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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ray Liotta Joins 'Muppets...Again', His Second Muppet Film: 10 Other Alums We'd Like to Return

By Christian Blauvelt, Staff

Ray Liotta in Muppets in Space
Ray Liotta is getting ready to play the music and light the lights, because Variety reports that the GoodFellas and Killing Them Softly star has just been cast in James Bobin's 2014 sequel to The Muppets. He joins an ensemble that already includes Tina Fey as a Russian gulag prison guard, Ty Burrell as an Interpol inspector, and Ricky Gervais in an unspecified role. If you couldn't already tell from those character descriptions, The Muppets 2 is going to be a European-set caper of some kind. The casting of Liotta is intriguing, though, because he already had a role in the 1999 flop Muppets From Space, a movie that was such a failure it caused our felt friends to be banished from the big screen for 12 years.
When Bobin and writer-producer-star Jason Segel revived the Muppets in 2011, it was designed as a clean break from the past (especially from Muppets From Space). So, the fact that Liotta has been cast means that The Muppets 2 might be more interested in honoring the franchise's history rather than starting with a clean slate. Even the little we know of it sounds somewhat like 1981's The Great Muppet Caper. That got us to thinking... what other flesh-and-blood alums would we like to see return to act opposite their Muppet friends? There's certainly a large roster to choose from. Joshua Jackson and Katie Holmes even appeared as their Dawson's Creek characters in Muppets From Space! Here, in no particular order, is our wish list.

1. Steve Martin (Previous Muppet Experience: 1979's The Muppet Movie)
First off, his classic "arrow through the head" bit could actually have been a Muppet sketch. His self-consciously Palookaville stand-up persona shares much with Fozzie Bear. Secondly, he delivered possibly the all-time best Muppet movie celebrity cameo ever, as an insolent, Lederhosen-clad waiter in the original Muppet Movie. Just watch him serve Miss Piggy and Kermit some sparkling Muscatel, the "finest wine of Idaho."

2. Mel Brooks (The Muppet Movie)
Okay, we know he's 86 and semi-retired, but the Muppets have their pop culture roots in vaudeville, and Brooks' Borscht Belt sensibility worked perfectly in The Muppet Movie, wherein he played a maniacal (but incompetent) scientist.

3. Cloris Leachman (The Muppet Movie)
Also 86, Leachman would still bring a livewire spark to her interaction with the Muppets, preferably if she were to play off Mel Brooks.

4. Austin Pendleton (The Muppet Movie)
The What's Up Doc? alum and sometime Pixar voice actor (Finding Nemo's Gurgle!) is one of the great unsung character actors of the past 40 years. Like the greatest character actors, he makes every movie he's in, as well as the stars around him, a little bit better just by being there.

5. Charles Grodin (1981's The Great Muppet Caper)
American cinema has been a little bit poorer ever since Grodin reduced his movie workload. His roles in Albert Brooks' Real Life, Seems Like Old Times, and Heaven Can Wait inaugurated a new breed of self-aware snark that then played beautifully when he portrayed a sniveling jewel thief in The Great Muppet Caper. Just check out his interaction with Miss Piggy here:

6. Diana Rigg (The Great Muppet Caper)
Rigg somehow managed to bring both Grand Dame haughtiness and Bond Girl sexiness to her role as the wealthy target of a jewel heist in The Great Muppet Caper. Too bad she's probably too busy shooting Season 3 of Game of Thrones.

7. Dabney Coleman (1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan)
Another of our very best character actors, Coleman was famously tied up by Dolly Parton in 9 to 5 and kneed in the balls by Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie, before going toe to toe with an equally formidable lady, Miss Piggy, in The Muppets Take Manhattan. He was on Boardwalk Empire for a couple years, but his schedule seems free for a Muppet reunion.

8. Liza Minnelli (The Muppets Take Manhattan)
Liza played herself in The Muppets Take Manhattan. It's time she returns to perform "Kermit With a K."

Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol

9. Michael Caine (1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol)
Caine's take on Ebenezer Scrooge works so beautifully because he never played down to his Muppet costars. It's as if he's acting against seasoned thesps at the Old Vic. How great it would be to see him back in action. If the new movie is indeed a caper, he can even make fun of himself saying, "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"

10. Tim Curry (1996's Muppet Treasure Island)
Curry's flamboyant Long John Silver was the recipient of the bawdiest line Miss Piggy's ever uttered onscreen: "Helloooo, Long...John."

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