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Jeffrey Katzenberg is the head of Dreamworks – he is no longer credited as a producer of any kind on Shrek The Third – he’s just The Boss, as he tells Andrew L. Urban in an interview that canvasses everything from the irony of his impatient nature while working in time-consuming animation, to how he gets his therapy during interviews like this one.

For one of the world’s most powerful movie makers, Jeffrey Katzenberg is a surprisingly compact figure, but expensively groomed, with hand made black leather slip ons, charcoal grey slacks with cuffs, fitting dark T shirt and a head that’s (prematurely) designer almost-bald, completed by fine rimmed glasses. And a billion dollar smile (which comes with its own bank account). He displays the kind of professionalism and courtesy that gives him the aura of noblesse; he is so successful he doesn’t have to be a brat. In a spectacularly successful 35 year career, Katzenberg has made commercial hits and creative successes. Now the CEO of publicly listed Dreamworks, he is arguably the one true independent Movie Mogul, in a studio landscape that is full of corporate ownerships. He doesn’t wear a suit.

We meet in a sundrenched harbourside hotel room (of the expensive kind, at the Park Hyatt) with the sails of the Sydney Opera House reflecting sunlight into the sophisticated ambiance. He is on time, what’s more, and he sits at the writing desk, placing his phone and some papers nearby. (Sure enough, a call from Holwyood interrupts us about 3 minutes into the interview, but he offers to call back.)

In an adjacent room, Cameron Diaz is handling tabloid questions, as the duo spruik Shrek The Third on a junket that precedes the film’s worldwide release. We begin by noting how it seems only yesterday that I was talking to him at the Cannes Film Festival, where Shrek first came into this movie world with a historic festival premiere. Now we’re taking about Shrek 3 – will there really be 98 films as Cameron Diaz joked when asked if she would do more?

The answer is no: there are 5 chapters to the Shrek saga, though, so two more are due. “That’s another six years ... it’ll be 17 years total spent on Shrek when we’re finished.” Not bad for an impatient man. “Yes, I know … if you look up the dictionary, you’ll see the definition of the word irony,” he quips. “It says: Jeffrey Katzenberg making animated movies.”

But Katzenberg, who produced the first, no longer takes a credit on the film. He’s just The Boss of the studio. “I’m more of an editor than a creator. I give the team the benefit of my mistakes…”

Katzenberg goes on in this vein, praising the efforts of the entire team. He likens his own progress to a football team, in fact. “At the start, I was on the field every day. I was the striker. Then I became the coach as the creative team grew and became stronger, and now I’m in the owner’s box.” The big drawback in that position (not having a producer credit), a regret he openly admits, is that he can no longer to aspire to personally win an Academy Award, “this industry’s highest accolade”.

"I’m a vacationaholic – I don’t regard what I do as work."

But he still loves his job; he gets up at dawn and has a punishing schedule. When I suggest he may be labelled a workaholic, he says that’s not accurate. “I’m a vacationaholic – I don’t regard what I do as work.” Neither does he know where his good instincts come from, nor what is his special talent, although he does mention instinct as a key characteristic for a producer.

What he doesn’t like is “when it doesn’t work!” The high point is “standing at the back of the cinema, hearing the crowd roaring with laughter – that’s the greatest reward in the world.

Hear the rest of what Katzenberg has to say – including the films of which he is most proud and why, plus how he feels he’s getting his therapy via interviews like this one.

Published June 7, 2007


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Jeffrey Katzenberg with Cameron Diaz in Sydney

Audio File 1; Audio File 2


SHREK THE THIRD – Australian release: June 7, 2007
Director Chris Miller.
With his new father-in-law (now a frog by curse) King Harold (voice of John Cleese) dying, Shrek (Mike Myers) is promoted to heir of the throne of Far, Far Away. Not ready to give up his beloved swamp, Shrek recruits his friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to install the forgotten nobody and (vaguely second in line) Artie (Justin Timberlake) as the new king. Meanwhile the jilted and bitter Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) plots a coup d’etat - but Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) rallies a band of royal girlfriends to thwart that plan, with all of them having to make one final super fight to seize the day.

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