He came to Hollywood, he saw, and seemed to conquer like a charging Julius Caesar on speed.
Canadian Mike Myers quickly became one of the most sought-after and powerful comic actors in Tinseltown after leaving Saturday Night Live in 1992 to pursue a film career.
The Wayne¹s World movies and the Austin Powers trilogy — culminating with 2002’s Austin Powers In Goldmember — solidified his position as box office king and pop culture icon.
It was, after all, Myers’ mangle-toothed International Man Of Mystery who single-handedly brought swinging 1960s London back into the fore in a major way.
But when Myers slipped comfortably into the relative ease of voiceovers for the Shrek films — The Third, which opens next Friday, has the Canuck funny man reviving his role as the lovable ogre who in this installment feels he’s unfit to rule Far Far Away after the amphibious King Harold, um, croaks — he seemed to fall off the big-screen radar.
No more Austin Powers, and relatively little live action work with the exception of the critically-maligned 2003 features The Cat In The Hat and View From The Top.
“I write everything I do,” Myers explains when asked if he did, indeed, take a de facto hiatus from live action work. “On the average it takes about 60 months from the first molecule of an idea to it being in front of an audience. For somebody that creates their own stuff, I’m well ahead of that curve always.”
For his next film The Love Guru, in which he plays Pitka, a Canadian raised in an Indian ashram who becomes a guru before returning to his home and native land to help a fallen hockey player regain his form and win the Stanley Cup, Myers says he spent over a year merely developing and work-shopping the character.
“When I was on Saturday Night Live, I had the luxury of trying (characters) out that week to see what was going to do what,” Myers says of his creations. “With Austin Powers I would tour for a year and then take a year-and-a-half to write, and a year-and-a-half to bring it to people.”
If the 43-year-old’s process could be summarized into a word, perhaps 'patience' would be the best to describe his protracted approach to character development.
Such are the luxuries of those who have proven their box office might — the Austin Powers series has so far earned nearly $500 million in North America box office receipts alone, with a fourth installment focusing on Dr. Evil to come, Myers confirms.
It’s no surprise the Scarborough-native has managed control his own destiny in an industry where so few can. Perhaps that accounts for his rumoured on-set perfectionism and reputation for being a difficult filmmaking partner.
He sees it in a different light.
“I think control is crazy if you’re working with really talented people,” Myers says. “The most you can do is steer a bit here and there.”
And choose your projects wisely. Or better yet, avoid those projects where you don’t have control, save for the ones helmed by directors you trust implicitly.
The old school actor’s philosophy of working merely to work — think actors-for-hire such as Christopher Walken and Michael Caine, both Oscar-winners but with a healthy selection of second-rate films to their credit--is one to which Myers does not ascribe.
“It gets hard, I have to be honest,” Myers says of his choice of projects. “Many great scripts come my way, but when you’ve invested a year-and-a-half in something, it becomes a year-and-a-half of molecules versus, well what, do I just give that one up?
“I was well-indulged as a child by my relentlessly self-improving, working-class parents to express myself. I’ve enjoyed it. Part of why I take so long is because I’m enjoying myself.”
- Shrek The Third opens in theatres next Friday.