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James Bobin joins icons Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy at the press conference for The Muppets


The Muppets
04 February 2012

As Great Britain prepares for the return of The Muppets – back with their first feature film in over six years – Jim Henson’s iconic characters Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were in town, promoting the release of their upcoming film, out on February 10.

Alongside director James Bobin, known for his work on Da Ali G Show and Flight of the Concords, the eccentric puppets were in top form at the London press conference for the critically-acclaimed return, despite Miss Piggy’s somewhat operatic late entrance.

Amidst the continuous banter and bickering between the pair, Kermit and Piggy discussed hosting the Oscar’s, working with Jack Black, whilst offering their rational insight into the recent phone hacking scandal in Britain.

 

 

Before we start – shall we bring out the other Muppet who’s here?

Kermit the Frog: I’m afraid we might have to hold on Miss Piggy, last time I saw her she was leaving the bar.

James Bobin: This feels strangely familiar to me from the shoot. She had her moments, let’s put it that way.

Kermit the Frog: I’m not saying she was drinking, I’m just saying she was leaving the bar.

 

So how did you find working with Miss Piggy? Did she refuse to come out of her trailer any time?

James Bobin: No, she was an absolute delight to work with.

Kermit the Frog: Wow, you’re good at that.

James Bobin: Thank you, it’s my job. She was fantastic, obviously, she’s one of my absolute favourite characters, I love working with her.

Kermit the Frog: You have a beautiful wife James, but I suspect you might have dated a pig in the past.

James Bobin: Quite possibly Kermit, but maybe not for quite as long as you have.

 

Kermit, what’s your relationship with Piggy like, has it matured over the years?

Kermit the Frog: Matured?  Interesting word. I would say it’s fine, it has developed. It is a bit tumultuous at times.

 

Kermit, it’s been a long time since you’ve made a film, did you still get along with all your old friends? And James, have you made any new ones?

James Bobin: Well I hope so. I grew up watching The Muppet Show when I was younger, and those guys felt like friends even then. Now to have actually met them, I really hope we are actual real friends.

Kermit the Frog: Of course we are, that’s wonderful. We all made new friends on this film, and that’s always the best part of being with The Muppets. It is always wonderful to get back together with all the gang, all the different personalities, their little quirks. I love it.

 

Jack Black was a fantastic guest star in the movie, is there anyone else – past or present – you would love to work with, and why?

James Bobin: I’ve always liked the idea of The Muppets and Radiohead working together. One day that will happen, I promise you.

Kermit the Frog: Wow, that is a tough question. I’ve worked with a lot of people… Unfortunately many of them are not with us anymore. But I got to work with Jason Segel and Amy Adams and of course James, and Chris Cooper, and some wonderful, wonderful performers. I’m just going to be happy with who I have there.

 

Kermit, why do you think The Muppets have retained such immense popularity over the decades that you’ve worked here?

Kermit the Frog: You know, that’s a great question. If we knew the secret of that we’d have been back before 12 years. I think it’s probably, and James can elaborate on this too, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we stayed true to who we are, and yet we tried to evolve with the times. We’ve never been interested in becoming background guys who would turn into CGI, we’ve always wanted to be real, in a real world. Let me give you an example – If you were talking to me and I was, say, Woody from Toy Story this would be your interview [Kermit ducks out of sight]. So it’s nice that we can be here.

James Bobin: For me, and Kermit cover your ears here.

Kermit the Frog: I don’t have any, but okay.

James Bobin: Plug the holes. I think it’s because they’re not very good at what they do.  You’ve got to really root for them because of that. They’re the perennial underdogs, but they really try very hard and that’s very lovely.

 

James, as a Muppet fan how thrilling was it to work with them for the first time?

James Bobin: It was amazing, obviously. I grew up watching them here in England, and I remember watching them aged four in front of my grandma’s TV. So to not only meet them but write lines and have Kermit and Piggy say them, is just incredible.

Kermit the Frog: I’ve just realised that someone has arrived.

Miss Piggy: There’s a step there.

Kermit the Frog: Easy girl, right over here. Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Piggy!

 

Miss Piggy, thank you for joining us. Why the delay?

Miss Piggy: I was just, well, you know, moi is something of a diva, and proud of it. I just wanted to keep everyone waiting a little longer.

 

How difficult is it for all of you to work with The Swedish Chef?  Are there any language barriers?

Kermit the Frog: Well, yeah, I suppose so.

James Bobin: I’ve actually no idea what he’s doing at all times. He’s fine.

Kermit the Frog: There are a number of The Muppets that you sort of just have to let them do whatever it is they do and hope it fits in.

Miss Piggy: I don’t mind working with the Swedish Chef, I just don’t want to eat any of his food.

Kermit the Frog: Very good point.

 

There’s been quite a lot of talk that Uggie, the canine performer from The Artist, should be nominated for awards, do you think it’s about time other species were nominated, and do you have any favourites for this year’s Oscar race?

