John Lithgow had no idea ‘Shrek’ was going to be a big hit as he thought he’d recorded a voice role for a “Saturday morning cartoon”.
The ‘3rd Rock From The Sun’ star voiced the diminutive Lord Farquaad in the 2001 animated movie which became a smash hit the box office and won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but John admits he didn’t take the job “very seriously” as he thought it “wasn’t a big deal”.
Speaking on ‘The Jess Cagle Podcast with Julia Cunningham’, he explained: “It was so tossed off. I didn’t take it very seriously … I thought it was going to be like a Saturday morning cartoon type thing. I did not think this was a big deal at all.”
After he started work, movie bosses attempted to explain all the visual jokes to him and John insists he wasn’t impressed with the “loony dialogue”.
John added: “I went in and I met with all these directors and animators and they’re a very wonderfully curious cohort these people.
“They’ll describe what it is you’re doing, these visual jokes … 'The first time you meet him (Lord Farquaad) he looks great he’s in this armour and take him out and put him on the floor and it turns out he’s real short’.
"And I heard this description and I’m like ‘Aha’. And of course this loony dialogue…”
However, his opinion of the project changed after seeing some of the animation during a studio tour.
John said: “I dropped in and saw all these guys like monks in cubicles working on their animation … and it was jaw-dropping. Back then that kind of animation was brand new and that was when I realised ‘Oh my God I am in something really good’.”
When the film was eventually finished, John was blown away.
He said: “Four years later, I see this unbelievable masterpiece where every single joke works brilliantly. All these loony visual jokes, which you describe them just verbally and your response is ‘This is never going to work.' "