The cat speaks English, but those purrs have a distinctive Latin accent.
So is Puss in Boots a step forward for diversity?
Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek showed off footage from the upcoming Shrek spin-off in Cannes on Wednesday, and discussed how unusual it is for the two main characters in an American animated movie be voiced by Spanish-speakers. “I feel very proud, actually. I never pretended when I first went to Hollywood to be a guy from Oklahoma,” said Banderas, who was born in Spain. “I am what I am.”
Hayek plays Puss’s rival/lover, an alley cat pickpocket named Kitty Softpaws, and said their accents would have prevented them from getting those lead voice-acting roles in the past. Now it’s considered a plus, lending the world of Puss in Boots a Casanova vibe. “What’s interesting and great about it is it’s not contrived,” Hayek told EW. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, there’s a good Spanish market. Let’s now target them because we have not yet done the Mexican princess.’” Banderas’ version of Puss in Boots, she said, “got a life of its own, and that’s what created this, organically.”
Puss in Boots started out as a colorful supporting player in 2004’s Shrek 2, but gets the stand-alone treatment in a comedy (out Nov. 4) about the intense cat’s efforts to snatch magic beans from gunslinging outlaws Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris). Hayek’s feline wants the beans for herself, while Puss’ double-dealing old friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) turns up to join the heist.
“When I started out, Hispanic roles were very limited,” the Mexican-born actress said. “There were one or two kinds of characters you used to do. Now we can play the cats! It’s okay to be a Hispanic, even if you’re a cat.”
Banderas joked: “Cats were British, normally.”
He and Hayek not only previewed footage at Cannes, but took part in a photo call on the pier of the Carlton Hotel, posing atop a giant pair of boots while flamenco dancers performed below. Banderas emphasized it’s not a niche-film, targeting the Latino audience. “It’s general,” he told EW. “For everybody.” But he did acknowledge the impact of a changing demographic. “Fortunately, the Spanish community in the United States has grown,” he said. “It’s been an explosion, not just in Hollywood, but other parts of society too. We have different positions of authority in society, we have senators, we are on the supreme court.”
And one swashbuckling feline is representing, too.
For more on film, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter @Breznican.