Monty meows and leaps up on the chair beside me. Cats always know when something is up. In this case, what's up is a phone call to Chris Miller the director of Puss in Boots, who is still reeling from his first Oscar nomination last month when Puss in Boots won itself a slot in the Best Animated Feature race. "Oh my god, it's insanity," Miller admits. "That day is a blur. I've never been through this before so I was pretty overwhelmed at the scope of it."
Monty does a little spin and settles in. If my cat understood any words beyond "treat", "Monty" and "no"*, he might be incensed by Miller's next confession when I ask him about his own pet situation. "Technically I'm more of a dog person. I can't lie about that."
* There is still some debate about whether or not Monty understand this word.
Miller is sadly pet free himself at the moment, still in mourning for the loss of a beloved pug. But this past year in cinema has been a dog person's dream and Miller is enjoying it. Martin Scorsese's plea for a write-in vote for "Blackie" at the inaugural Golden Collar Awards made him laugh and, like the rest of the world, Miller is crazy about "Uggie" from The Artist. He sheepishly admits that the main reason he attended a recent screening and Q&A of Oscar's frontrunning film was Uggie-related. "I thought 'I wonder if Uggie will be there. Oh I hope the dog shows up' I'm being totally honest!"
He was surprised and thrilled about Antonio Banderas open letter which added to the Golden Collar fuss by speaking out about Puss's snub. Puss in Boots, the character, has been in Miller's life for nearly ten years and it's the one cat he loves as much as dogs. "That cat was my favorite from the onset," he says recalling his years with the Shrek franchise. He loved Puss' intrigue. "He came with some history already. Or at least you knew he had some incredibly history. "
NATHANIEL: I'm curious about the career track for animation directors. You've done a lot of voicework and story art? How did you graduate to directing?
CHRIS MILLER: I was involved in story early on in my career and the writing end of it. With Antz and the Shrek movies we were given a lot of latitude to come up with material, characters and dialogue.
A lot of times we'd be sort of given an idea and sent off to come up with something. You share it with the producers and the directors and you sell it a bit. In doing that you get a little taste of everything in cinema. You're writing, you're composing shots, you're blocking out scenes, coming up with character interaction. You're really getting a first crack at visualizing a sequence. Looking back it was a great training ground for direction.