Before Mike Myers became synonymous with the green ogre named Shrek, his fellow SNL castmate Chris Farley was actually cast in the role and had recorded about 80-90% of his dialogue. Then, in 1997, Farley tragically died of a drug overdose, DreamWorks was forced to recast the role and, in doing so, radically rethink their version of Shrek. Today, the first footage of Farley as Shrek has popped up online and shows a very different character than the one we have come to know and love.
The clip above is an animatic (animated storyboards) with an early dialogue track laid over it. Animators use this to prep the film without having to fully animate scenes. But, because the film was completely redone after Farley’s death, this is the closest we’ll ever come to seeing footage of Farley in the film.
Right away, you’ll notice that Shrek looks different. He’s actually skinnier, which is funny considering Farley’s weight. This Shrek looks a little more human, than Myers’ version. Farley’s voiceover is a little less cartoonish, perhaps because Myers was putting on his Scottish accent and Farley was just being Farley. Eddie Murphy is still Donkey in this footage, but in this version of the film Janeane Garafalo, not Cameron Diaz, was Princess Fiona.
It’s not really fair to compare or criticize either version of Shrek given what little we’re seeing of this version, but Farley’s comedy was so heavily based on his larger-than-life persona and physical acts — cartwheeling or falling or dancing — which is lacking here. DreamWorks head Jeffrey Katzenberg would later recall, “It looked terrible, it didn't work, it wasn't funny, and we didn't like it.” The death of Chris Farley was a horrible loss for comedy, but maybe it all worked out for Shrek in the end.
You can watch the footage above and let us know what you think.