Jason Segel and Kermit The Frog talk The Muppets, in cinemas nationwide today
It ain't easy finding a green actor in Hollywood, writes Caris Bizacca
When a screenplay titled The Muppets arrived at Kermit the Frog’s front door with a starring role just for him, the beloved entertainer found it hard not to accept the part.
Co-writer, producer and star Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) said they were lucky he did, because Kermit was obviously always their first choice to play Kermit the Frog.
“(If not Kermit) we were going to have to go character actor. Like Steve Buscemi. Something like that,” Segel joked in Sydney.
“Luckily we got our first choice.”
Kermit agreed that it’s pretty tough to find short, green actors in Hollywood.
“There’s Martin Short,” he said.
In The Muppets, Kermit is forced to come out of semi-retirement to reunite the old cast who have gone their separate ways over the years – Animal is in anger management and Miss Piggy is the plus-size editor for Vogue Paris.
In real life, it’s been more than 12 years since the Muppets’ last film adventure, the 1999 movie Muppets in Space.
“In terms of doing a movie for the big screen it’s been quite a long time,” Kermit said.
“(But) one day a script came in the mail, by Jason Segel and Nick Stoller and it was called The Muppets and on page 20 or so it says Kermit the Frog enters,” he said. “Had to take it.”
Segel has been a lifelong Muppet fan and said it was pretty terrifying to see Kermit in person, er, frog.
“They say never meet your idols, so I was nervous about meeting Kermit, but he couldn’t have been more gracious and kind to me,” he said.
“The Muppets were my favourite growing up, so this was like working with Robert De Niro or something like that.”
It’s not exactly new territory for Segel though, who staged a puppet musical (whose characters were designed by The Jim Henson Company) in the last film he wrote, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
“That was a homage to the Muppets, but then to work with the real actual Muppets, that’s my dream.”
In The Muppets, Segel plays Gary, whose brother Walter is the world’s biggest Muppet fan.
Directed by James Bobin, the movie follows Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), who take Walter with them to Hollywood to visit Muppet Studios, but end up discovering an oil baron’s diabolical plot to destroy it.
Their only choice is to find Kermit, track down the other Muppets and help stage a telethon show to raise $10 million and save the threatened studios.
As in Muppet tradition, songs play a major part in the movie, but Segel, who wrote music for Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, opted out of this one.
“The music in Sarah Marshall and Greek was allowed to not take itself too seriously,” he said.
“The lineage of Muppets songs are just amazing Academy award-nominated type songs – Rainbow Connection and It’s Not Easy Being Green.
“I don’t have the musical talent for that kind of thing, so we handed the reins over to the amazing Bret McKenzie (from Flight of the Conchords) who just did a great job.”
One such song is the catchy Life’s a Happy Song, which became such a huge production, with 80 dancers and 300 extras for the film’s finale, that they had to shut down Hollywood Boulevard for two evenings to stage it.
Segel isn’t revealing if the ending is happy or sad, but said a big song and dance seemed the most fitting way to end The Muppets.
“I’ve always been a fan of those big, lavish MGM-style musical numbers and I know Kermit is as well,” he said.
>> The Muppets (G) is in cinemas nationwide now.
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Back in Hollywood: The Muppets are back on cinema screens this week.