Chris Miller Talks Puss in Boots
Director Chris Miller (Shrek the Third) was definitely looking to break free from the world of Shrek with the Puss in Boots origin story (opening today). The characters had lost their edge and the satirical tone was no longer fresh. He wanted to try something more character driven and ironic. He wanted Puss to have a redemption story and a world that evoked Clint Eastwood and The Mask of Zorro to play off of Antonio Banderas' persona. Then when he learned that Guillermo del Torro was coming to DreamWorks to work as an exec producer, he beamed. What an opportunity! Indeed, del Torro took to Puss like a cat to milk and Miller says he provided just the right kind of creative guidance (Humpty Dumpty should be an inventor and the beanstalk escape needed more of a point of view in its cutting). We recently chatted about the Puss in Boots experience.
Bill Desowitz: It's interesting how you totally make us forget about Shrek. This is such a different world. More life-like and less like a fairy tale in many respects.
Chris Miller: Well, it starts with Puss in Boots, who's small but larger than life.
BD: And the scale is enormous but you forget how tiny he is.
CM: Scale was definitely a challenge, especially up in the clouds.
BD: Talk about that challenge.
CM: That was the crazy part of the film to figure out. We had the giant in the film. And we racking our brains going down this cul-de-sac trying to find what on Earth could be unique about this giant. Is he a two-headed giant? Is he an inventor? Is he an astronomer?
BD: So you took the inventor idea and gave it to Humpty?
CM: Yeah, in a way, we ended up doing that. The unexpected thing is that we killed the giant. You go up there and you don't find the giant. And that was a turning point.
BD: What did it take technically to pull off the beanstalk and the clouds?
CM: Years of pain and torture. The clouds in particular. That's something that's always been cheated. And then doing three-dimensional clouds is very time consuming to give it volume and dimensionality [and backlighting through multi-scattering].
BD: New procedural simulation?
CM: Yes, it's difficult when you come into contact with characters, and the problem, again, of scale. So it was really trying to find that balance between a convincing landscape and having these tiny figures stand out. The same with the beanstalk, which is like a character and very complex [the way it sprouts quickly out of the ground and grows procedurally].
BD: And what about Humpty Dumpty, who is such a unique-looking character with his odd shape, short arms and egg-shell color?