Muppets Most Wanted opened in theaters across the country this past Friday (March 21, 2014). Have you had the opportunity to see the movie yet? If so I would love to hear your thoughts about the movie. Did you like it? What did you think about the songs? Do you have any of the songs stuck in your head? LOL!
While I was out in Los Angels a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with other bloggers and interview the Director of Muppets Most Wanted, James Bobin, along with the other wonderful bloggers who were in the group with me.
James Bobin directed the last Muppet Movie (2011) along with the comedy series Flight of the Conchords. He also co-wrote Muppets Most Wanted along with Nicholas Stoller who wrote the last Muppet Movie with Jason Segal.
There was more to the interview with Mr. Bobin but I didn’t want to make this post too long so I chose to highlight a few of the questions which I feel might be questions readers might have asked or were curious to know the answer to.
Q: So who is the most difficult Muppet to work with?
James Bobin: [LAUGHS] I’ll let you guess who the most difficult Muppet is who I work with. None of them, they’re all a total joy to work with. I’m a huge fan. I grew up watching the Muppets as a kid, so working with them for me is like working with my heroes.
Q: So what is the difference between shooting the first movie and then the second movie?
James Bobin: The first movie I’d never worked puppets before, so it was a very big experiential learning curve of how to frame shots, how to make this world feel realistic, that these puppets were alive, breathing people who are interacting with humans and the world’s just, the world we live in, the recognizable world we live in happened to have puppets in it. That idea I love, and that’s a very important part of it.
And that was quite, the training of the first movie was just getting, I think just getting to that level for me was an achievement. I could make a movie that worked on that level. And so for this one I just wanted to push that a bit further. Because the last movie is kinda set in the theater for a lot of the final act. And the last, you know, most of it was and so I thought this time, well, we should just get out and about a bit more and just do some slightly more adventurous, bigger stuff. And, obviously, the fact that the movie’s kind of a caper movie with some criminal stuff in it, feels like you can do bigger action sequences.
Obviously, you never want to put the words “puppet” and “action sequences” in the same sentence [LAUGHS] as a director, because that is very hard. But I like the idea of trying difficult stuff. It’s ambition about the movie I really like about it, it feels like a very different film to me. And the way I love both movies equally, but this film I feel like has slightly more ambition which I love about it and I think that’s when you’re doing a sequel there’s all sorts of things you have to deal with. One of them is you want to try and make a different movie. You don’t want to make the same movie twice, and that’s very important. Yes?
Q: When writing The Muppets did you take any inspiration from your funny show Flight Of The Conchords? And then do you think that adult humor and children’s’ humor are closer than we think?
James Bobin: [LAUGHS] Good questions. Uh, adult humor and, I’ll do them in the reverse order. Adult humor and child humor, yeah they are kind of different but they can be the same. I mean, we’re all big kids, really, I am, I know for sure. And so often I find things like, things falling over, I will find that funny forever. Like Tom and Jerry makes me laugh as much as my kids might laugh. And that’s always going to be that way. But sometimes it’s useful to have a thing that works on two levels, that they like it for some, a reason, and we like it for a different reason.
Often that’s because we’re putting clever words into the mouths of puppets and so they see a blue thing with a funny nose and white hair, which is funny, but we hear them say smart words. And I love it, that idea works for both adults and children.
(In reference to Flight of the Conchords) I think whenever you make anything you can’t help but put an imprint of yourself in it to a degree. So when you do like a show like Concords and move into Muppets you can’t help but bring a bit of that, your personality, with you.
Especially when you have half [LAUGHS] of the Conchords working on the movie with you. Brett writes the songs and so Brett and I worked together. And so be it set out on the streets of New York and Conchords or set on the streets of London and Muppets, there’s some of it’s Bert in many ways. And then, you know, in many ways the Conchords Muppets aren’t that different, they’re both quite innocent.
I don’t know but Conchords is the quite accessible innocent, sure they’re very kind of likeable innocent people. And the Muppets are also [LAUGHS] very innocent, likeable people. So it didn’t feel like a huge leap going from Conchords to Muppets, so. Yes?
Q: How much filming do you actually do?
James Bobin: A lot, I mean, it’s the principal photography, which is 95 percent of the film, was in London. We shot on the stages at Pinewood, which is just about a half an hour outside London, and then even places like Berlin and Madrid are also shot in or around London. Because going to Berlin with the entire Muppet cast and crew would’ve been a very expensive endeavor in doing it. And London is, as you know, a very ancient historical city, and therefore has lots of different architectural styles in it.