Kermit the Frog: Well abso-blooming-lutely. 

Miss Piggy: Thank you for bringing that issue up. For some reason the Academy does not recognise other species than humans as actors, as artists, as talent.

Kermit the Frog: They’re very species-ist.

 

You could always hold your own Muppet Oscar ceremony?

Kermit the Frog: Yeah, but it doesn’t quite mean the same thing. You have the Emmys, the daytime Emmys, the Oscars…. all different awards. If you don’t go for the big one it doesn’t really matter. 

 

Kermit, you’re a very funny frog, what’s your favourite joke?

Kermit the Frog: Well I’ve to say I heard a great one this morning that I’m going to pass along to you. You may know it, I’m just trying to remember it for sure, I always screw up jokes, that’s why I let Fozzy screw them up.

Miss Piggy: He screws them up pretty bad.

Kermit the Frog: Anyway, what do you call cheese that isn’t yours?  Notch-yo cheese. I love that joke.

Miss Piggy: You taking credit for that?

Kermit the Frog: No, I stole it.

 

Who’s naughtier, Animal or Jack Black?

Kermit the Frog: They’re naughty in different ways. Jack Black is Jack Black. Animal is not so much naughty as sort of ADD. As James will attest, if you can get him to stay on his mark you’re fine.

Miss Piggy: Animal’s not really trying to get into trouble, he just does.

Kermit the Frog: Jack’s trying.

 

Kermit, having begun your career as a roving reporter for Sesame Street News do you miss journalism?

Kermit the Frog: Well I do, I still have my trench coat in a bag with mothballs all around it. I’d love to get back into that, maybe in connection with the London Olympics. I could cover leap frog. I’d love to cover the next presidential election because boy, that’s going to be a doozy. So we’ll see what happens.

 

And as a former journalist do you have any comment to make on the current phone hacking scandal?

Kermit the Frog: Very interesting. I probably should refrain from any serious comment – which I do on most subject.

Miss Piggy: I have no problem with wire tapping, tracking individuals. I actually have a GPS chip implanted on Kermit.

 

But as one of the biggest celebrities in the world do you think your phone has ever been hacked?

Miss Piggy: Wow. I never thought of it working the other way around.

Kermit the Frog: Usually when you say the word hacked about The Muppets, it’s usually something that one of the dogs did.

 

Kermit, the film has been warmly received, but how did you feel when someone on Fox News accused it of pushing a dangerous liberal agenda, and trying to brainwash children?

Kermit the Frog: It’s so dangerous. It’s a funny thing, they were concerned about us having some prejudice against oil companies and I can tell you that’s categorically not true. And besides if we had a problem with oil companies why would we have spent the entire film driving around in a gas guzzling Rolls Royce?

James Bobin: He’s got a point.

Miss Piggy: It’s almost as laughable as accusing Fox News of being, you know, news.

Kermit the Frog: Boy, that’s going to be all over the internet.  You are in such deep water.

Miss Piggy: If they take what I say seriously they’ve got a real big problem.

 

The backstage scenes of the original series were like an early form of reality television, would either of you be tempted in taking part in any modern reality series, or maybe as judges on American Idol?

Kermit the Frog: I’m not sure we should be the ones to judge American Idol, but sure. We do play ourselves in our films, and we take some artistic licence with that of course, but there is a little bit of a documentary going on I’d say.

Miss Piggy: I don’t think it would be quite fair if we were contestants on the show. It wouldn’t be fair. But judging doesn’t feel right either. 

Kermit the Frog: Because you’re not at all judgemental. In no way are you judgemental.
Miss Piggy: No, I’m not.

 

 

What are the secrets to a good relationship, such as yours?

Kermit the Frog: Compliance. I find that works very well.

Miss Piggy: It works for me.

 

Miss Piggy, how do you stay looking so youthful?

Miss Piggy: Me, thank you so much. I just decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to get any older. Ageing wasn’t for me.

Kermit the Frog: Is that working for you?

Miss Piggy: Yeah.  Why are you asking that?

Kermit the Frog: No reason. No reason. That’s a nice counter.

 

Let’s dig Kermit out of this hole. James, let’s talk about the songs in the movie, and an Oscar nomination.

James Bobin: I’m very excited for Bret.

Kermit the Frog: Bret McKenzie, yay.

James Bobin: I wanted this film to be very much a comedy musical, and I had a good friend who was good at comedy and music so therefore it was a pretty obvious choice to ask him to write some songs. I felt the songs should be like the film is, a tribute to the heritage of The Muppets but also very contemporary in their feel. So something like ‘Man or Muppet’ ticks both those boxes. I’m really pleased for him because he’s a very humble, modest man and for him to have the potential to have an Oscar in his house is just unbelievable. I’m thrilled for him.

