We’re here with the four princesses. These would be the mouthy princesses. The funny ones. Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. Played by the comedic actresses Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Cheri Oteri (all “Saturday Night Live” veterans) and Amy Sedaris, who lent their voices to “Shrek the Third,” the animated film sequel about a swamp ogre and a talking donkey that opens tonight and is expected to earn DreamWorks $1billion in worldwide box office ticket sales this summer. The princesses have all had their morning coffee. They’re bouncing on the couch.
“Shrek the Third” opens with two ogres, Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz, in bed. Shrek isn’t wearing his PJs. The donkey? He (Eddie Murphy) marries a dragon. Their children are little fire-breathing jackasses. The cat? Puss in Boots? He’s a player, and he’s played by Antonio Banderas.
“Ton Ton,” Rudolph purrs, using her pet name for Banderas. “Ton Ton Bambooty.”
OK, so what is the movie, which is, of course, totally harmless and rated PG, about?
“About 90 minutes,” Rudolph says.
“It’s sweet because it’s about Shrek, how in the first movie he learns how to love, and in the second movie he learns how to be married and now learns how to have little nerds,” Poehler says.
“Damn,” Oteri says, “this movie turned me on.”
Oteri plays Sleeping Beauty, who keeps falling asleep.
No love interests for the princess people?
“It’s real life,” Oteri says. “Grow up.”
“Wait a second. I kissed a guy in the movie,” Rudolph says. She plays Rapunzel, who lets down her hair for the villain, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), an actor, naturally. “Of course, I had to betray my friends to do it.”
This interview is the first time the four princesses have actually sat together in the same room. When they did the voices, they performed in sound studios, alone, in either New York or Los Angeles, reading from a script.
A good thing about voice acting: “I would be intimidated if I had to do a scene with Julie Andrews in real life,” says Sedaris. Andrews does the voice of Shrek’s mother-in-law, the Queen of Far Far Away. “I’d say no. I can’t do that. But it’s easier to do it in voice. I mean, I think your character tells her to shut up.” She points at Poehler. “Could you tell Julie Andrews to shut up in real life?”
But Poehler says her character, Snow White, never tells Julie Andrews to shut up.
“So it’s that guy, what’s his name? Who’s playing a woman?”
“Larry King?” (King does the voice of Doris, one of Cinderella’s homely stepsisters.)
“We should have Larry King here,” Oteri says.
“Yeah, Larry King knows how to do an interview,” Poehler snorts.
The actresses spent three days in the sound studio. “So it’s a long, arduous process,” Sedaris says. “The animators have to work really, really hard, too. That’s what I heard.”
Rudolph confesses that between her first day of work and her second day of work (months later), she “forgot which character I was.”
Several others add: “Me, too!” They all agree that it is a little challenging to keep all the princesses straight.
“They showed us storyboards of what our characters would look like,” Rudolph explains. “Because there’s some historical stuff they have to stick to. Like Cinderella. She was of African descent.”
“Hey!” One of the princesses is snapping her fingers, telling us to pay attention. “Rapunzel? You know she’s not a real person, right?”
“I didn’t know anything about her,” Sedaris says. “Except the tower and the long hair.”
The reporter tries to steer this sinking ship toward one question posed pre-interview by his editor. To wit: So, you were all funny girls growing up? And, we mean, was that hard? Because, like, in the movie “Mean Girls” (in which Poehler played Rachel McAdams’ mom), it’s so competitive in high school, and uhhh, was it a coping mechanism thing?
“You don’t pay attention to this when you’re a child,” says Sedaris, whose brother is the essayist David Sedaris. “You’re into props and wigs and you want to make people laugh and you’re that person; you don’t even think about it. You might think about it now. But when you’re a little kid, you don’t think about it.”
Oteri says, “I was never the clown. Or when I wasn’t the clown, I was pretty quiet.”
“Like a silent clown,” Poehler says.
“Like a sad mime,” Rudolph says.
You see what you get?
The princesses are famous for their impressions and mimicry, but in “Shrek the Third” they pretty much do themselves. On “SNL,” Rudolph did a great Condoleezza Rice and Paris Hilton; Poehler did Madonna and Julia Roberts; Oteri did Barbara Walters and Fran Drescher. Now Sedaris breaks into a Francis McDormand. It is uncannily good.
So do you ever run into the people you do? (Get ready.)
“I don’t do very good impressions,” Poehler says. “But Michael Jackson calls every time I do him. But it’s just to talk.”