Great Stories in Voice Over: Mike Meyers and the Story of Shrek’s Voice
By Ryann Ferguson
What would Shrek be without his Scottish accent? Can you even imagine it? But not only was the character of Shrek NOT Scottish in William Stieg’s original books, (in fact, his name comes from Yiddish) but Mike Meyers very nearly never got the chance to play Shrek.
Several other actors were once considered for the film, including Bill Murray as Shrek with Steve Martin as Donkey. Ultimately, the producers hired comedian Chris Farley, who recorded upwards of 90% of the movie’s dialogue before passing away without completing the role.
Rather than bring in an actor to voice match Farley, DreamWorks recast the role completely with another Saturday Night Live alum with a hit film track record– Mike Meyers. Meyers insisted on extensive script rewrites to scrub away any traces of Farley’s interpretation of the character. His performance clarified plot points and put new spins on much of the comedy.
Then, once the film was well into production, and Meyers’ completed performance as Shrek in the can, the actor came back to the producers with a bold request. He asked to re-record his entire performance using the Scottish brogue his mother adopted when telling him bedtime stories as a child. Meyers was so adamant about the idea that he even offered to pay for it himself.
But after hearing several samples, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed– to the tune of four million dollars, which is what it cost to redo all that animation.
That decision paid off, as Shrek went on to be one of the most successful box office & franchise stories of all time. Meyers even received a letter from Steven Spielberg thanking him for caring so much about the role… and for adding the Scottish accent.
We’ll never know if Shrek would have been as big of a hit without that voice performance, but we do know that it wouldn’t have been the same without the thoughtful and dedicated performance of a talented voice artist like Mike Meyers.