Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend a press junket for ‘Muppets Most Wanted’, the highly anticipated sequel to the 2011 film, ‘The Muppets’. The new film stars Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey, with everyone’s favorite Muppets, on a worldwide adventure that sees the Muppets caught in the middle of a crime wave, where they are suspect number one. Disney invited us out to talk to the people behind the film, getting an inside look at their minds during the filmmaking process. The day was split up between two panels, the second of which was made up of the film’s cast, from left to right, Tina Fey, Kermit the Frog, Ricky Gervais, Constantine Frog, Ty Burrell, Sam Eagle, and Miss Piggy, who makes a late appearance.
The cast sat down to talk to us about making the movie, for The Muppets, what it was like to work with their new human counterparts, and so much more. The first question to kick off the day, which was a wonderfully hilarious, was why Kermit decided not to play the duel roles of himself, as well as the film’s villain, Constantine. Kermit’s answer was a wonderful, and so fitting to why we love the character:
Well, you know it didn’t make sense for me to play Constantine ‘cause we do have a few scenes together and I don’t really work on green screen so we couldn’t really make that work. But plus, listen Constantine is actually a—a distant cousin, from Russia.
That definitely makes a lot of sense, and pretty much shows once again, it really isn’t easy being green, for our favorite Frog. But it’s nice he was at least able to get a distant relative that looks incredibly like him to be in the film and really sell their similarities. One of my favorite moments came when Sam Eagle and Ty Burrell talked about how much they bonded on set. Sam was quite taken with Ty, and was so convinced by his French accent, that he thought he was really a french man. He then threw praise on Ty, saying that his performance would go down in history as one of the greatest French performances of all time. It was a sweet, and overly hilarious, part that made me love the Muppets that much more.
At one point, the question did come up asking the human actors if they idea of singing in the film made them nervous at all. While Gervais said the signing wasn’t a problem, it was actually the dancing that had him nervous:
Well, I was okay with singing. I’m a failed pop star. I always sneak a song into everything I do, whether it’s David Brenn or Simpson’s or but, my dancing is a little awkward. A little embarrassed about that. I don’t move well. But I was with a frog.
Fey would go on to continue:
Yeah, you know you have a good voice. And my singing sounds like if you’ve ever seen the version of Oliver when the little boy sings and you can hear the hiss of how loud they had to turn up the microphone, it’s—my singing sounds like that.
They went on to say that even if they weren’t incredibly great at singing, Bret McKenzie wrote wonderful songs, giving them the appearance of being able to sing, something they were all grateful for. Sam Eagle seems to think we were all spared his horrible singing voice, by design, because he only has two singing parts, and he’s basically talking instead of singing, something he wasn’t insulted about.
One of the reasons I’ve been so excited for this film was the inclusion of Ricky Gervais, who I think is an underrated comedic genius. Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my sentiments, as another journalist professed to being a huge fan of Gervais’ work, and had to ask him, if he did another season of his hit show, ‘An Idiot Abroad’, starring Karl Pilkington, which Muppet would he pair him with. Gervais’ answer was wonderfully spot on and candid, especially if you know anything about the TV series:
I reckon, wow, Piggy I reckon, It can’t stand anything high maintenance and whiney so that—that would be good. That would, that would really, I mean, that would finish him off I think. Or Bunsen, that would be good as well. Because they look so alike. That would confuse him. He wouldn’t know which one he was by the end of the, by the end of the show so that would be easy.
As this was happening, Sam Eagle was notified of a disturbance in the lobby, because he was actually also helping as hotel security at the event, so he would have to leave us. It was great to see Sam was going out of his way to protect the well meaning journalists who had come to talk with him and his friends. But it wasn’t long after that we were blessed with the presence of Miss Piggy, who was, unsurprisingly, fashionably late. But as she appeared, you could feel some tension between her and Tina Fey, who apparently hadn’t been getting along. It turned out, Miss Piggy had actually been refusing to meet Tina on set, and the feud seems to be festering about still. But the two kept it professional throughout, which was great.
One journalist did ask the human actors, now that they have kids, doesn’t being in a Muppet film give them any sort of street cred with their kids? Burrell was quick to answer:
My kids are still so unimpressed by me. I’m banking this one. I’m gonna, I’ve learned this already from other, any other kids project that it’s if I wanna save my ego I’m gonna bank this. I’m gonna put it out in five years or something. But so far, it’s one minute of—of why is daddy on screen and—and 90 minutes of I’m hungry.
So it seems that even if the film is a huge hit, Burrell’s kids are more interested in having food then watching their dad in the film. But this would be where the junket would begin to wind down, but of course, Piggy would get at least a few questions before it was over. When asked what it was like to work with Celine Dion, Piggy was incredibly modest:
Well, working with Celine Dion it was a pleasure. It was a joy for her naturally. Yes, I’m—I’m only too happy to let her ride my coat tails up to the Oscar stage. Yes, it was a joy. We only spent a little time together but—but it was very meaningful to her.
But sadly, before we knew it, the day was over. In spending this time with Muppets, as well as Gervais, Burrell, Fey, director James Bobin, song writer Bret McKenzie, and producer Todd Lieberman, that they all love and adore the Muppet world, and they just want to bring the best possible Muppet films to life for audiences to enjoy. They are bent on making films that not only kids can appreciate, but ones that parents can enjoy too. There’s so much love and heart put into this films, and it’s good to see so much interest vested in making the Muppets a huge sensation.
Don’t forget, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ opens on March 21, 2014. The film stars Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Ty Burrell, Ricky Gervais, Constantine Frog, Walter, and Tina Fey, and is directed by James Bobin.