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The oscar-nominated ‘Puss in Boots’ chronicles the heroic beginning of the beloved big-eyed feline. When Humpty Dumpty finally finds a way to make their childhood dream of finding the magic beans come true, he needs Puss’ help to execute it. But it’s also going to be a three man (cat, egg, cat) job.
That’s where the character of Kitty Softpaws comes into the story, who’s the greatest thief in all of Old Spain. “Salma Hayek is Kitty Softpaws,” supplies Chris Miller, “and in her performance, she’s beautiful, strong and sensual, but most importantly, she’s funny — Salma’s a really funny actress and she gets to really show that off in this.
Because she brings this working relationship with Antonio to the character [this is their fifth film together], it feels really authentic. You can tell that they are good friends, because they fight really well together, which brings sparks to their onscreen romantic relationship. They’re a great duo.”
“I love Salma’s voice, it’s rich and deep, and it works so well for Kitty,” Joe Aguilar elaborates, “Puss in Boots’ backstory always included having a history with the ladies, so we had to build a character that was worthy of him. And so we created Kitty Softpaws. We immediately thought of Salma Hayek and were very excited that she was willing to come aboard.
We knew that their chemistry would be strong, from their work in live-action films. We knew their voices would work well together, too. Kitty Softpaws is somebody who wasn’t going to be easy for Puss to attain, she had to be strong and interesting. We were trying to paint a picture of a character that wasn’t just a femme fatale.”
Latifa Ouaou observes, “Comedy probably isn’t the first thing you think when you think of Salma Hayek. She’s got a great voice, and while we knew she could be sultry, she’s actually really amazing with comedy. She’s extremely witty and she brought a lot of her own attributes to the character. There’s something really special about a female character who knows what she wants and doesn’t really need anyone else to get it.”
Hayek was thrilled to voice the strong, independent and funny feline: “Everything about this film is fun and exciting. To start with, it’s the first time I’ve worked with animation, and I’ve been wanting to do one for a long time. It could not have come at a better time, because now I get to share this one with my daughter.
I have become an animation expert since she was born…and I say with a lot of pride that even though I think I’ve seen every animated movie that’s ever been done, I think this one’s in the top ten for sure.” There were logistical points that also worked for 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.”
Almost illustrating Ouaou’s point about development and production coinciding, it wasn’t until partway into the recording sessions that a key facet of Kitty’s character came into being. Head of story Persichetti: “When I work, there are all of these things that are bouncing around in my head, like the idea of a cat burglar who’s really a cat.
They’re really quiet. Maybe it’s to overcome an inadequacy? It was a slow gel for her character. It may have been our third or fourth iteration of the early assemblage of the film, but it was like, of course! She doesn’t have any claws! This is the thing that’s she’s overcoming, but now, we can play with it, because it’s this incredible skill that she can basically steal the beans out of Jack’s hand without him even feeling it.
She can steal Puss’ boots without him realizing it. She’s the ultimate pickpocket. So, it just kind of worked out really well. And it adds this interesting layer to her whole sexy Latina character.”
Hayek loved her character and describes her: “She’s 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.”
So symbiotic is the back-and-forth performance between Banderas and Hayek that Antonio made a request of the filmmakers. “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.”
“Antonio is wonderful in this role,” responds Hayek. “He was born to play this cat. We’ve been working together for a long time, and we’ve done many movies together. It’s always a pleasure and a joy. 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.”
Image Courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/Pussinboots