Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots comes out this weekend and Sarah Simmons got the chance to speak with some of the cast and crew of the film: director Chris Miller and stars Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Amy Sedaris.

On preparing for their characters in the film:

Salma Hayek: “I really didn’t prepare at all. They never showed me a script, so I just showed up, like, blind. At the beginning it was just Chris [Miller] and I and he gave me a scene and he would walk me through the scene.”

Zach Galifianakis: “I think one of the toughest things was trying to figure out a character with only a voice. When you start, they show you a mock-up of what the character looks like so far. And then, you have to find an attitude, and you’re limited to just using your voice. But you really have to dig for more expression in your voice than maybe an actor would in a regular, live-action role.”

“Did I think how an egg would be? Did I research? Hmm. I should have gone to aisle seven at the grocery store and hung out with eggs, got to know them, talk to them. I interviewed the real Humpty Dumpty. No, Chris [Miller] actually gave me all the information I needed.”

Billy Bob Thornton: “My guy looks like Henry VIII’s mentally-challenged brother. My job was to come up with a voice that fit him. I weigh about 145 pounds, and Jack weighs around 300 or something. I don’t know if this makes any sense or not, but I had to sound a little fatter. Chris [Miller] is a terrific director; I wouldn’t have known, left to my own devices, how to do something like this.  I like working with a director in an animated world. Because usually, in live action movies the director is the first guy I go over and grab by the neck – I didn’t have to strangle him one time.”

Amy Sedaris: “For me, there is nothing as fun as really immersing in a hilarious character, and Jill is a great opportunity to do that. She’s got that Annie Oakley rootin’-tootin’ sense of adventure, and that Belle Starr ‘don’t take no guff’ attitude.”

On their characters:

Antonio Banderas: “You know for me, Puss is not just a cat. It’s an honor and a privilege, in the very difficult times that we are living in, to have the capacity and the opportunity to make people laugh, all around the world. It’s a gift. For almost 10 years now, even from the beginning, Puss started having his own space, if you will, in the American pop culture and then, in the world. I am taller, to be certain, but in many ways, Puss in Boots and I are very much alike.”

Zach Galifianakis: “Humpty Dumpty’s a little all over the place. He’s a little bit emotional and he’s a little greedy and I think he’s a little vindictive, but he is also trying to have a friendship, legitimately, but his greed gets the best of him, but I think down deep in his yolk that he’s an OK guy.”

Salma Hayek: “[My character] is a very good verbal fighter, and also a very good physical fighter. She’s also an amazing thief, one of the best that are out there. And she’s proud of it. I enjoy that she always wins, and that she’s always right. And even though Puss keeps fighting her and continues to try and prove her wrong, he can’t. It’s really a joy to be this kind of a cat.”

Chris Miller: “I love how seriously [Puss] takes himself, how melodramatic he can be at times. Although small in stature, he is larger-than-life. He’s little, but bold, dramatic, romantic. I think all that makes him perfect for a big movie. Humpty is a bit of a damaged character, sort of broken, and he’s up to no good in a portion of the movie.”

Amy Sedaris: “I think that Jill is a very misunderstood character. Now, the Old Spanish West slash Early Fairy Tale Era was not like today – opportunities for women were much more limited. Jill just wants something more than what’s being offered to her. There is grit and gusto in her, and she’s really a big dame, which I am not – in height, anyway. I really like my size in the movie, and if I wanted to look like that in a regular movie they wouldn’t let me. I thought she was attractive. I love that I have a husband, usually I don’t get a husband.”

Billy Bob Thornton: “Jack is sort of like the movie villains of the old days…now he doesn’t exactly have a heart of gold, but he’s got a sensitive side, and I always love to see that – like the one that Bluto shows Olive Oyl, other than what he shows Popeye. Jack’s dialog is funny, and like I said, he’s a bad guy, but I don’t think he’s an evil guy. He’s a selfish guy, that’s what he is. He wants what he wants…and his wife, Jill, wants it even more.”

