Co-writer and star recalls cast's 'wild love of the Muppets' on set, in MTV News' Fall Movie Preview.
By Kara Warner
For those of us who grew up with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and the rest of the fun, furry gang known as the Muppets, their upcoming return to the big screen is one of the most anticipated of the year. And they're coming back with a bang: Their first feature film in more than a decade features an A-list cast, a killer marketing campaign, a hit soundtrack and a slew of celeb cameos.
MTV News recently caught up with "The Muppets" co-writer and star Jason Segel to find out who is the funniest and most fun Muppet to hang out with, why people act differently around puppets and what's generally in store for Muppet lovers old and new.
MTV: We know it's like picking a favorite child, but who is your favorite Muppet?
Jason Segel: I must say Walter is going to be a new favorite. You haven't gotten to know him that well yet, but he sort of represents the point of view of the audience. He's just a crazy Muppets fan, and he reminds me a lot of Kermit before Kermit became Kermit. He's wildly hopeful and believes in goodness and friendship, so I have a real affinity for Walter.
MTV : Who is Walter's favorite Muppet?
Segel: Kermit. He is a wild, wild, wild Kermit fan. He has Kermit on his watch. Walter grew up with me in the city of normal people. He's the only puppet where he grew up, so when he saw "The Muppet Show" for the first time, he sort of felt like, "Oh my gosh, there are other people out there like me."
MTV : You have a lot of celeb Muppet fans in the film. Who geeked out the most with the Muppets?
Segel: I must say, there is something intrinsic of anyone who grew up with the Muppets, they have a wild love for the Muppets that comes out as soon as they come to set. Almost everybody legitimately freaked out. I think the thing that was the coolest was seeing Academy Award winner Chris Cooper — he's not a cameo; he's our villain — but this guy is one of the best actors alive, and to see him talking to these Muppets, looking them straight in the eye and laughing, there's a puppeteer right next to the Muppet, operating the puppet, but he looks straight at the puppet, and to see that that even happens to someone like Chris Cooper, it reaffirmed everything that I was working for.
MTV : There's something about puppets ...
Segel: There is something else. ... You can never touch an animated character; you could never actually be friends with it in its world. But with puppets, they exist in our world, and you can interact with them and touch them and feel like they're your friends, and I think that, viscerally, there's a different reaction to that. Sorry, I'm a total puppet geek. I could talk about this for hours. There was a little girl who came to set, and she got to meet Kermit. The puppeteers are always so gracious about meeting children when they come to set, and then the family was sitting behind the monitors and Kermit was doing a scene, and she said, out loud, in the middle of the scene, "I'm friends with him!" It just confirmed exactly what I believe that there's been something missing in that the Muppets haven't been at the forefront like what we had when we were kids.
MTV : So these are the Muppets we've known and loved, not a modern, raunchy version?
Segel: Never raunchy. The Muppets have always been subversive. They're all over the first season of "Saturday Night Live," and the first Jim Henson special was called ["The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence"]; it was very adult. The Muppets were always geared toward adult audiences, but they still managed to do that without ever being mean. It's so easy to get laughs making fun of people, and the Muppets never did that. They took maybe the harder route of being actually funny.
MTV : Who in your opinion is the funniest Muppet?
Segel: They're all so different and they all represent different facets of humor. But I love a good pun, and Fozzie Bear is just the pun master. There's a comic philosophy on puns that it's the lowest form of humor, and it's also supposed to be incredibly antisocial, because it stops the conversation; there's no response to a pun. But I'll tell you, there's something so endearing about Fozzie Bear just punning his little heart out. He's also, he's totally undaunted by the lack of response from his audience. He just keeps on going. Fozzie has a totally unfounded confidence, which is a quality that I think is just awesome.
MTV : Which Muppet did you get to know that surprised you most?
Segel: Well, Rowlf is really pleasant to be around. He's incredibly, incredibly calm, which we make fun of a lot during the movie. Rowlf, of all the Muppets, Rowlf just loves a nice nap.
MTV : What will grab people most? What is your goal with the film? Do you want to make sequels?
Segel: I try not to think beyond this one at this point, because I'm superstitious, but I will say that for lovers of "The Muppet Show," not just the movies but the actual show, the final act of the movie is as close to a re-creation of "The Muppet Show" as was possible. That was a thrill, because at the end of the movie, the Muppets put on a telethon based very much on an episode of "The Muppet Show," so we recorded [a version of] the original theme song for the first time since 1979. We made an almost exact replica of the original Muppet Theater as well. Walking into that was unbelievable, and not just for me; I must say I saw it on the faces of some of the puppeteers as well. Some of the ones who had worked on the original "Muppet Show" walked in and were like, 'Wow, this is what we did for a few years." It was pretty cool.
From "Abduction" to "Muppets, "Moneyball" to "Breaking Dawn," the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest upcoming flicks in our 2011 Fall Movie Preview. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films' biggest stars.
Check out everything we've got on "The Muppets."
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