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Oscars 2012: 15 Icons Recount the Night That Changed Their Lives Forever

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    Items 1-10
    Eddie Murphy, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Cameron Diaz & Mike Myers
    Joe Pugliese; Wesley Mann
    The Green Team
    Eddie Murphy (1 nomination), Jeffrey Katzenberg (1 nomination) Cameron Diaz and Mike Myers

    Even if Shrek, the 2001 movie about a lovable green ogre, hadn’t gone on to become the top-grossing animated film franchise of all time — the original and its four sequels have amassed $3.5 billion worldwide — its place in the Oscar record books was guaranteed.

    Until 2002, toons were something of a neglected stepchild at the Academy Awards. But as they began to gather more commercial and critical respect beginning with the Disney renaissance in the ’80s and the arrival of Pixar in the ’90s, all that changed. The Academy decided to set a trophy aside for best animated feature, and the first one went to Shrek, an adaptation of the William Steig children’s classic whose eventual victory was by no means guaranteed.

    “It could have been a train wreck. We broke every rule. The movie was irreverent, subversive,” says DreamWorks Animation CEO Katzenberg, 61, of the fractured fairy tale, directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson. But thanks to shrewd casting, it also had heart. Looking back, Myers, 48, says he loved the idea that the title character was “a traditionally bad guy who becomes a hero,” and he decided Shrek should have a Scottish brogue because “it’s a warm accent that is usually working-class, and ogres are working-class.”

    As for Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey, Murphy, 50, took off-the-wall non sequiturs like “In the morning, I’m making waffles!” and sold them with irrepressible enthusiasm. “Nobody makes words their own the way Eddie does,” attests Katzenberg.

    The Academy agreed, and the Oscar validated their efforts. Still, no one could have predicted to what degree Shrek would become part of the popular culture via a Broadway musical, TV spinoffs, even theme park attractions. Reuniting every few years for the sequels, the actors grew even closer to their characters. Says the movie’s Princess Fiona, Diaz, 39, somewhat wistfully now that no immediate new Shrek adventure is on the horizon, “People come up to me all the time and tell me how much they love it, how much it means to their kids, that they watch it all the time.” — Gregg Kilday

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