When I went a press screening for The Muppets two weeks ago, I also had the pleasure of going to one of the most surreal yet amazing things I’ve ever attended.
I went to a press conference with Kermit and Miss Piggy (and director James Bobin).
If you recall in my last two articles (see them here and here), I confessed that I am a huge Muppets fan. I have the DVDs, the figures, the hats and my bandmates even call me Animal due to my frantic drumming style (which I stole from the man himself). So, to have a chance to be in the same room as Kermit and Miss Piggy, let alone speak to them, was a big deal for me.
There was quite a bit of buzz among the other critics I was watching the movie with. My good friend Kim Francis (of my local Reading Post) was telling me that she’d heard stories from people that you can sort of see the puppeteers behind the table, which can ruin the illusion - but you let it slide because it’s The Muppets.
But to their credit, they did an incredible job of hiding both Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson behind the table during their introductions, entrances and the conference itself. By having the table stretch right to the door frame, both Whitmire and Jacobson could get into their positions and keep up the pretence that these creatures before are not puppets but real people.
In yesterday’s article, I said that Whitmire and Jacobson had been under fire from the press regarding their voices, but I actually think they were better here than they were in the movie. Amazing to think really, but doing it live and off the cusp they were both excellent.
For me, one of the best things about the press conference was that everyone in the room was playing along. The press notes are full of interviews with The Muppets talking about playing themselves within the movie which I felt was a nice touch. But as a room full of grownups, we all knew that underneath that table were two adults with operating puppets. But we didn’t care and we never made mention of it – we were no longer grownups or even journalists. We were big kids talking to The Muppets. Everyone addressed them by their names and asked questions about their previous movies, career choices and opinions as if they were Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. It was really was awesome.
Before I give you my highlights, there was one moment from the entire press conference that really stood out for me and has stuck with me since – and it wasn’t from The Muppets.
There was someone in the room who was more thrilled about seeing The Muppets live more than me (if you can believe that). Anxiously waiting, impatient and excited in the front row was a boy who could have been no older than 4 years old wearing a Kermit the Frog t-shirt. Astonishing when you think about it. Nearly 35 years on, and they’ve still got it. That is why The Muppets will live on.
Here are some annotated highlights, but the full press conference is at the bottom of this page if you’d prefer to watch it...
Q: Where is Miss Piggy?
Kermit: We may have to hold fire on Miss Piggy, the last time I saw her she was at the bar.
James Bobin: This feels strangely familiar to me from the shoot – she was never on time.
Kermit: I’m not saying she was drinking, I just said she came from the bar.
Q: Was she difficult to work with?
Bobin: No she was an absolute delight
Kermit: Wow, you’re good at that.
Bobin: Well it’s my job. She’s one of my favourite characters so I loved working with her
Kermit: You do have a wonderful wife James but I wonder if you’ve dated a pig in the past.
Bobin: Quite true. But probably not as long as you.
(By this point, Miss Piggy had stopped being a diva and came out – tripping onto the stage as she entered)
Q: Are there any language barriers working with the Swedish Chef?
Bobin: Yeah. I have absolutely no idea what he is doing at all times. But no he’s fine.
Kermit: There are many members of The Muppets that you just have to let do what it is they do.
Piggy: I don’t mind working with the Swedish Chef, I just won’t eat any of his food
Kermit: Very good point.
Bobin: To be fair, he’s the least of our worries. We have to work with chickens!
Q: There has been talk that the dog from The Artist should be nominated for an Oscar; do you think it’s time that other species should get recognised?
Piggy: Thank you for bringing that issue up! For some reason the academy does not recognise other species as actors... as artists... as talent!
Kermit: They’re very speciesist. So yeah, if you have any pull with the Academy please put our names into the pot.
Q: What is your favourite joke?
Kermit: What is my favourite joke? I don’t get a multiple choice? Ummmm... I always screw up jokes, that’s why I let Fozzie tell them. Okay here’s one I heard this morning – What do you call cheese that isn’t yours? Nacho cheese!
Bobin: Very good!
Piggy: You getting any credit for that?
