Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jason Segel, Muppet Freak

Jason Segel and a few of his friends.
It's appropriate that actor-screenwriter Jason Segel and director James Bobin would make The Muppets together.

Just ask Amy Adams.

"Jason is a Muppet freak," she says. "He knows more about the Muppets than anyone, well, except maybe James Bobin."

Bobin often watched The Muppet Show when he was writing his quirky HBO musical comedy series The Flight of the Conchords. There's even a Muppets tribute in one of the Conchords episodes. Bobin says, "I watched the Muppets at a very early age in England, and they have significantly influenced my sense of humor and what I find funny."

Segel worked in a puppet musical (based on Dracula, no less) at the end of Forgetting Sarah Marshall with puppets designed by the Jim Henson Company. That experience inspired Segel to approach Disney with the idea of making a new Muppet film, which he would co-write with his good friend Nicholas Stoller. Disney liked the idea and Segel and Stoller would become executive producers of the film as well.

Thus went the odyssey to bring the Muppets back to the big screen for the first time in 12 years.

Rumors of a new Muppet film had persisted since Disney acquired the characters from The Jim Henson Company in 2004. It wasn't until Segel came on board in 2008 that the project moved forward.

When it came time to cast Adams in the new film, Segel asked her via a video starring Kermit the Frog and him. Adams says, "They asked if I'd read the script and consider the role of Mary. Kermit was a big part of my decision. I don't like to tell Jason that 'cause he's a little sensitive that I might be partial to Kermit, but I am."

Here, the Muppets, as only they can, explain the plot of the film and what it's like to work with Jason Segel:

True to its roots, The Muppets will have plenty of singing and dancing, including a huge musical number filmed on Hollywood Boulevard in front of the El Capitan Theatre. "In the finale of the movie, "says Segel, "there are 200 extras, 100 dancers and 50 Muppets. It was very surreal and it happened to take place on my birthday. I walked out from my trailer thinking I was coming to film, and everyone sang 'Happy Birthday,' including the Muppets. I kept thinking, 'I've tricked everyone. Somehow I've made this weird childhood dream come true.' It was the craziest thing ever."

The challenge of bringing back such iconic characters as Kermit and Miss Piggy comes with high expectations, a notion not lost on Segel. "Our whole goal was to make sure that, if we were going to do a new Muppet movie, that it live up to the expectations of what everyone feels about doing a Muppet movie. Whenever I tell my friends--anyone--it's always twofold and it's the same thing. The first is, 'Oh my God, that's awesome!' And the second is, 'You better not mess it up.'

The Muppets opens in theaters on November 23.

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