, just be prolific – if you’re a painter, paint, if you’re an actor, act. It sounds very simple but if you want to make movies make films. There are so many easy opportunities now… everyone’s got a camera on their phone, so I’d just say do it, do it every day and with passion.

Read our review of Puss in Boots

Read our interview with Salma Hayek