Bette Midler lets the fur fly as voice of ‘Kitty Galore’
By Ed Symkus
GateHouse News Service
Posted Jul 24, 2010 @ 08:22 AM
Bette Midler doesnâ€™t do a lot of screen acting these days. For the past couple years sheâ€™s been on an extended concert tour, keeping those divine vocal chords in shape. But even before refocusing on her music, it had been almost a decade since Midler had a Hollywood starring role, in the dark comedy â€œDrowning Monaâ€ (Roger Ebert memorably described her character as a ferocious harridan), with only cameo appearances in â€œThe Womenâ€ and â€œThe Stepford Wivesâ€ in between.
Midler, 64, goes way beyond ferocious in her new film. She goes for pure, unadulterated evil. Sheâ€™s got the starring role in â€œCats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,â€ which opens Friday.
Well, at least her voice has the role. This is the second time sheâ€™s performed as a cartoon animal, after portraying a pampered poodle in the 1988 film â€œOliver & Company.â€
â€œThere are some parts of it that are quite musical,â€ says Midler of doing voiceover work. â€œTiming is very important. The phrasing works with the mouth of the character. Once the mouth is moving, you have to phrase along with the character thatâ€™s drawn.â€
She goes on to explain that there are some similarities to singing, â€œIf you listen to (the voice), you can hear where the beats are skipped and where you drop a beat or where you rush and catch up a bit. I will say that the fact that Iâ€™ve sung for a long time really, really helped a lot.â€
She laughs and adds, â€œI donâ€™t think it helped the character but it helped me get through the sessions.â€
Thatâ€™s the up side. Voice actors must contend with the fact that their work can be rather isolating.
â€œItâ€™s also a little bit lonely,â€ said Midler. â€œItâ€™s just you in a dark room with a sketch of a character or sometimes a filled-in scene. But you donâ€™t get to work with the other actors. Itâ€™s like one long looping session, for days. The real thrill comes from seeing the finished product.â€ That may be, but while watching, or at least listening to, the film, it seems that Midler must have gotten a charge out of exuding nastiness through her hissing, purring, foul-tempered character, a former house pet who goes on a rampage against dogs and humans after falling into a vat of hair remover and turning into a freakish creature.
â€œKitty Galore is an Egyptian Sphinx cat and is hairless, except for a little hair on her tail,â€ says Midler, who goes on to talk about the character, not the actual cat. â€œSheâ€™s very cranky because sheâ€™s been rejected by her beloved human family, and sheâ€™s determined to rule the world.â€
Sheâ€™s astounded at the filmâ€™s achievement of mixing live animals with animatronic creations and a bit of CGI, and gives kudos to the director Brad Peyton.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing harder than working with animals,â€ says Midler. â€œThose animals really looked like they knew what they were doing, but honestly â€“ theyâ€™re animals! â€˜Stay! Stay! Stay!â€™ Iâ€™ve worked with animals before. Brad was working with live actors and live animals â€“ actually theyâ€™re quite similar! â€“ and then the robots and the cartoons, and it all melds together and you canâ€™t tell which is real and which isnâ€™t. I canâ€™t get over it.â€
Kitty Galore may want to destroy the world, but Bette Midler has other ideas. Sheâ€™s known in activist circles as someone who wants to make the world a better place, and is doing something about it.
â€œA couple of years ago I teamed up with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to plant a million trees in New York City. So far weâ€™ve planted about 375,000,â€ she says proudly. â€œIâ€™m also the founder and chairman of the New York Restoration Project. We clean abandoned parks and public places and we own 55 community gardens where local people grow their own food. We also teach kids about nature and environmental science. Weâ€™ve been at it for 15 years and itâ€™s been one of the great projects of my life.â€
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