So you can kind of get a rough idea, “this looks a bit like Madrid,” ” this looks a bit like Berlin,” and certainly enough with some, you know, added set dressing and stuff, you could really feel like you’re there. And so most of the movie was shot in London, and in or around London. Which is kind of nice because the Muppet show back in the ’70s, uh, was made in London and not many people know that, you know. I mean, it feels like a thing that just, well it felt very much like a homecoming for Muppets.
Because of the Muppet Show being from London, these guys felt like they were coming back. And they actually ended up hiring a lady name Louise Gold, who is the only female puppeteer and who back in the ’70s worked on The Muppet Show and hadn’t, is always, and still puppeteering but, and being back in London now I could hire her again to do the characters that she did in the show in the ’70s. So she–– she reappears in this movie as Annie Sue Pig, which the Muppet fans amongst you will know as Miss Piggy’s great rival from Series 4 and 5 Muppet Show, has this kind of blonde afro. And she’s back in the movie, because Louise Gold was available. And that’s a really fun thing.
Q: Do you approach celebrities to do cameos, or do they come to you and say, “I want to appear in the movie?”
James Bobin: Generally we write them in for the right specific idea in mind, then we have a person, or a type of person in mind, quite often it’s the actual person who we write in. Like, you know, the Usher is going to be played by Usher, that’s a good, that’s that joke, you know? Sometimes there are roles which are just like “a guy who’s delivering something,” or “a waiter” or something where by it could really be anybody. And then we start finding out just subtly who are Muppet fans. And people who we know, and we hear about who like the Muppets. For example, Christoph Waltz I knew, we heard liked the Muppets, and I thought, “Well if here’s a Muppet show today, obviously what you do with him, his name is Waltz, you are going to do a Waltz with him somewhere, [LAUGHS] and somehow that came about that way. So it’s kind of mostly us writing people in, but sometimes we hear about people that want to be in the show too.
Q: On the last film you were just the director, on this film you’re the writer and director. How does that transition feel?
James Bobin: Yes, yes two hats. It’s fine, what you find about it, though, is often you’re writing brain is writing checks so you’re writing brain can’t cash. [LAUGHS] And in this sense then often as a writer you have like the sky’s the limit, you can do anything. And you really want to try and, you know, be as ambitious as you possibly can. And then your directing head’s going, “Wait a minute, this is going to be really [LAUGHS] difficult, and take a longer time and be very expensive.”
So you have to be on both, generally the writing head always wins because you want to try to make the movie the best as you possibly can. But at the same time for me it feels slightly more of a personal one because obviously you can’t help but be, you know, when you write it’s really you. So for me this felt slightly more, I guess, well it’s more of a comedy so it felt more personal to me because I want a comedy. But I’m not, to be fair, on the last one as a director you also often help out with just a bits of writing here and there.
So I did a bit of writing on the last one. It wasn’t a completely new experience. And I also have been writing for a long time so it’s not my first go, wasn’t the first movie, this is something I’ve been working on for a while and I knew Nick really well, and he’s our good friend outside of work. He’s just my friend. And so I knew working with him would be a, you know, and that’s one of the most important things about writing partnerships is having just a friendship. Because, you know, it’s like your friends, you just get on and you laugh together and we just write stuff down, and that’s the movie.
Q: The scene where Constantine was dancing on the rail or whatever, was that difficult because it was the whole body?
James Bobin: That was difficult, yes, that’s whole body and, again, that, that generally is a situation where you have guys, sometimes they’re just all, yeah they’re going to blue in blue, those guys were in blue on the set and you remove them later on. So that Constantine part is being manipulated by I think six guys. So they’re all in there kind of a doing this or this or this or this, and so it, that’s my rule of thumb is always there has to be puppeteering involved. I never want to do a full animated Muppet ’cause it feels wrong to me.
The whole point of this film is that you can come to say a meter marker and you can hope, you know my daughter comes and sits and hugs Kermit, I love that idea, you know. It’s really really sweet [LAUGHS] but you can’t do that if he’s CG. And I feel that’s important about Muppets that they’re the last kind of bastion of puppeteering and this kind of tactile entertainment. So I think it was really important that we keep it that way. So generally I’m filming, we always always have a puppeteer operating a puppet, even if it’s like big blue screen moment.
It’s going to be a guy doing it somewhere. Um, but yeah that was, that was a thing where we’re on the set and Matt is doing Constantine but we have five or six helpers doing each limb, basically. So it gets [LAUGHS] really complicated, but you know, it takes a while but it’s always, when you get it, you know it. And it just goes natural and organic and real and that’s really fun.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene?
