Celebrity Spotlight - Garfield
The most famous cat in history, Garfield, is about to star in a new movie all his own. With his ambitious leap from comic superstar to big-screen idol, will there be any living with this sassy orange cat once he’s gone Hollywood?
Despite this mega-millionaire’s incredibly busy schedule, HealthyPet was able to arrange an exclusive interview with Garfield and his creator, Jim Davis, to find out what it’s like to make the transition from cartoon strip kitty to silver screen stardom. As expected, we found Garfield lounging by the pool, wearing nothing but his Ray-Bans and snacking on a light meal of lasagna and cannelloni.
HealthyPet: Garfield, my friend, congratulations on the new movie! What’s it like to be a movie star?
Garfield: It’s about time. This is going to be a production nearly as big as my ego. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll hack up hairballs.
HealthyPet: Garfield, you’re a very witty cat. Do you think you’ll ever run out of quips and feline bon mots?
Garfield: Not up to me. It’s up to Davis. He stays up later than I do. I’m just the front man for this routine.
HealthyPet: In some ways, Garfield, given how well known you are, you could say that you are one of the major voices of our time. What do you think accounts for your universal appeal?
Garfield: Well, I’m a cat. There are cats all over the world. We’re by and large nonjudgmental (with the exception of present company). And—I can’t help it—I happen to have opinions.
HealthyPet: Garfield, let’s talk a minute about the human–animal bond. Dogs seem so attuned to people. Do you think cats, deep down—even if they don’t like to admit it—have that same sort of connection with their humans?
Garfield: To be honest, we do understand...we just don’t care.
HealthyPet: Garfield, you’re shameless. But here’s a personal question. We are big proponents of responsible pet care here at HealthyPet. So, we simply must know. Are you neutered?
Garfield: Let me put it this way. I come from a long line of bachelors.
HealthyPet: Well, then, I have a family tree question. If Jon Arbuckle is your owner, what does that make Jim Davis?
Garfield: Davis? He’s staff. In fact, to remind himself of that he has a plaque on his office wall that says, “Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.” I’ve seen it.
HealthyPet: Garfield, back to the movie. Your work on the movie trailer seems quite…strenuous. Danc-ing. Cavorting. Sliding down banisters. How did a couch-lovin’ kitty like you prepare for the physical aspects of your role? Did you have a personal trainer? Did you load up on carbs and pasta?
Garfield: Two words, lady: Stunt double. It’s amazing what they can do with special effects these days. I did do the Elvis thing, however (you’ll have to see the movie to find out what the “Elvis thing” is).
HealthyPet: Your new movie is due to open in June. Are you planning your big entrance to the premiere—your first walk down the red carpet?
HealthyPet: Did you remember to invite Odie? (Odie is the friendly pooch—and Garfield’s rival—in the comic strip and movie.)
Garfield: You know…I don’t know!
HealthyPet: While we’re on the subject, what is your relationship with Odie? Despite all your catty observations, you seem to like the guy.
Garfield: We have a good, cooperative relationship. Odie provides all the attention, love, and adoration. I provide all the abuse.
HealthyPet: I know you’re such a busy cat, Garfield. Overeating. Oversleeping. What else does a celebrity like you try to pack into your busy day?
Garfield: Ummmm….is there more?
HealthyPet: Thanks, Garfield. I guess it’s back to work for you. Ah…would you like a fork?
ALL ABOUT GARFIELD
What explains Garfield’s popularity? After more than 25 years, he’s bigger than ever. Garfield creator and mastermind, Jim Davis, says his feline alter ego has the ever-growing popularity of real-life cats to thank for his success. Davis himself says, “I love cats. Of course I do. I have to work for one!” When Davis first started drawing his cartoon creation, he said, “I worked the hardest with Garfield on making the ‘smirk’.” However, 25 years later, he says, “I’m still trying to get it right.” He says the challenge of trying to get “seven perfect gags a week” still hasn’t worn off for him. “If anything, it’s gotten more interesting as the years have gone by, not less.”
What’s next for Garfield? Davis would love to see Garfield on stage, although nothing has been talked about. Will we find out that Garfield can also sing? “Let me put it this way: He thinks he can,” laughs Davis.
As the movie trailer says, “It’s All About Me—Ow!” Garfield’s first major motion picture stars Breckin Meyer as owner Jon Arbuckle, Jennifer Love Hewitt as veterinarian Liz Wilson (pictured above), and a computer-generated Garfield, voiced over by none other than Bill Murray. Other voice talent includes Debra Messing from Will & Grace and Brad Garrett from Everybody Loves Raymond.
Garfield creator Jim Davis calls it “a classic story” that was written by the same team (Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen) that wrote Toy Story. The teaming of Bill Murray with the Garfield character is perfection itself. “It’s a great marriage of voice and character. Bill Murray? That’s attitude!” Davis said it was not easy to reach Murray to do the project. When they did find him, “We called him and asked him, waited two beats, and then he said, ‘I get it.’” Davis even thinks Murray looks a little like Garfield, with those “lazy eyes” and funny smirk.
The movie, which is being released by 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment, is due to open in June.
Since Garfield debuted in 1978, he has become the most widely syndicated comic strip in the world. The strip is read by 263 million readers in nearly 2,600 newspapers worldwide. He has had his own television show, has sold 130 million books (including last year’s 25th anniversary commemorative coffee table book, In Dog Years, I’d Be Dead), has won four Emmy Awards for his television specials, and logs more than 1.5 million visits to his popular interactive Web site, www.garfield.com, each month.
WHAT NOT TO FEED A CAT
While he makes a lot of jokes about Garfield eating lasagna and other bizarre foods in his comic strip, Davis points out that it is very important for real life cats to be fed a proper diet. He’s sacrificed humor on more than one occasion to avoid sending the wrong message to experienced pet owners who might read his strip. “Garfield is in over 2,600 newspapers. Early on, I had Garfield eating chicken and turkey.” Davis would get letters, however, pointing out that a cat could choke on a chicken bone. So now while he might still have a strip showing a chicken bone in the picture, Garfield will never actually be eating it.
AND THE REAL STAR IS…
Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone—least of all, Garfield—but standing behind the man, the movie, and the world’s most famous cat is…. a dog! Jim Davis’s real-life pet at home is his 13-year-old chocolate lab, Molly. “As opposed to Garfield, I watch her weight very closely,” says Davis. She also gets medicine for her aging joints, as well as for her thyroid, to keep her at her happiest and healthiest. “She’s a delight,” says Davis of his beloved canine companion.
Molly goes to work with him at the PAWS headquarters, where she gets lots of pats from Davis’ 55 employees. She also has her own real life “Liz Wilson”—a dedicated veterinarian whom she sees regularly. Davis thinks blood tests and other preventive health care measures are very important for pets—that’s how they discovered Molly’s thyroid problem. She appeared to be just fine, but the routine blood work picked up on her very treatable abnormality. He thinks preventive screening tests are “doubly important for cats” because “cats don’t let on. They are good at masking problems. They don’t seem to complain as much. Except for Garfield. He’s the exception.”