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Sunday, July 10, 2005
Mike Myers has come
More on Myers» There is a Mike Myers Drive in Scarborough, Ontario, and a street named Wayne's World Drive in Draper, Utah, which is 20 minutes south of Salt Lake City.
» All street signs leading the way to Mike Myers Drive and the one with his name on it were stolen in June 2003, shortly after official presentation, marking the second incidence, because the unofficial ones were taken as well.
» In remembrance of his father, Eric, he wears as his wedding band the ring his father received from the Encyclopedia Britannica corporation when he was named Salesman of the Year.
» He received a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto on June 25, 2003.
» Myers enjoyed the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons when he was young. He said this gave him the inspiration for his "Saturday Night Live" character Lothar of the Hill People.
» His favorite sports team is the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), and in his movie "Austin Powers 3: Goldmember," Mini Me wears a Toronto M» Myers met his wife in a bar after attending a hockey game where he caught a puck. Later in their relationship, they attended a hockey game and she caught a puck.
But this humid evening the Canadian funnyman spends more time reflecting on his good fortune and comic philosophy than being funny.
"I was just in the ocean here, and I turned around and had a flash of a warm August day in Lake Ontario near Kingston Road," he says. "I was about 8, and I remember saying out loud that I'd love to be an actor someday. Then an hour ago I realized that kinda happened."
Myers, whose films include a couple of "Shreks," "The Cat in the Hat," three "Austin Powers," "54," two "Wayne's Worlds" and a long-running stint on TV's "Saturday Night Live," was on the Valley Isle to receive the sixth Maui Film Festival's most prestigious award, the Silversword.
"It's a huge honor, but this whole acting trip gives me that wonderful, lovely, warm feeling that I did kinda do what I wanted to do," he says. "See, my dad sold encyclopedias, and my mom worked in the factory office in Toronto; they were solid working-class immigrants.
"To have such exclusive experiences like this is something I do not take for granted. If there's anything I use from my improv training, it's being in the moment."
In remembrance of his father, Eric, he wears as a wedding band the ring his dad received from the Encyclopedia Britannica corporation when he was named Salesman of the Year.
Myers' three "Austin Powers" films are a tribute to his father.
"The genesis of this whole thing was my dad ... so it was appropriate that the third film was more pointedly about Austin's father," Myers said. "Making it was extremely therapeutic. It was like a two-month party.
"We would literally play music between takes, and other movies that were shooting on our lot would play hooky, come over and hang out and stuff. We had a great time."
The Austin Powers character occurred to Myers one day as he was driving to hockey practice.
"'The Look of Love' comes on the radio, and I instantly go, 'God, you know, I love this song and I love everything it implies,'" he says. "I love the '60s. It was about swingers. It's not VW vans; it's private jets with rotating minibars. It's not Woodstock or Haight-Ashbury; it's Carnaby Street. It's not granola; it's caviar. It's Matt Helm. It's Ursula Andress. It's parties. It's 'Casino Royale.'"
Then, Myers says, he just started to talking like his Austin character.
"Hey, baby, how are you? Let's go shag, man! Yeah!" he says. "And I go home, and I start talking to my wife like that. 'You are one smashing bird, you know? I think you're fabulous.' And she's laughing so hard but breaks in to say, 'OK, stop. Three days of this. Write it down.'
"So I wrote for, like, four weeks, all because that beautiful song inspired me."
Powers is a high-fashion photographer by day, a British secret agent by night and a lovable throwback to the Swingin' '60s who's been unleashed on the uptight '90s.
He admits that much of his creativity comes from music. "With 'Wayne's World' it was Led Zeppelin and Ted Nugent and the whole adolescent North American heavy-metal experience as I knew it from growing up in the suburbs in the mid-'70s," he says. "With Dieter (from the "SNL" skit "Sprockets"), it's Kraftwerk. With Simon (the English boy in the bathtub from "SNL"), it's a sort of British children's TV show theme. And Barbra Streisand becomes Linda Richman, my mother-in-law."
The name "Austin Powers" sounds a little bit like Aston Martin, which is the type of car James Bond would drive, Myers says.
"And I always wanted to have a character say, 'Powers by name, powers by reputation.'"
COMEDY WAS a big part of Myers' home life.
"I love comedy and am not of the school like I'm in a bad neighborhood trying to get out," he said. "Comedy is a viable delivery system of the best ideas. I thought the movie 'Fail Safe' was great, but the one that got me going was (the comedy) 'Dr. Strangelove' and that's my delivery system of choice."
Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness, Monty Python and James Bond movies were highly regarded in the Myers household.
"My dad loved to laugh," he says. "He was very funny and very silly. He taught me to be silly, and it was OK in the right situations.
"People would come to the house and say, 'Well, what do you do for a living?' and he'd say, 'I play bongo drums on the "Mission: Impossible" theme.' He would just make stuff up and talk in stupid voices. People would call the house, and he'd go, 'Hu-woe?' and talk like Elmer Fudd the whole time."
Unlike comedians who have admitted they were class clowns, Myers describes himself as "a site-specific extrovert."
"That means only at the right time and situation am I extroverted," he says.
Interviews were difficult for the performer when he started out, but he now enjoys them.
"You do meet nice people generally," Myers says. "And improvising is my thing. If I had to put an occupation on my passport, it would be improviser."
Much of what he did in "Austin Powers" was improvised.
"Especially the Dr. Evil stuff," he says. "I find recitation much more stressful than improvisation. Improv is the actor's liberation movement because it's where you get to have a direct expression with the audience."
But Myers understands that it needs to be kept under control when doing a feature film.
"The most you can do when you're using a script is rephrasing," he says. "You can't get dozens of trained artists to just follow your whim."
But he did do lots of improvisation for voice-overs in animated features like in "Shrek," in which he played the stinky green ogre.
"The strength of animated movies and reality TV today is it's traditional cinematic narrative on steroids," he said. "The secret is, they are great stories."
For "Shrek," Myers drew on "magical" childhood memories to put himself into a "perfect state of mind" for the part.
"I loved the whole idea behind the story, which is that you're beautiful, so don't let other people tell you that you're not, just because you don't look like the people in magazines," he said. "Or because you're not that weird ideal body image that's out there right now."
Myers' "happy memories of fairy tales" made him want to do the film.
"My mother used to take me to the library in Toronto to check out the fairy tales," he said. "She was an actress, so she used to act out for me the different characters in all these fairy tales. And then my mother would change stuff.
"Like, because she's from Liverpool, Babar the elephant would be from Liverpool, too. So I have all these great memories and associations with those stories. And I thought, when I have kids, that's the sort of well-told, silly and fun fairy tale that I would want to take them to."
MYERS STARTS TO leave the Four Seasons' Spago restaurant to receive his award when he stops to reflect about his good fortune with an anecdote about major league pitcher Tug McGraw and catcher Jerry Grote during a World Series seventh game.
"It's the bottom of the ninth, two outs and a full count on the batter. One more out and they win the series," Myers says. "Grote calls timeout and goes to the mound. He tells McGraw, 'I just wanted to come out here and say, isn't this great? Did you ever think when you were a kid that you'd be here like this? So before you make that pitch, let's take a moment and enjoy this.'"
"I've been doing that when I'm working," Myers says. "There are moments when I look around and say to myself, 'Wow, I'm doing what I always dreamed about doing. This is very swell.'"