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Thursday, January 09, 2014

'Muppets Most Wanted': 12 Things We Learned on the Set

By Sharon Knolle

Last year, Moviefone was invited to the set of "Muppets Most Wanted," and the sequel picks up right where the 2011 installment, "The Muppets," left off, with the gang having reclaimed their theater on Hollywood Blvd.

Starring in the new movie are Tina Fey as a Russian prison warden,
Ty Burrell as an Interpol agent, and Ricky Gervais as the villain, the aptly named Dominic Badguy. None of the human stars were shooting the day of our visit, but we got to chat with producer Todd Lieberman, as well as Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Walter.

Here's what they told us during breaks from filming on the world-famous Hollywood Blvd. and at the beautiful El Capitan Theatre. Plus, scroll to the end of the post for some Muppet-filled behind-the-scenes photos.

1. Jason Segal and Amy Adams Aren't in the Sequel

Stand-ins (above) were used for their characters, who are merely glimpsed in the sequel's opening.

2. It's Really a Heist Movie, Involving an Evil Kermit Lookalike

Producer Todd Leiberman: Ricky Gervais's character, Dominic, partners up with a green frog, Constantine, who looks strikingly like another green frog we know. He's broken out of a Russian prison and swaps places with Kermit, takes his spot in the Muppets. Dominic and Constantine go around pulling heists. They're close to theaters where the Muppets are performing, so they're framing the Muppets for all these different heists.

Kermit: Constantine is actually played by a friend of mine from the swamp. We are the same species of frog, and he looks an awful lot like me only he has a mole and he speaks with a strange, uh, sort of Eastern European accent. In real life, he's not that evil but in the movie he's very evil, you know.

Miss Piggy: What? You're kidding me. Looks exactly like Kermit, huh? Two frogs. That could get interesting. I could handle two frogs but they couldn't handle moi.

3. Walter Is Back, But He Won't Be Whistling

Walter: I do some pretty exciting stunts and I'm thrilled with my role in this film. I've got this big, dramatic turn. I have to rescue Kermit and I jump from a moving train into another moving train going the opposite direction. Gonzo really wanted to do it, and he had some good advice for me that unfortunately made it a little more painful but he seemed happy. He told me, "Just really throw yourself and try not to miss." Although, if you miss, it's better experience, apparently, but James [Bobin], our director, didn't like that.

4. "Flight of the Conchords" Star Bret McKenzie, Who Won an Oscar for His Song in the Last Film, Returned to Write More Memorable Muppet Tunes

Miss Piggy: I'm actually very excited about a song that I sing that Bret McKenzie wrote just for moi. I was his muse. I also have a song that I do in the movie, an old dance hit, and I'm gonna bringing it back to the clubs. It's gonna be a whole new craze all over again. I can't tell you what it is though.

Kermit: My favorite is one called "The Big House." I end up in a Russian gulag where the chief warden is Nadia, played by Tina Fey. She sings a great song about welcoming me to prison.

Walter: Oh my gosh, the music in this film is incredible. I don't actually have my own song in this one but I do sing on a couple of the numbers. Bret McKenzie did the music again. It's so good and there's action too. This whole thing is like an action musical. It's an actioncal. It's a musaction. He's topped himself. He really has. I do get to sing and dance but not as much as the last film because, you know, you wanna see new stuff. But the Muppets are really zany in this one. It's really classic.

5. Ricky Gervais Is Very Funny in It, Say His Muppet Co-Stars

Miss Piggy: He's a very funny man, and he's probably one of the best extras I've ever worked with.

Walter: He's a big Muppet fan like me and he just was having so much fun on the set. He was always laughing. He's very, very funny. Then around four o'clock, the laughter died. He, uh, he gets tired. He plays this great character who's really two-faced and, you know, completely charming but sinister. Ricky was a lot of fun, yeah, and he was always cutting up with us between takes.

6. Ty Burrell and Tina Fey Were Kind of Intimidating on the Set

Walter: Oh my gosh. Those guys are fantastic. Ty is really tall and, uh, he's very tall. I got a cramp looking at him. Uh, Tina's great. She sings. Oh, my god, she sings like a nightingale. Yeah, oh, yeah, unbelievable. She's like the head of a Russian prison and she's really terrifying and sexy at the same time.

7. There's a Kermit/Piggy Wedding Scene, But It May Not Be What You Think

Kermit: Yes [coughs], excuse me I got choked up there. Yes, yes that's true, but, it may ... I'll just say, I'm not gonna tell you the story of the movie but it may not be what you think.

8. Kermit Enjoyed His European Travels, But Refuses to Go to France

Kermit: I did not go to France. If I can tell all of your readers to never go to countries where they are an appetizer on the menu. Very important. I'm not going there. Nothing personal.

9. We Can Expect a Whole Lot of Cameos

Leiberman: As a producer, I'm always begging everyone to do everything. But we have the Muppets and people love them, thankfully so. We had a whole list of people who we wanted and a whole list of people who wanted to do it, and we just kind of tailor-made some roles for people who we felt might be appropriate. [When asked if stars needed to be Disney wholesome, Leiberman responded, "You'll have to see," qualifying only that the criteria is that they be "human and famous."] We run the gamut from Grammy-winning musicians all the way to Oscar-winning actors and everything in between. So it's gonna be a very eclectic, interesting mix of people who would never otherwise be in a film together.

10. We Can Also Expect to See Some Old 'Muppet Show' Favorites

Kermit: Lou is there. You know, we try to bring the whole crew back again. Link Hogthrob is there. So is Annie Sue Pig. Any of you know Annie Sue? You have to be a "Muppet Show" fan to know Annie Sue.

11. The Whole Gang Was Thrilled to Be Together Again

Walter: It's very nice. It's incredible. I mean, like, gosh. Yeah, it's great. I just keep pinching myself. That's why I have long sleeves all the time. You see the bruises.

12. Filming in Front of a Hollywood Crowd Doesn't Ruin the Magic of the Muppets

Leiberman: I don't love when people see behind the curtain, so to speak, but in today's age, I mean, we're on Hollywood Blvd. There're thousands of people standing out there with cameras. I don't think they're destroying any magic 'cause I remember taking my son to the set and this happened -- it probably happened with you guys and Walter just before me. You don't talk. You don't even notice the human being there. You're talking right to the puppet. You're talking right to the Muppet so, in a weird way, kids don't even notice that there's a human being there even if they see them. So, I think the brain kind of allows for the fantasy to live itself out.


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