His animal magnetism helps create box office behemoth

It’s probably not the first time Eddie Murphy has been called an ass. This time, however, it paid off huge at the box office.

Sitting in an isolated booth reciting dialogue doesn’t exactly conjure up images of Oscar, but Murphy gave so much life to Donkey and box office heft to “Shrek” — pic has grossed over $267 million domestically — he could find himself up for a supporting actor nom.

“The thing that amazed me with him is that, besides being a good actor, he’s funny and warm and he brought all of that,” says “Shrek” co-director Andrew Adamson. “To be standing in an empty room and recite lines that make you want to cry because you’re laughing so hard isn’t easy.”

The process for recording “Shrek” took four years, with several starts and stops. Murphy says it wasn’t difficult keeping in character over the course of the production because Adamson and co-director Vicky Jenson were focused on maintaining Donkey’s joie de vivre.

Adamson says Murphy often improvised a word or line when he thought it would create a funnier scene. Both Adamson and Jenson welcomed the spontaneity. The voice recordings were done before the computer images were created, so if Murphy changed the script, Donkey was drawn to match the dialogue.

“After working with him, I’ve learned you can’t write the way he’s going to say it,” admits Adamson.

Murphy’s voice will be emanating from Donkey’s mouth once again as pre-production for “Shrek 2″ is under way. The pic is skedded for a 2004 release.

“You get used to the voices,” Adamson gleefully says after acknowledging Murphy is coming back for the sequel. “I can write it and hear it how he’ll end up saying it.”

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