Director James Bobin Interview
While on my Los Angeles trip we were allowed the opportunity to interview the director of The Muppets Most Wanted who is James Bobin. The one thing I have learned about press trips is that they are lots of fun as well as work. The things I have been allowed to do on these trips is nothing but outstanding and if you would have told me I would be in the same room as James Bobin, I would have swore you were lying. But it really did happen and it was a very quick 15 minutes filled with lots of questions and answers.
James Bobin grew up watching The Muppets in the 70’s as did many of us in the room, but James wanted to keep The Muppets alive for the younger generations to enjoy. Back in 2011 he helped produce The Muppets and now three years later he helped with the sequel. But we all know that a sequel isn’t quite as good as the first….Or is it?? But I would say that the sequel is just as good as the first!!
One of the first questions we asked was, “Who is the most difficult Muppet to work with?” with a smile James replied with “None of them, they’re all a total joy to work with because I am a huge fan. I grew up watching the Muppets so working with hero’s isn’t really work.” James Bobin said, “every day I go to work and I’m so pleased just to be there. So it’s very hard for me to get cross with them ’cause they’re so loved, they’re, you know, it’s like working with Luke Skywalker, it’s crazy. Like little Kermit is like–– like my hero growing up so meeting him and getting to work with him and even write lines for him is just amazing so, you know.”
We of course learned a few spoilers about The Muppets but that The Muppets and the talent behind the puppets are two different people. But when they are filming they become one person because the talent is really that good. An example he used is Steve Witmeyer who plays Kermit, but he also knows Kermit and he’s a different person than Kermit. Steve is good at doing Kermit, but he is real and if I get a text from Steve it is really Kermit because he is just that good! Which became apparent when we interviewed Kermit, Miss Piggy and Constantine.
The first movie and the second movie were a lot different as you expect with most sequels. In the first movie James Bobin had never worked with puppets before so that was a very big learning curve for him. But being involved in the first movie was a sense of achievement for him as well as the second one because he wanted to make it more adventurous. Because The Muppets Most Wanted is a caper with criminal stuff in it, we were able to do bigger action sequences. He went on to say that using “puppet and action sequences” is very hard, but he was up for the challenge. As well as the challenge of it being a sequel, there were many obstacles they had to deal with, but you have to have a different movie that holds true to the first movie. I would say the James Bobin and his staff did an amazing job in pulling the puppet caper off perfectly.
According to James Bobin child humor and adult humor are about the same because “we’re all big kids really.” Which of course resonated with the crowd because it is true for many of us. But, sometimes things in movies are funny for different reasons which is why it works for both children and adults. He also says that the Conchords is on the streets of New York and the Muppets are on the streets of London, so they aren’t really that different, they are both quite innocent which lends themselves to work with each other.
The Swedish Chef is of course one of the “favorite” Muppets and he has a Swedish flare to him. But James Bobin decided not to stop in at Sweden because you can tell it (the language the Swedish Chef speaks) is “some weird amalgam of Jim’s kind of rubbishy Swedish, like made-up Swedish”. So they avoid Sweden because they don’t want them trying to speak real Swedish to them which clearly isn’t the same thing.
The locations of the movie were chosen because of the old-style caper movies that has an international feel. Sending the Muppets on a Global tour was interesting because it wasn’t just about the U.S and the U.K. but 95% of the film was filmed in London. Because London, Pinewood and other locations in the city had an ancient history that lent itself to the different cities because of it’s architectural styles in the historical city. James Bobin said that ” London felt right because in the 70’s the Muppets were made in London so it was a homecoming of sorts for The Muppets.” Because The Muppets were back in London it allowed for Louise Gold who is the only female pupetter who was “Annie Sue Pig.” Annie Sue Pig is Miss Piggy’s rival of sorts and only appeared in series 4 and 5 of The Muppets Show.
When writing The Muppets Most Wanted he had specific celebrities in mind to do specific rolls. For example, When he wrote in Usher for the wedding scene he knew he had to get “Usher””. There were many characters that were fit into The Muppets Most Wanted this way but the one that is probably my favorite was Josh Groban. Because of his identifiable voice, putting him into the box was the perfect way to include him without giving to much away. Josh Groban was super nice to talk to and Stefanie was more than elated that she got to meet him.
During the production of The Muppets Most Wanted James Bobin wore two hats because he was the writer and the director. It was fine and sometimes the sky is the limit when the writing brain is concerned but when the director hat takes over that is where the money and time comes into play. So sometimes it just worked out that the writing hat won because you want to make the best movie you can. But this time it was slightly more personal at least to him where it came to writing and directing.
The toughest scene to film was the helicopter scene because it includes full body of the Muppets which is a challenge to get on film. The escape scene took two-and-a-half weeks to film so that was a long time for them. Another hard scene to film was when Constantine was dancing on the rail because it was a full body shot. During that shooting it is being manipulated by six guys on the set just to make him move. To James Bobin keeping the puppetering magic alive and allowing kids to love and hug on Kermit is what is important to him.
His favorite scene includes Miss Piggy’s song about Constantine and Kermit which is “Something’s So Right” with Celine Dion of course. Because this is what Miss Piggy has wanted this her whole life and now that she finally got it, it doesn’t feel like she thought it would feel which is a common thing to all of us. It also allows a glimpse into the future where Miss Piggy and Kermit finally have kids and there is a pink frog and green pig which just adds a little bit of humor to the whole scene.
Surprisingly enough it only took 18 months from start to finish from writing to producing The Muppets Most Wanted. Brett McKenzie and James Bobin have worked together for a long time so they work together like a well oiled machine. When he writes the script he often puts in titles of songs if he has a good idea along with a description of what the song is going to be about. Then Brett McKenzie goes away and comes back in a couple months with an incredible song that he usually likes.
We of course wanted to know if they have started on the next Muppet movie which was a great last question. James Bobin (laughed) and said, “no, I’m exhausted but sadly not at this time we are not. But he loves working with these guy and they are his hero’s but he loved his job because it is fun and it’s like a dream to him. So you never know when he will be lucky enough to work with them again.
This interview went very quickly and it was very enlightening to see the writer/directors point of view on scenes, The Muppets and of course the talent behind them. And as a side note I would like to say that I loved interviewing him but The Muppets interview was still my favorite. James Bobin was even nice enough to take a photo with us at the end of the interview so we know we weren’t just dreaming!! Because a lot of times you wake up when you arrive home and wondering if it was all a dream.
Be sure to watch The Muppets Most Wanted which is in theaters now!! It is a toe tapping great time for kids and adults alike!!
*Disclosure: I received an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for the #ABCTVEvent and #Disneyevents in exchange for my coverage. All opinions are 100% my own.