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Whatever Happened To The Cast Of Shrek?

Even more than two decades after its premiere, the "Shrek" series is one of the most successful animated franchises of all time. Originally based on William Steig's picture book, the series now comprises numerous mainline films, spin-offs, shorts, television series, and video games. With a starring cast of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow, the original film tells the story of the titular ogre, who goes on a quest to rescue a princess in order to save his swamp from being overrun by fairytale creatures.

A parody of the traditional Disney animated films, "Shrek" pokes fun at the typical tropes of the genre while also including plenty of adult references and jokes. This no doubt contributed to the appeal of "Shrek" as not just another kid's cartoon, but rather something that the entire family could watch and enjoy. While the main story ended in 2010, the franchise is still going strong. And just like the series itself, the various actors who were part of the original cast have also continued their careers, although you might be surprised at exactly what some of them have done since the release of "Shrek" in 2001.

Mike Myers

Mike Myers wasn't actually the first choice to play "Shrek." According to Yahoo! News, that honor was initially given to Chris Farley. The actor recorded most of his lines for the part but tragically died from a drug overdose in 1997 before completing the film. DreamWorks then hired Myers to replace Farley, with the actor and writers changing the character to be an angrier and more abrasive figure. After viewing a rough cut of the film in 2000, Myers requested to redo his performance with a Scottish accent, which The Guardian reported cost the studio $4 million. The changes worked though, and the "Shrek" franchise went on to become the second-highest-grossing animated film franchise (behind "Despicable Me").

Back in the day, Myers was a huge name in comedy — appearing on "Saturday Night Live" and starring in classic films like "Wayne's World" and the "Austin Powers" series. Since the main "Shrek" series initially ended in 2010, however, he hasn't been quite as busy. He made his directorial debut with the documentary "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon" in 2013 and went on to host a remake of "The Gong Show" in 2017. He also appeared on stage with the remaining Monty Python members for the final night of the "Monty Python Live (Mostly)" tour at the O2 Arena (per The Hollywood Reporter). He's continued acting in feature films like "Terminal" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 2018, and he created and starred in the 2022 Netflix parody series "The Pentaverate."

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy has played the role of Donkey in every "Shrek" film, following up on his successful voice acting role in Disney's "Mulan" in 1998. The character comes from the original novel by William Steig, like Shrek himself, and he plays an important role as the ogre's loudmouthed sidekick. Donkey appears in all four mainline movies and is a constant presence in the overarching story. According to The Mercury News, the animators for the film based Donkey on a miniature donkey from Barron Park called Perry.

Before landing the role in the animated franchise, Murphy was one of the biggest movie stars and comedians in the world. He starred in a number of hit films, including "Trading Places," "Coming to America," "The Nutty Professor," and the "Beverly Hills Cop" series. Before that, he starred on "Saturday Night Live" as one of the show's main cast members.

Following "Shrek," Murphy largely returned to adult movies after a series of family-friendly releases. He played James Early in 2006's "Dreamgirls" and went on to co-star in "Tower Heist" alongside Ben Stiller and Casey Affleck in 2011. After 35 years away from the show, Murphy returned to "Saturday Night Live," and The Guardian reported widespread praise for his stint as host. He later starred in "Coming 2 America" and produced and acted in "Dolemite Is My Name," winning critical praise for his performance.

Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz portrays Princess Fiona in all four original "Shrek" films. Unlike the other two main characters in "Shrek," Fiona is only loosely based on the character from William Steig's novel. Born a human, she's cursed so that she turns into an ogre at night and risks being left in that state permanently if she can't find her true love. However, she ultimately falls in love with Shrek and remains in her ogre form. The original movie was her first animated feature and followed her success in releases such as "Charlie's Angels" and "The Mask."

Diaz took a break from acting following the release of "Annie" in 2014 and later confirmed that she was retiring. Speaking at a Goop Wellness Summit Saturday event in 2017, Diaz revealed that this was largely due to the fact that she was tired of constantly traveling and being stuck on set without time to be herself (per E! Online). The former actor has since authored multiple books, made a number of investments in health-related startup companies, and continues to make regular appearances on panels and at events. She also appeared on "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 7" as a guest judge.

John Lithgow

Outside of the three main cast members, John Lithgow is arguably the biggest name in "Shrek," playing the villain Lord Farquaad throughout the first film. The ruler of Duloc, Farquaad hates fairytale creatures and sends Shrek and Donkey on their mission to rescue Princess Fiona so that he can become a king. The film carries on a rich tradition of the actor playing villains — something that Lithgow once told the AV Club he particularly enjoys.

Lithgow had a varied career before appearing in "Shrek" in 2001 and has been widely celebrated for his performances on stage, television, and the big screen. He's won a whole host of awards and has been nominated twice at the Oscars. Some of Lithgow's most notable roles are in films like "Terms of Endearment," "Footloose," and "The World According to Garp," along with various television appearances in shows like "3rd Rock from the Sun."

