Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek may be the focus of this week's animated release, Puss in Boots, but their feline characters spend much of the movie being upstaged by an egg. It's because that egg is Zach Galifianakis — the comedian voices Humpty Dumpty in the Shrek spin-off. I caught up with Galifianakis recently to talk about the great experience he had working on the film, why it made him feel like a kid, and his role in another highly anticipated film, The Muppets.
BuzzSugar: You don't do voice work on animated films that often. Why did you pick this movie?
Zach Galifianakis: They asked me to do it. For years nobody asked me to do anything, so I'm still in that kind of honeymoon phase where I'm like "Yeah!" When they asked me to do it, I watched the Shrek movies [because] I hadn't seen them before. I got really excited about it, I thought that the Shrek movies were really cute. I'm not a big animated movie person either. I don't really gravitate toward animated things, especially a movie. But they asked me to be a part of it, and in the first couple of times I [recorded], my confidence wasn't that great, but I have to say: It's so much fun. So fun to do. I wish everybody could get a chance to do it. It's so fun. Every time I was recording, I was in the best mood. I'm as cynical as they get, and I always roll my eyes at this business, but I gotta tell you, I felt like a kid. I loved it. I really did.
Buzz: Did you ever get to meet the other actors you were recording with?
ZG: [Joking] The courts asked me to stay away from all the other actors. No, I met all the other actors today. I hadn't met any of them. First time.
To read more of my chat with Galifianakis, including his very special role in The Muppets, just keep reading.
Buzz: Did the filmmakers take your personality into consideration for Humpty?
ZG: They did, yes, meaning the producer and the director Chris Miller. They had [it] in mind more than I had in mind. I was like, do you want me to do a voice, and they said, no, just use your regular voice. I said, "I guess I sound like an egg, I didn't realize that." The animation, to me, is so well done that it kind of makes the voice actors seem better than they may be. The real kudos goes to the animators. I'm fascinated. When you watch The Simpsons, which is pretty raw compared to a production like this, but when you watch Homer Simpson do his body language, it's so comedic. And somebody has to interpret those physical motions to a drawing. Just like in Puss in Boots with facial expressions. That floors me. They do film you while you're doing your voices, so I think they borrow from that.
Buzz: Did you get to improv any of your lines?
ZG: There was a lot of improv. What ended up in the final movie, I don't know the percentage of improv. I feel like we stuck to the script pretty much. I improv just because, you know, I'm unprofessional and I'm trying to make people laugh when they're not supposed to. You know what I mean? I'm trying to entertain myself, selfishly. And sometimes that does work. You don't want to be a jerk and waste people's time, but you do want to keep it fresh. And Chris [Miller, the director] is a good laugher, and it's funny because he's in the booth with you, and he's covering his mouth so his laughter isn't being recorded. I'd go off on some tangents that probably were not good for a kids' movie.
Buzz: Do you think they worried you might go too off-script because you're a comedian?
ZG: I think you hire somebody that's from a comedic background to help with it. I can't imagine hiring someone like Ricky Gervais or Louis C.K. or Chris Rock, and not want them to do that. And I'm not putting myself in the same field as those guys at all, but I think people hire comedic personality types so they will bring some extra "extraness" to the roles.
Buzz: Why is it so fun?
ZG: You ride your bike to the recording studio, you walk in, everybody's very pleasant, Chris is a very great gentleman. You get your lines out, you get a little frustrated because you're not that good [laughs], everybody's nice, and then you kind of get into the flow of it, and it's just exciting. And then you start from the raw point of view of it, where it's just the voice, and they show you some artwork where it's just the crude artwork, and then there's some nicer layers to it. You record your lines like, "this ain't going to amount to anything," then all of a sudden, it's this really pretty film.
Buzz: You scream a lot in this role.
ZG: There's some physicality to Humpty that requires some screaming. It seems like he's going through the air a lot for some reason. So yeah, there's a lot of screaming. I don't know if it comes across, but I wanted to scream like you would hear your great aunt scream.
Buzz: Would you ever want to do voice work again?
ZG: Yes, absolutely. I would do it in a second. It's so easy and it's fun. What else would do you want in a job? I would do it every day if I could. I just really liked it. Well, let's not get carried away. But yes, I would do it anytime.
Buzz: Tell me about your role in The Muppets.
ZG: There's not much to give away. I worked very short days, a couple days. I play a hobo, shockingly. This is my fourth movie I've played a hobo, and I got to act with hobo Muppets, and it was really pretty surreal. I used to watch the show, loved it, and then to be sitting with those great puppeteers . . . and the greatest thing about that, is they invited the crew and whoever's children to come and sit right by the camera. So you would be acting and see these 4-year-olds just looking at you. I thought that was so beautiful. It added to the vibe on the set. It was such a great idea in general. These kids were quiet for some reason.
Buzz: Do you think the movie will draw a new generation of Muppets fans?
ZG: I hope so; I hope people get on board with it. I'm assuming they've modernized the film a little bit, but The Muppets were ahead of their time a long time ago. I think this movie's going to be a little ahead of its time as well. James Bobin, the director, is a really smart, really good comedic director, so I have a lot of faith in him, and I think he'll draw a new audience.
Buzz: Who is your Between Two Ferns dream guest?
ZG: It'll never happen but I'd like to have The Pope. I have a lot of questions for him.
Buzz: What's your favorite moment from Between Two Ferns?
ZG: My favorite moment was not on camera. But I had hired a Brad Pitt lookalike to do the Jennifer Aniston one, so he was waiting in the wings. We ended up not using him, because she didn't want that, and [joking] I don't completely understand why. So this Brad Pitt guy, the lookalike, I went up to him, and [said] 'Hey I'm sorry we didn't use you.' And as a joke, 'Maybe we use you some other time. Do you look like anybody else?' And he goes, without even skipping a beat, 'Colin Farrell.' So bizarre.