On explaining to her daughter that she was playing a cat in the movie:

Salma Hayek: “Before I could say anything, she said ‘oh my gosh, Mom, that cat sounds just like you.’ So I had to explain to her that it’s not real, that it’s drawings and computers. She was confused for a couple of days, but now she loves it. She’s so proud of me.”

On taking warm and fuzzy fairy tale characters and turning them into edgy characters:

Billy Bob Thornton: “When you’re kids you don’t think about it much, but when you grow up you notice fairy tales and nursery rhymes are pretty dark. I can’t believe that we read those things; Hansel and Gretel terrifies me. Amy and I decided that something went wrong when Jack and Jill went up that hill to get their pail of water, and when they came back down it was a whole new world. It was a lot of fun doing it. For me it’s been a great experience.”

On making an animated film:

Salma Hayek: “There was a convenience that I really liked. I could work in my pajamas. And because I travel a lot, I was able to record in about five cities.”

Zach Galifianakis: “I really like the simplicity of it. I come from a standup comic background, so I’m used to that microphone and just expressing myself. That’s what I really do like about it. I remember, whenever I would leave a session, I would always think to myself, ‘This really is a great job.’ Plus the character’s been fun to explore, that kind of looseness, he’s all over the place. I’m pretty reserved as a person, so it’s fun to come in a do this ‘all-over-the-place’ kind of character.”

Billy Bob Thornton: “Most of the movies I make are not movies that my kids can see – my sons can, but the littlest can’t. I have had a few opportunities to do something like this, an animated movie, and I’ve tried taking the ones that were good. It was actually kind of an honor to be asked to be a part of it.”

Amy Sedaris: “I have a niece, and David [author David Sedaris] and I compete for who’s gonna be the best aunt or uncle, and so far [with this movie] I’m winning.”

On working together for the movie:

Antonio Banderas: “I’ve worked with Salma since the beginning of the ‘90s, and she’s a dear friend. Normally, in animation, we work alone. But this is the only time that I asked for a session with an actor, because with Salma, I know that we have such chemistry, and especially, we fight very well on camera. We have a kind of rhythm and we can improvise. So I asked them to bring her here with me, and we did a session together. And we got a number of things from it. It was great to work with her again.”

Salma Hayek: “We were lucky to have a recording session together, even though they usually don’t happen – everybody’s so busy and in different places, but we managed to schedule it. We were both improvising and some of the stuff that we did actually ended up in the film. He is so much this character, and I know him so well by now, that when I was recording without him, I could feel him there like a ghost saying the other lines. I love him in this part, and know exactly what he would say as Puss, even when he is not in the room.”

On “getting physical” while recording their lines:

Zach Galifianakis: “Once the animators see you performing, like if I use my hands during a certain part, they’ll throw those in.”

Salma Hayek: “Chris and I were recording one day in the studio, and the wall came down on us! We are alive by a miracle. How it missed both of us, I don’t understand. I moved right before, and then boom! It fell. I was very physical that day, I ran very fast.”

On working with Guillermo del Toro on the movie:

Chris Miller: “I had just read in the trades that he wasn’t going to be doing The Hobbit, which really bummed me out because I was looking forward to whatever dark, twisted version he was going to make. And as it turned out, the very next day, we were screening the movie, and he was able to come. He loved it, and told me afterwards that he wanted to be a part of the movie. And I was thrilled and almost speechless, and said something like, ‘Great, when can you start?’ And he said, ‘Right now.’ So within this 24-hour period, he became an executive producer and a great consultant on the movie.”

“He has this wonderful energy, and he always approaches challenges with a solution – he doesn’t criticize, he’s someone who can look at something and offer ideas on how to make it better. He encouraged us and pushed us and made everything more exciting.”

On the music in the film:

Billy Bob Thornton: “People don’t understand exactly how important music is until you see a movie without it. So the music in this movie fulfills it quite nicely, but it also doesn’t get in the way, it’s a part of it. When the music and the film are married perfectly, that’s one of the most exciting things there is. Hats off, to everyone involved in that.”