The “Shrek” movies are the most popular of the DreamWorks Animation films, with “Shrek 2” being the studio’s top-grossing movie of all time.
But what we now think of as the iconic Scottish ogre played by Mike Myers was almost completely different. After Nicolas Cage passed up the role, Chris Farley was cast to play Shrek. In fact, according to Uproxx, Shrek writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot had originally based Shrek and Donkey’s relationship on Farley and David Spade’s relationship in “Tommy Boy,” so the larger-than-life comedian was a natural choice.
The two men approached the role of Shrek quite differently. As Farley’s brother later explained to Yahoo, “Originally the Shrek character was a little bit more like Chris, like a humble, bumbling innocent guy.” Myers’ Shrek, on the other hand, was a bit older, more jaded and…well, quite obviously Scottish.
Hearing how Farley played Shrek is a fascinating example of how two different actors can interpret characters in different ways. Despite Myers’ Shrek being beloved and familiar, it’s clear from the footage of Farley’s recordings leaked in 2015 that his Shrek would have been great, too. Definitely different, but great.
People had lots of feelings about hearing Farley as Shrek and what he brought to the role, as well as the loss of his extraordinary talent:
“Chris Farley’s Shrek sounds more chill than the original. yes, he has layers in his personality to protect himself from the world and has the same struggles with Myers’ Shrek but their difference is how they cope with it. Farley’s Shrek copes by being motivated by his parent’s love and he sounds more disappointed because the world doesn’t love him. Myers’ Shrek on the other hand copes by shutting himself from the world isolating himself since he never found anyone who would actually love him for who he is, so the revelation is more cathartic because it shows his frustration with the world and tearing down a ‘layer’ from donkey.” – @TauGeneration
“This scene is so heartwarming. Farley’s Shrek is like a more emotionally aware ogre whereas Myers’ is so emotionally stilted he doesn’t even KNOW how he feels half the time. Farley’s knows exactly what he wants, but accepts that he doesn’t deserve it bc of how he was raised, and how the world treated him.” – @DAMIENDMILLS
“I think this really demonstrates just how much of an animated character comes from the voice actor, Chris’ Shrek may have the same core (I want to be left be to my own devices) but his take is so different! The whole parrents issue is really interesting, because we never do get to see how Shrek became the angry grump he is, and it a really unique take. I still like Myers, but I do wonder what just how different Farley’s Shrek would have been.” – @kennymartin5976
“In addition to the fact that Farley passed away during the making of this film, what also makes me sad is hearing his performance. They picked a great scene from the movie that had humor, but also showed more depth in Shrek’s character, and if you listen to Farley’s voice he’s hitting those emotions perfectly. I think this clip shows us a glimpse of Farley being able to hit those dramatic notes in addition to being the clown. Who knows, maybe he could’ve gone on to do some more serious movies, or sort of dramedy roles, and he might have been great in them. It’s sad we’ll never be able to see that. RIP Chris Farley, we miss you.” – @yoshim616
Check out a back-to-back comparison of clips from the movie and the original recordings:
Here is a video comparing the two
— Frank Bruno (@FrankRBruno) August 24, 2023