Shrek almost had a different actor
Comedian Chris Farley was originally hired to voice Shrek until his unfortunate death led to Mike Myers being chosen for the role instead.
Mike Myers’ beloved portrayal of the great green ogre in Shrek hardly happened since the studio initially hired someone else for the role. Shrek followed the life of a creepy ogre living alone in his swamp when Lord Farquaad banished all fairytale creatures to his land. To free his house from intruders, Shrek and Donkey embarked on a quest to save Princess Fiona from her fire tower. The film, which opened with Shrek using a page from a storybook as toilet paper, was intended to subvert the themes of popular princess films.
Back then, most fairy-tale-based movies featured beautiful princesses in their lead roles, but the character of Shrek was an ugly, bitter ogre who cared for no one but himself- same. His entertaining friendship with Donkey and his blossoming romance with Princess Fiona created a solid premise that spawned a successful franchise for DreamWorks. Yet the real heart of the film lay in the pungent personality of Shrek. It’s hard to imagine the character portrayed by someone else, but that’s almost what happened.
Casting for Shrek originally hired comedian Chris Farley, who sadly passed away before the film was over. Writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot had actually based Shrek and Donkey’s relationship on that of Farley and David Spade in the 1995 film. Tommy boy (Going through Uproxx). Having written the character of Shrek with Farley in mind, it made sense to approach the specific actor for the role. Farley had already recorded several of his Shrek lines before his death forced the studio to recast. With Farley gone, executives at DreamWorks chose to rewrite the script with a version of the character that didn’t resemble the late actor so closely. Shrek grew older and crankier and needed someone with good humor to make the audience like such an obnoxious person. Having worked alongside Farley on SNL, Myers’ vast comedic experience made him the perfect choice.
Shrek would have been a very different movie without Myers. In an interview (via Yahoo Entertainment), Farley’s brother Kevin said his portrayal of Shrek was more of a “goofy innocent guy,” as was Farley. He didn’t want to scare people; he wanted to help them. Myers also loved the story’s uplifting message that everyone is beautiful. His passion for the role undoubtedly inspired his idea to give Shrek a Scottish accent. He had already finished filming by then, but felt his character’s voice was too similar to Lord Farquaad’s English accent. To the despair of the animators, Myers remade his lines in Scottish to better distinguish the two characters. This montage certainly paid off, given Shrek’s long-standing success.
Some other actors considered for Shrek include Bill Murray and Nicolas Cage. Even before the creation of DreamWorks, the first ideas of Shrek paired Murry with Steve Martin voicing Donkey. During the casting process, Cage was offered the role before Myers. He turned it down because he didn’t want to look like an ogre – a rather ironic reasoning given the film’s lesson in looking beyond appearances.
Even if Shrek started on shaky ground, with animators battling the highly anticipated The prince of Egypt sent to work on Shrek instead, the film won the inaugural Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Its success has led to four feature films as well as spin-offs, vacation shorts and video games. After a lot of dropping out, a fifth Shrek the film would also be in preparation. In 2015, some of Farley’s recorded footage was leaked online, giving a glimpse of what kind of movie he would have made. Although Farley never got a chance to play the role, Myers’ unique approach to the main character worked for everyone involved.
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