Following the success of "Shrek," Lithgow continued his prestigious career. He played the villain Arthur Mitchell in "Dexter," who was ranked in a fan poll by Radio Times as the best antagonist of the series. He also portrayed Winston Churchill in Netflix's "The Crown" and Roger Ailes in "Bombshell." The veteran actor has even appeared in a number of comedies, including "Daddy's Home 2" and "Confessions of a Shopaholic."

Vincent Cassel

Vincent Cassel is a French actor who's had a prolific career both in Hollywood and in his native country. In "Shrek" he portrays Robin Hood, the self-proclaimed hero who attempts to rescue Princess Fiona from Shrek. Speaking with a French accent, the character and his band of Merry Men battle with the three main characters but later attend Fiona and Shrek's wedding.

Though he first came to prominence for his role in the 1995 film "La Haine," Cassell has mostly appeared in English-language movies since "Shrek." He gained fame in 2004 thanks to his appearance as the Night Fox in "Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen," and more recently he's had roles in films like "Black Swan" and "Jason Bourne." He also appears in the HBO series "Westworld," where he plays the part of Engerraund Serac.

Additionally, Cassel has voiced a number of other characters in animated films, but mostly in their French-language versions. These have included "Robots" and the "Ice Age" movies, in which he's played the saber-toothed tiger Diego.

Conrad Vernon

Although not a main character, the Gingerbread Man is one of the most memorable and popular characters in the "Shrek" movies. He's voiced by Conrad Vernon in all of the movies in the franchise and is a living cookie who can talk and walk around. The Gingerbread Man appears only briefly in the first film, where he's interrogated by Lord Farquaad, but he takes on a bigger role in the sequels.

A voice actor, producer, and director, Vernon began working for DreamWorks as a story artist on the 1998 movie "Antz" and continued in that role for "Shrek." He went on to co-direct the 2004 sequel with Andrew Adamson and Kelly Asbury before working on other DreamWorks films such as "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."

More recently, Vernon co-directed the animated "Addams Family" films with Greg Tiernan. The pair also worked together on "Sausage Party" with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jonah Hill. For most of these films, Vernon has also portrayed characters as a voice actor. He's also contributed to other films like "The Boss Baby" and "The Emoji Movie" by voicing a variety of characters.

Chris Miller

Chris Miller voices two characters in "Shrek" and its sequels. The first is Mister Geppetto, the father of Pinocchio who sells his wooden son to Farquaad's troops to claim a bounty. The second character is the Magic Mirror, a mystical item captured by Lord Farquaad who informs him he can only be a king if he marries a princess. The Magic Mirror is responsible for showing Farquaad who Princess Fiona is, which prompts the ruler to send Shrek to rescue her.

Miller began his career in the film industry in the late 1980s, working on a variety of projects. He then went on to work as a storyboard artist for "Antz" before moving on to "Shrek" as a story artist and voice actor. Since then, he's continued to voice characters in a wide array of movies, from "The Boss Baby" to "Turbo." His most famous voice role is likely Kowalski the penguin from the "Madagascar" series.

Outside of art and voice acting, Miller has worked in video game production and has directed a number of movies. He made his directorial debut for feature-length films with "Shrek the Third" and would go on to direct the spin-off "Puss in Boots" in 2011 — a project that was nominated for Best Feature Animation at the Academy Awards.

Cody Cameron

Cody Cameron is an artist, voice actor, and director who voices two characters in the original "Shrek" and its sequels. Most notably, he voices Pinocchio, a wooden puppet brought to life who helps Shrek on his various adventures. The character quickly becomes friends with Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey and repeatedly comes to their aid when needed. Cameron also lent his voice to the Three Little Pigs, a group of anthropomorphic pigs who speak with German accents and are banished to Shrek's swamp by Lord Farquaad.

In addition to providing his acting skills to "Shrek," Cameron also worked as a storyboard artist and writer, providing additional dialogue to the movie and several other DreamWorks films such as "Shark Tale" and "Madagascar." He held the same roles on "Surf's Up" before becoming an important figure in the "Open Season" franchise, where he voiced Mr. Weenie and went on to direct "Open Season 3." Along with Kris Pearn, Cameron directed "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2." More recently, he worked on "Trolls World Tour" and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

Simon J. Smith

Simon J. Smith only has a minor role in "Shrek," voicing one of the Three Blind Mice. According to Smith's official site, he began working for DreamWorks in 1997 and quickly took on a leading role for "Antz" as the head of layout. After this, Smith continued in the same role for "Shrek" as well as providing his acting talents. Prior to working for DreamWorks, he was responsible for the CGI in the Pet Shop Boys music video for "Go West."

Unlike many of the voice actors from the first "Shrek" film, Smith didn't go on to reprise his role for "Shrek 2" or any of the other sequels. However, he did stay at DreamWorks and worked on subsequent movies and the "Shrek 4-D" experience at Universal Studios. He co-directed "Bee Movie" and "Penguins of Madagascar," along with the DVD short "Megamind: The Button of Doom." More recently, he worked as a director on "Baymax Dreams" for Disney in 2018.

