The idea for the new movie The Muppets started on the set of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which ended in a lavish puppet musical, where the Jim Henson Company designed the puppets. So inspired by the scene, after the film was finished, Segel and Stoller joined forces to write a new Muppet movie.
Segel portrays Gary, whose brother Walter (who suspiciously looks like a Muppet) is the Muppets biggest fan. When Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) take a trip to Los Angeles, they bring Walter along, and all three visit the old Muppet studio where all their TV shows and movies were made. But during their tour of the building they find out an oilman named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) is attempting to buy the facility, so they go in search of Kermit the frog, and beg him to find and bring back the whole gang to do a telethon in order to save the studio.
Jason Segel and Amy Adams spoke with us about the movie, which features songs and dances and, of course, Miss Piggy!
How did you come up with the idea of the movie?
Jason: Coming up with the idea of the movie was actually fairly simple. What do the Muppets do best? They put on a show. So I knew immediately the movie was going to be about putting on a show. That’s the real spirit of the Muppets.
They always had a great villain. So we thought of Tex Richmond, the evil oil baron. Then once Chris Cooper came into our minds it was very simple.
What occurred to me was that it has been 12 years since the Muppets were last on the big screen. And I wanted to acknowledge that this movie was bringing them back to the forefront of comedy where they belong.
Because they should have been making movie this whole time, grand, big dance movies, song and dance numbers like the old MGM style musicals.
As for Miss Piggy’s part, she wanted it bigger. I’m not going to lie to you. And she wanted a very strange credit sequence where we would all be introduced, and then it would say ‘And Miss Piggy,’ but then that would just stay on [the screen] throughout the entire movie.
What was it like returning to Disney after Enchanted, to sing and dance again in The Muppets?
Amy: It is a return to singing and dancing, and it was a lot of fun. I got involved because Jason and Kermit sent me a DVD, singing to me and asking me to be in the film.
I started crying.
I was definitely going to do the movie.
Kermit was a big part of my decision. I don’t like to tell Jason that, because he’s a little sensitive that I might be partial to Kermit, but I am.
What was the big dance finale on Hollywood Boulevard like to shoot?
Jason: The dance number came very naturally. (he laughs) You can see my body I’m not made for dancing.
Amy: Don’t sell yourself short.
Jason: Yeah, I’m very light and agile, and I was happy to be able to help Amy get her footing.
Amy: I really needed Jason because we actually learned that dance in about an hour on the same day we shot it. So I’m telling you Jason is actually much more talented than he gives himself credit for.
He’s actually a very, very good dancer, and to partner he was quite a natural.
Jason: You were afraid I was going to drop you.
Amy: He only broke a couple of ribs, and he didn’t drop me but he did, I think, lift my skirt up by accident. That was embarrassing. But it was a lot of fun.
Jason: Yeah, that was actually a special night for me, too. We filmed that the night of my birthday and Hollywood Boulevard was filled with thousands of extras, and I walked out and all of the Muppets sang Happy Birthday to me, which was the greatest moment of my life. It was fantastic.
Were you fans of the original TV series, The Muppet Show, and their movies?
Amy: I was really into the Muppet movies, the TV shows, the songs. It’s like every kid’s dream when you’re playing with your stuffed animals, you wish they’d come to life and talk to you. And now, the Muppets are real. It’s so great to have that physical presence in front of you.
Jason: I grew up on the first three movies, and I think there is something about them that’s lodged in my brain and sense of humor somewhere. The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan each influenced [this] a little bit.
I borrowed once of my favorite jokes from The Great Muppet Caper. Walter and I are brothers, and we don’t really feel the need to explain it, just like in that movie they never explained the Kermit and Fozzie Bear were identical twins.
Growing up, I thought that was one of the funniest jokes I’d ever heard.
The idea of putting on a show came from The Muppets Take Manhattan. And meeting the gang along the way came very much from the original Muppet Movie. So it really is a mix in paying homage to those three films.
What did you take away from this experience that was different from other movies that you’ve worked on?
Amy: For me, I think it was my first family film that I did after having a daughter, and it was really cool to work with the Muppets. They were a big part of my childhood. So every day was me reliving my childhood while I had a child, and that was really cool and really special.
It’s just going to be fun to introduce her to these guys and to know that I have a relationship with them. And I’m just excited that she has a film that she can watch as well. I had a blast with [the Muppets]. They’re amazing.
Jason: For me, there are a lot of reasons to choose what movie you’re going to do next, and nothing can ever beat doing something you love. That was the lesson I took away from it. I was working with my childhood idols and with [Amy] who I think is the best actress of our generation.