Q: Who is naughtier? Animal or Jack Black?
Piggy: Me! (she laughs)
Kermit: Well Jack Black is Jack Black. Animal isn’t so much naughty as he is ADD. James can attest to this, if you can get him to stay on his mark you’re fine.
Piggy: Animal doesn’t try to get into trouble, he just does.
Q: Kermit, you started your career as a journalist for Sesame Street News. Do you miss journalism?
Kermit: Oh yes very much. I still have my trench coat in a bag covered in mothballs. Maybe I’ll get back into it and cover the Olympics. I could do the leapfrog! Or cover the next Presidential election because boy that one is going to be a doozy!
Q: Kermit and Miss Piggy, you have a good relationship on screen, what do you think makes a good relationship?
Miss Piggy: Works for me.
Q: Miss Piggy, over the last 40 years, how have you stayed looking so young?
Piggy: I decided long ago that I just wasn’t going to get old. Aging wasn’t for me.
Kermit: How’s that working out for you?
Piggy: Fine... wait, why did you ask that? (she glares at him)
Kermit: No reason... no reason whatsoever... (looks down) this is a nice counter...
Q: James, how different was it working with The Muppets compared to Flight of the Conchords?
Bobin: Quiet a bit different really. Because Conchords are six foot tall and these guys are a bit shorter. And technically, there are some complications due to the nature of the uhhh... job...
Kermit: Yes it’s a nature thing. You wouldn’t believe what happens under these tables.
Piggy: (looks under the table) Whoa!
Kermit: Don’t look down! Never look down!
Q: How was it working with James as a director?
Piggy: He took direction very well.
Kermit: Yeah. We did The Muppet Show over here many years ago and I think what The Muppets has been missing over these years has been a British sensibility.
Q: Kermit you’re quite an inspiration to the Muppets, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Kermit: Don’t listen to your own PR.
Piggy: Why not? I do it all the time!
Q: You’ve worked with many greats in your time, are there any people you’re dying to work with?
Piggy: I wouldn’t die to work with anyone!
Kermit: That’s true.
Piggy: But you know... Kermit cover your ears.
Kermit: I don’t have ears.
Piggy: (whispers) Brad Pitt.
Kermit: Brad Pitt you say?
Bobin: I’d like to work with Bill Murray
Kermit: Bill? He’s a great guy.
Bobin: You play golf together.
Kermit: I’ve never worked with him, but I’ve... never mind... Maybe we can do a Brad Pitt movie with James directing and... how about Reese Witherspoon?
Kermit: For her talent! She can be Brad’s co-star...
Q: There are some great cameos – did you have people beating down your door to be in the movie? Do you have any favourite cameos?
Bobin: It’s a great tradition of Muppet films to have cameos and we had a few in mind. So it was wonderful to ask these people and not only have them say yes, but also say, ‘thank you for asking me and can I bring my kids?’ So often on set we’d have a load of kids running around and they would get to meet Piggy and Kermit.
Kermit: Hard to pick a favourite as they were all so great.
Piggy: It’s hard for me to pick as I didn’t work with them. I did all of my scenes in front a green screen. I work better that way.
Bobin: Kermit of course less successful on green screen.
Kermit: Yeah, I look like an advert for ping pong balls.
Q: You always play yourselves or variations of yourselves in movies, do you ever fear type casting and have you ever tried out for other roles?
Kermit: Yeah I’ve tried for many roles that I didn’t get. I tried Yoda – right body type, wrong ears. I tried for The Incredible Hulk – right colour, wrong body type. It’s tough.
Piggy: I don’t mind playing myself. I actually prefer it. I don’t have to do any research for the role.
Reading back my notes, it really doesn’t come across as great as it actually was. So if you have a spare half hour in your day, watch the whole press conference below. There was also some great comments from Kermit and Miss Piggy against Fox news and their allegations of them brainwashing America’s youth.
Courtesy of Leicester Square TV – here is the entire press conference (in 3 bits) – make sure to look out for me and my question (around the 7:20) mark of part 1...
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive. You can follow him on Twitter @boddickerfilms.