Christopher Knights

Christopher Knights is a filmmaker and voice actor who first rose to prominence working at DreamWorks. In an interview with Rotoscopers, Knights explained how he started as an editor at the company and moved into voice acting after having two minor roles in "Shrek." He served as the first assistant director on the film and provided the voices for one of the Three Blind Mice and Thelonious — Lord Farquaad's henchman who tortures the Gingerbread Man and threatens the Magic Mirror.

Knights reprised his role as one of the Three Blind Mice in "Shrek 2" and also worked as an editor on all three sequels in the franchise. He had similar roles on the "Madagascar" film franchise, "Megamind," and "Spirit Untamed," but he's probably best known for voicing Private the penguin — the youngest of the four penguins who appear in "Madagascar." More recently, Knights voiced King Gorge's coach in the 2021 animated movie "Rumble."

Aron Warner

A film producer first and foremost, Aron Warner has had a long career working all over Hollywood. His early career saw him take on various roles at 20th Century Fox, where he worked as a production executive on films like "Independence Day" and "Alien Resurrection." He also collaborated with James Cameron on "True Lies" and "Titanic." Warner joined DreamWorks in 1997 to work on "Antz" and served as a producer on "Shrek" and its sequels. He also voiced the Big Bad Wolf, a character who's sent to Shrek's swamp and becomes friends with the main characters.

Since the release of "Shrek Forever After" in 2010, Warner has continued to work as a producer on a variety of movies. He was part of the production crew for "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" in 2012 and acted as executive producer on the animated films "Free Birds," "The Book of Life," and "The Angry Birds Movie 2." More recently, he worked on "Wish Dragon" for Sony Pictures Animation, where he collaborated with Chris Bremble and Jackie Chan. Talking to AWN, Warner explained that it was a challenging film to make but ended up being successful.

Jim Cummings

Despite being an incredibly prolific voice actor, Jim Cummings only has a very small part in "Shrek." He plays the Captain of the Duloc Guards, a soldier who serves under Lord Farquaad and is responsible for capturing fairytale creatures. The captain later brings the Magic Mirror to his master and organizes the tournament that Shrek interrupts, making his final appearance in the movie.

Outside of "Shrek," Cummings is incredibly accomplished in both movies and television. He has hundreds of credits to his name, voicing characters that include Winnie the Pooh, the Tasmanian Devil, and Darkwing Duck. He's also worked as a voice double, with The Huffington Post reporting that he performed the final third of the song "Be Prepared" from "The Lion King" when Jeremy Irons had trouble with his voice. In recent times, Cummings has continued to appear in a range of projects on screen. Some of his more modern releases include "The Princess and the Frog," "DuckTales", and "Christopher Robin." 

Andrew Adamson

Andrew Adamson directed "Shrek" alongside Vicky Jenson, and the New Zealand-born filmmaker would go on to direct its sequel with Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon. While he is primarily a director, producer, and screenwriter, Adamson also played a small voice role in "Shrek." He portrays the Duloc Mascot near the beginning of the film, a character located outside of Duloc who appears in costume as Lord Farquaad with an oversized head. When Shrek arrives at the city, he hurriedly attempts to escape but knocks himself out after running into a wall.

After his success with the first two "Shrek" films, Adamson went on to direct and co-write "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Following the critical and commercial success of his first foray into live-action films, Adamson directed the sequel, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," and acted as a producer for "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." He also served as a producer on Shrek the Third. In 2011, Adamson executive produced "Puss In Boots" and followed that up the next year with "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away," which he wrote, co-produced, and directed.

Jacquie Barnbrook

Jacquie Barnbrook's voice can be heard briefly in "Shrek" during the battle between the ogre and Ducloc's guards. The fight plays out like a wrestling match, with Shrek and Donkey teaming up to take down the soldiers in a ring. Barnbrook's character is an older woman in the crowd who can be heard cheering and then shouting at Shrek to hit a downed knight with a folding chair across the back. This is the first and only time that the character appears in the movie, and it's Barnbrook's only role in the franchise.

Since "Shrek," Barnbrook has had a number of acting roles across film and television. Some of her biggest projects have been "The Good Girl," "Beowulf," and "9-1-1." The actor has also appeared in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and had a recurring part in "Californication." Outside of acting, she's worked as a visual effects producer on projects like "The Hunger Games," "Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi," and "Sonic the Hedgehog."

Kathleen Freeman

The late Kathleen Freeman has a small but important role at the beginning of "Shrek." She plays an old woman who owns Donkey and attempts to sell him to the Dulac guards to earn some money. However, Donkey pretends that he can't talk at first, and he only speaks after beginning his escape attempt. Exactly what happens to the owner character is unknown, but she certainly never got the payday she was looking for.

The movie proved to be Freeman's final film role, as she passed away a few months after its release. According to The Washington Post, Freeman died on 23 August 2001 from lung cancer at the age of 82. Just the week before her death, Freeman was still part of the "Full Monty" Broadway cast. A veteran of voice acting, Freeman lent her talents to animated films and TV series like "Batman Beyond," "Rugrats," "FernGully," and the original "DuckTales." Her live-action credits, which go all the way back to the late 1940s, include projects like "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Hogan's Heroes," "Singin' in the Rain," "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult," and "The Blues Brothers"