The role of Director comes with major responsibility! Can you imagine the weight of responsibility James Bobin must have felt working on The Muppets Most Wanted Movie??? After all, The Muppets have been around for quite some time and the fans range from toddlers to adults…talk about pressure!
Yes, James Bobin did an amazing job directing the first Muppets Movie but working on the Sequel had to be all that much harder considering the reputation of sequels. Thankfully, Muppets Most Wanted was even better than the first one (at least in my family’s opinion). Could it be because this time, James Bobin also co-wrote the script with Nicholas Stoller?
While in LA for the Muppets Most Wanted Red Carpet Premiere, we had the opportunity to interview James Bobin (and Kermit, Miss Piggy & Constantine). He grew up watching The Muppets in the 70′s and you could tell he loved working on this project both personally and professionally. Here’s what he had to say…
So who is the most difficult Muppet to work with?
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[LAUGHS] I’ll let you guess who the most difficult Muppet is who I work with. None of them, they’re all a total joy to work with. I’m a huge fan. I grew up watching the Muppets as a kid, so working with them for me is like working with my heroes.
The first movie was kind of like a comeback movie for the Muppets. What are you hoping to accomplish with this movie?
Well, the last movie, it was kind of like we were in this situation where we couldn’t deal with the Muppets until kind of halfway through, because they had to get back together again, just by the nature of the movie. This time, we have all the Muppets in the very beginning. So it’s kind of slightly more Muppets-focused, I guess, which I really like about it.
I hope that means that in the future there will be many more, so I think this sets it up nicely that they can do any sort of thing, any genre and it’s, you know, and as I said, it’s the last, for me it’s the last form of this kind of entertainment. So I really hope that they keep going.
So what is the difference between shooting the first movie and then the second movie?
In the first movie I’d never worked with puppets before, so it was a very big experiential learning curve of how to frame shots, how to make this world feel realistic, that these puppets were alive, breathing people who are interacting with humans in the world we live in. That the recognizable world we live in happens to have puppets in it. That idea, I love. It’s a very important part of it.
Getting to that level for me was an achievement…So, for this one I just wanted to push that a bit further. Because the last movie is kinda set in the theater for a lot of the final act…I thought this time we should just get out and about a bit more and just do some slightly more adventurous, bigger stuff. And, obviously, the fact that the movie’s kind of a caper movie with some criminal stuff in it, feels like you can do bigger action sequences.
And, obviously, you never want to put the words “puppet” and “action sequences” in the same sentence [LAUGHS] as a director, ’cause that is very hard. But I like the idea of trying difficult stuff. It’s ambition about the movie I really like about it. It feels like a very different film to me.
I think that’s when you’re doing a sequel there’s all sorts of things you have to deal with. One of them is you want to try and make a different movie. You don’t want to make the same movie twice, and that’s very important.
What would you say is the toughest scene you had to film?
Every scene’s pretty difficult. The Muppets is not an easy thing to shoot.
Why use puppets instead of CGI?
My rule of thumb is there always has to be puppeteering involved. I never want to do a fully animated Muppet film because it feels wrong to me. You know my daughter comes and sits and hugs Kermit, I love that idea. It’s really, really sweet but you can’t do that if he’s CG. And I feel that’s important about Muppets. They’re the last kind of bastion of puppeteering and this kind of tactile entertainment. It was really important that we keep it that way.
Do you approach celebrities to do cameos, or do they come to you and say, “I want to appear in the movie?”
Generally we write them in for with a specific idea in mind, then we have a person, or a type of person in mind. Quite often, it’s the actual person who we write in. Like, the Usher is gonna be played by Usher, that’s a good, that’s that joke.
Sometimes there are roles which are just like “a guy who’s delivering something,” or “a waiter” or something where by it could really be anybody. Then, we start finding out just subtly who the Muppet fans are.
So it’s mostly us writing people in, but sometimes we hear about people that want to be in the show too.
Muppets Most Wanted has a very international flavor. Was there any thought to stopping in Sweden for the Swedish Chef?
No, because then you’d tell he’s not Swedish. [LAUGHS] What he speaks is some weird amalgam of Jim [Henson’s] kind of rubbishy Swedish, like made-up Swedish. So obviously they had him talking and then someone actually speaking real Swedish, they’d go, “Hang on a minute that’s not the same thing.” So no we’ were very particular to avoid Sweden.
The locations were largely chosen because I’m a fan of those kind of old-style caper movies and they’re always in places like Monte Carlo and Berlin and Madrid. It’s a very international feel. I like the idea of Muppets going global. That to me is interesting, that it’s not just about U.S. and the U.K. But they have a global interest. And that’s really, a fun thing to me.
Have you started on the next Muppet movie?
[LAUGHS] No, too tired, sorry. I’m exhausted. Ask me again in another year’s time. I love working with these guys, and as you know they’re my heroes, so I really loved it. I would love to do more because this is really fun. I mean, I’m incredibly lucky to have this job. It’s like my dream.
Disclosure: This post was facilitated as a result of a press trip. As always, ALL opinions are my own.