FOR A MAN WHO APPEARS NAKED THROUGHOUT the opening credits of his Austin Powers sequel, The Spy Who Shagged Me, Mike Myers is surprisingly shy. On film, in a neat riff on the original’s naked Elizabeth Hurley sequence, Myers’ modesty is protected by a variety of strategically placed objects many of them oddly phallic. At the Cannes Film Festival, sitting at a table opposite a film journalist, he feels far more exposed.

‘I’m actually a very shy person,’ insists Myers. ‘but there's a long tradition of partial and complete male nudity in British and Canadian comedy, and who am I to buck tradition? I think in Canada, because it’s so cold, people are rarely naked. So when you are, people find it quite funny, because it’s so shocking.’

Like his idol. British comedian Peter Sellers, Myers is more confident when hiding behind the multiple characters he creates: ‘In these movies, I get to play someone who’s very extrovert, Austin Powers. And as Dr Evil, although I have no formal education, I get to


Shagadelic super-spy Austin Powers has just knocked Obi-Wan Kenobi off the top slot in the American box office charts. Star MIKE MYERS explains what's so cool about The Spy Who Shagged Me. Words: Nigel Floyd

play somebody who is so absolutely arrogant about their own education that they’re the type of bad guy who wants to tell you everything that they know before they put you into an easily escapable death situation. And with Fat Bastard [a gargantuan Scottish spy whose sole subjects of conversation are farting, crapping and eating babies], I get to play somebody really fat and gross. So it was a lot of fun.’ Watching The Spy Who Shagged Me in the rarefied atmosphere of the Cannes Film Festival was a bizarre experience. Only the forty or so journalists who were allowed to interview Mike Myers and his curvy co-star Heather Graham were granted entry to an exclusive ‘Out of Competition’ screening. Nevertheless, perhaps in reaction to the high-brow atmosphere of the festival proper, we chortled, snorted and thigh- slapped our way through Austin Powers’ latest rude, crude, pun-infested adventure. As well as Heather Graham’s Felicity Shagwell (‘Shagwell by name, shag very well by reputation’), there’s a statuesque Russian spy called Ivana Humpalot (Kristen Johnston from TV’s Third Rock From

The Sun) and her accomplice Robin Swallows (‘Swallows by name . . .‘). Who knew then that this immodest sequel would go on to gross nearly $55 million in its first week at the US box office?

Myers started out doing stand-up at Toronto’s Second City improv theatre and later created a wide variety of memorable characters, including Wayne of Wayne's World, for Saturday Night Live. Given the Canadian comedian‘s roots, his biggest challenge was to reconcile the demands of a (loosely) structured plot with the creative spontaneity of improvisation. This tricky balancing act was made easier for him by returning director Jay Roach, ‘a super-sharp guy‘ who Myers describes as ‘a good nerd‘.

‘Of course, you can’t improvise the whole thing,’ explains Myers seriously. ‘That would be like NASA saying, “Let’s improvise going to Mars”. But Jay is a very smart guy, so he was able to work out the logistics of the schedule and build in time for improvisation. I like performing, so in the end 30—40% of the