March 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM ET
Nicolas Cage has long been an actor who goes his own way. With over 70 films in his 49 years, he's done everything from prestige pictures to teen comedies. But there was one role he didn't want, and doesn't seem to regret turning down: Shrek.
"That is in fact true," he acknowledged to TODAY's Savannah Guthrie Monday when she asked if he'd really said "no" to voicing the gruff green ogre. "Well, the news said it was because of vanity. I think that's a bit strong. But the truth is, I'm not afraid to be ugly in a movie.... When you're drawn, in a way it says more about how children are going to see you than anything else, and I so care about that."
Which is why Grug, the character he voices in "The Croods" may be big and gruff (though neither green nor an ogre), but was a guy the actor could get behind. "I want kids to look at Grug (and think) 'well, he's a little scary, but he's a big teddy bear,'" said the actor. "And I wasn't sure I could do that with Shrek."
But that doesn't mean there was entirely a meeting of the minds on "The Croods." Cage said the overprotective, play-it-safe dad had a personality that was "entirely antithetical to everything I believe."
Instead, Cage has a greater affinity with Grug's daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone); he remembers what it was like being a little hell-raising teenager. "I was impossible," he chuckled. "I'm amazed I'm still alive."
"The Croods" opens in theaters on March 22.