James Bobin: Favorite scene? Wow, that’s a good question. Uh, what do I like? I–– I, uh, I really like Piggy’s song about Constantine and Kermit, that thing “Something’s So Right” song, with Celine. Because I really felt that that’s going to because it’s like, Piggy’s wanted this thing all of her life, and she’s finally got it and it’s not going to feel the way she thought it would felt, uh, feel, and I think that’s a very common thing to all of us. That’s something we’ve all experienced. And so to sing about that and say, “Why aren’t I feeling the way I would,” and “why aren’t I happy that I am about getting married” is really sweet I think.
But also at the same time it’s kind of funny ’cause it’s got [LAUGHS] Celine Dion in it, and it’s like, it’s weird projection of the future and whatever, weird kids sitting there, the pink frog and the green pig, and that sort of stuff. It’s just really fun. So all my favorite scenes tend to have an element of humor to them and emotion, they’re both kinda working at the same time, and that’s pretty much my aim for the whole movie. You should feel emotionally engaged but laugh, be laughing at the same time. That’s a very difficult part of the trip. But that sequence I feel works very successfully like that.
Q: How much input did you have in the writing of the songs?
James Bobin: Uh, quite a bit ’cause I’m, Brett and I have worked together for a long time, so generally what happens is that when I write the script I write an idea for where a song’s going to go, and always I write, I usually write more songs than we have to end up with. I always write like 10 or 12 ideas in and then we cut them down to six or seven. But usually it’s because at this juncture of the story it feels like a song would be funny, or is a good idea for a song goes here. So normally in this which I write, you know, the title of the song, hopefully a funny title if I can, if I have a good idea. Or not.
And then a brief, like, paragraph/description of what the song is about, and what it’s going to do in the story. And then Brett just has that paragraph to work from and goes away and then comes back [LAUGHS] in about two months with an incredible song I usually like. And then I then say to him, “Well how about this,” and it still goes back and forth about the visual of bit, the storytelling of it, and the musicality of it, in one kind of go.
So a fair amount, but in the actual of the writing of the music I have nothing to do with that. That is purely Brett’s genius and melody, that’s not me at all. Occasionally, I’ll help out with lyrics, but generally that’s also Brett. So, you know, I have often the initial idea and then he just does everything else, and I just say, “Great,” at the end.
Q: The first movie was kind of like a comeback movie for the Muppets. What are you hoping to accomplish with this movie?
James Bobin: I think the last movie I loved but it was kind of like we were in this situation we couldn’t deal with the Muppets until kind of halfway through, because they have to get back together again, just by the nature of the movie. This time we have all the Muppets in the very beginning. So it’s kind of slightly more Muppets-focused, I guess, which I really like about it. So for me it feels like this one could really show you what the Muppets do, like what they do in a movie, like what they do, what the roles they can play, how they can interact with each other, mainly just by being brilliant on stage and doing acting funny things in the show, but also outside of that, just being, you know, any, at any kind of movie genre situation they’re going to be interesting and funny. And I think that’s a really, it’s a good showcase for the Muppets and what they can do.
I hope that means that in the future there will be many more, so I think this sets it up so nicely that they can do any sort of thing, any genre and it’s, you know, and as I said, it’s the last, for me it’s the last form of this kind of entertainment. So I really hope that they keep going.
Q: Have you started on the next Muppet movie?
James Bobin: [LAUGHS] No, too tired, sorry, no no no, no no no, I’m exhausted. Ask me again in another year’s time, but no they’re sadly not, but, I mean, maybe, who knows. I love working with these guys, and as you know they’re my heroes, so I really loved it. So I don’t know when in, in what capacity it would be, I don’t know, but I would love to do more ’cause this is really fun. I mean, I’m incredibly lucky to have this job, it’s like my dream so, you know, I’m so pleased. [LAUGSH] Really.
I’ll be sharing the interview with Songwriter Bret McKenzie on Friday. If you would like to read (and listen to!) the fun interview with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Constantine you can find it here – Chatting with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Constantine from Muppest Most Wanted. That was a super fun interview.
You can also read my review for Muppets Most Wanted here – Muppets Most Wanted Review.
For more information about the film visit www.Disney.com/Muppets. You can also check out the film on the various social media sites;
Miss Piggy on Twitter
In addition you can see what other bloggers have to say about the film by checking out the hashtag #MuppetsMostWantedEvent.
Here is the film’s trailer for your enjoyment.
*I was not compensated for this post. I am posting this for the enjoyment of my site readers. I did attend screenings of the film but there was no compensation involved (only travel expenses).