 

What are the unusual aspects of working with The Muppets? And was it difficult getting any human cast members to agree to be in it?

James Bobin: No, it was really a very pleasurable experience, asking people to do the film.

Jason and Kermit made a video to ask Amy, where they sat in chairs and talked to her about doing the movie. I think once Kermit asks you to do something you can’t say no, so she said yes. And in terms of the difference, obviously there’s a few differences because the Conchords are six foot tall and these guys can be a little smaller sometimes, so my life can be a little tricky. Technically there are some complications because of the nature of the job.

Kermit the Frog: It’s a nature thing.

James Bobin: But as they are present I can’t really talk about that.

Kermit the Frog: You wouldn’t believe what goes on under here.

Miss Piggy: (Looking under the table) Whoa!

 

Kermit and Miss Piggy, can you describe what it was like working with James?

Kermit the Frog: It was wonderful. James is a very merry soul.

Miss Piggy: Yes, he took direction very well.

Kermit the Frog: And we actually did The Muppet Show here, at Elstree, many, many years ago and one of the things that we slightly missed over the last few years was a British sensibility. And it was nice to have that from James.

James Bobin: Thanks Kermit.

 

What’s the most inspiring advice you’ve ever been given?

Kermit the Frog: Never listen to your own PR, that’s super important.

Miss Piggy: What? I listen to it all the time, what’s the matter with that?

Kermit the Frog: That’s actually quite important for real. But the most inspiring piece of advice? Try to find a way to do what you enjoy doing and still survive that, if you can. That’s always nice. Or, if you can’t find a way to survive and learn to enjoy it, you know? That’s not funny but it’s so true.

James Bobin: Very good, very profound.

 

Do you agree with that Miss Piggy?

Miss Piggy: I have no idea what he just said.

 

Who were your big idols growing up?

Miss Piggy: Besides myself?

Kermit the Frog: When I was growing up I was in the swamp, where the culture was a little different. But the first time I went to the movies, one of the first films I ever saw was The Wizard of Oz, which inspired me. It sort of sent me down a Yellow Brick Road so to speak, on a path to rainbows.

Miss Piggy: I really love the screen legends; Garbo, Marilyn and Dietrich. I feel like I am a continuation of that legacy.

James Bobin: I always used to love the films of Woody Allen, I’ve always loved those. They are something which stand the test of time. I love them.

 

What do you feel Jason contributed to the film?

Kermit the Frog: An enormous amount, my goodness. He wrote the film, along with Nick Stoller. He was certainly the star of the film.

Miss Piggy: Somebody wrote this movie?

Kermit the Frog: They didn’t actually write the stuff that you did, they wrote around the things that you did.

James Bobin: Do you remember that book that I gave you a long time ago, with some lines in it? The thing you ignored and gave back to me. That was the script.

Miss Piggy: That was the script? I’m sure it was very good.

 

There are loads of great cameos in the film, were celebrities beating down the door to be in the film, or did you have specific people in mind? And Kermit and Miss Piggy did you have any favourites among them?

James Bobin: There’s a great tradition in Muppet films of making cameos, and we had a very clear idea of who we wanted.  And it was that brilliant thing that pretty much everyone was asked said yes. Not only yes, but ‘thank you for asking us,’ and ‘can I bring my kids along as well please?’ So it was really lovely, often on set there was a whole load of kids watching us work. They’d meet Kermit and Piggy, and that’s a lovely environment to work in.

Miss Piggy: For me it’s hard to pick because I didn’t really work with any of them.  I did most of my scenes on green screen. I work better that way.

 

Do you insist upon that?

Miss Piggy: Oh yes.

James Bobin: Kermit of course is less successful on green screen.

Kermit the Frog: I sort of look like an ad for ping-pong balls.

 

Kermit and Piggy, you always play variations of yourselves in the movies, are you worried about typecasting? Do you feel unfairly excluded from non-amphibian and pig roles?

Kermit the Frog: Frankly, a little bit. I tried out for a couple of other roles over the years that I didn’t get. One was Yoda, right body type, wrong ears.  And The Incredible Hulk, right colour, wrong body type.  So it is tough.

Miss Piggy: I don’t mind playing myself, I rather prefer it actually. There’s no-one else who can actually portray me as well. And I don’t have to do any research for the role, so I kind of like that part too. 

 

Kermit and Piggy, there was an online campaign to get you to host the Oscars…

Miss Piggy: Yes, which I started.

 

Is it something you’d consider for the future?

Kermit the Frog: Well sure, we’d have to be asked of course, we can’t just barge in.

Miss Piggy: I just don’t right being a part of an institution that continues to ignore the contributions of pig actors.

 

Kermit, given that it isn’t easy being green, how do you feel about Shrek?  Do you see him as a rival?

Kermit the Frog: You should ask him yourself.  Of course you can’t….

 

 

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THE MUPPETS IS OUT FEBRUARY 10