To help preserve some super secret story surprises, we've been waiting to publish this "Muppets Most Wanted" set visit report. But it's high time to get things started.
Last May, Yahoo Movies and a group of grizzled reporters visited Union Station in Los Angeles to see director James Bobin film a scene in which the world's most pun-tastic puppets board a train from LA bound for Europe. (We have to assume they'll be travelling by map again.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIQKVITyaMI
After getting a few choice details from producer Todd Lieberman, we had the distinct honor of interviewing Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the newest Muppet, Walter. While puppeteers Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacoboson, and Peter Linz may have been involved at the onset of each respective interview, by the end, every single reporter spoke directly to the Muppet on hand. It was actually quite magical.
We'll get into the high-jinx from the set visit in a sec, but first, let's review what we already know about the film: After the big show in the last Muppets movie, the Muppets are in demand once again, so they set off on a European tour. When Constantine, the World's Number One Criminal and Kermit's evil-doppelganger, takes the famous frog's place, caper-style trouble goes down. Joining the fun are Constantine's right hand man Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), Russian GULAG officer Nadya (Tina Fey), French Interpol inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell), and a slew of cameos including Tom Hiddleston, Zack Galifianakis, and Lady Gaga.
Here's what we learned on the set visit about…
How this movie evolves from the previous film:
Miss Piggy: "We are, of course, doing a sequel, which will feature even more of moi, I'm happy to say."
Kermit the Frog: "It's hard to call it a sequel, since we've done like nine films over the years, but it's kind of a sequel to the last one."
Todd Lieberman: "This movie starts where the other movie left off. Even though it takes an entirely new direction where the story goes, there's a connection between the first and second."
Walter: "I discover a secret in this film. I discover something that's very, very wrong. And I enlist the help of Fozzie, and Animal comes along, and we make it right. It's actually a pretty dramatic turning point in the movie. I'm very happy with my role in the film."
KTF: "I am once again returning as Kermit the Frog, a part that I was born to play. What's cool about it though, is this time, at the end of the film, I'm sort of like an action hero. You will see me do things you haven't seen me do before. I'm kind of like a cross between James Bond and something Bruce Willis would do."
KTF: "This is less about reminding people who we were in the past and moving us forward again, which is very cool. It's easy to call it a caper, but not like 'The Muppet Caper,' it's actually just a more whacky story where the Muppets are trying to stay out of trouble. And there's quite a lot of trouble that we find that we're getting into. So it's really more of a narrative kind of story."
TL: "In this movie we're leaning a little bit more on the mayhem and fun caper aspect of what the movie and what the Muppets can offer. And obviously there's an emotional story there too. But I think people will be really excited about some of the craziness that goes on in this movie."
[Related: 5 Pieces of Celebrity Advice From Miss Piggy]
On the much discussed rumor of a Kermit/Piggy wedding:
TL: "There is a wedding that takes place, maybe you know who, but I'm not going to say who it's with, but the idea of a wedding is part of the emotional core of this story."
KTF: "I'm not going to tell you too much about that, because it turns out that it's kind of a mistake that happens in the movie. A little bit of Tom Foolery, I would say."
MP: "Let's see, how much do I want to say? I do have a beautiful white dress that has a veil and very long train. I'm not going to say what it's used for, but I do get to wear it, and you do get to see me in it."
How the absence of Jason Segel and Amy Adams is addressed:
KTF: "It's not actually addressed. We're moving on from where we left off in the last movie. So Gary and Mary, who they played, just aren't a part of this particular story. It'll all become clear in the first scene. You'll immediately know."
MP: "This is a Muppet movie, you know? No one really cares about the humans."
W: "I've grown up and moved on. I miss him though. I always have a special place in my heart for Jason Segel, my movie star brother. But no, I think he's doing great. I think we're both doing great."
How the new stars fit in:
KTF: "Ricky is wonderful. I think he will probably become an honorary Muppet; he's kind of our size, and very funny, and great playing opposite all us guys."
MP: "Ricky Gervais… what does he play in this movie? I don't know, he's somewhere in the background. You know, he did that show 'Extras,' and I thought he would be perfect to be an extra in my movie."
W: "Ricky is a great guy. He's really funny. And he's a huge fan too. He's kind of like a human Walter. And he's got this great laugh too. If you've ever heard Ricky's laugh, it's like… [Walter cackles] And it's like that from the moment we get on set until about three or four o'clock and then the laughter dies. I think he gets a little tired."
TL: "Ricky Gervais is probably one of the biggest Muppets fans in the world. He was so unbelievably happy to be a part of this… In a way, he comes across Muppet-like in this movie."
KTF: "As Tina put it, her character Nadya loves prison. It's a little strange. She does a number that reminds me very much of the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show.'"
W: "Tina, is there no end to that woman's talents? Her singing and dancing in this film is really something."
KTF: "Ty's wonderful. He's insane actually. He's very conservatively insane."
W: "Ty Burrell, I love him in 'Modern Family,' and he plays a very different character actually in our movie. He's very versatile. And very, very tall. I got a little crick in my neck looking up at the man. He's unbelievably tall. He's a giant in the industry."
How the cameos fit in:
TL: "From Oscar winners to Grammy winners to really recognizable actors… It's going to be an insane spread of talented and very recognizable people."
KTF: "Robin [Kermit's cousin] has a cameo in the movie. Robin is now going to school. He hasn't aged in the last 43 years, he's still 5. So he wasn't really available while we were shooting, but he does have a small cameo."
How the new Muppets fit in:
TL: "There will be a couple you didn't see in the last movie. The last movie had almost all of them, but I do think we introduce one or two that weren't in the first movie."
MP: "I still consider Walter new. He still messes up my coffee order, so until he gets that right, I'm going to keep calling him the new guy."
How Walter fits in:
KTF: "[Walter] isn't quite the center of attention, but he sort of joins the group. Which is what tends to happen to Muppets who make a debut: They either stick around or we put them in a drawer."
W: "It's so weird to be friends with somebody that I was a fan of first. It's kind of amazing. Every now and then I have to step outside myself and say, 'Oh my gosh I'm friends with Fozzie Bear! Okay, be cool Walter, be cool. Be cool.'"
W: "Ralph will sometimes come up to me and look at me like he's never seen me before, and then he sniffs me a little and he says, 'Walter.' I was not ready for that."
W: "[Miss Piggy] still thinks I'm the coffee boy. She's another one who doesn't remember me, and it doesn't seem to help if I ask her to smell me."
W: "Who do I hang out with after shooting is over? I hang out in a box."
How Kermit's dual role works:
TL: "Well Kermit doesn't play a dual role; there's a doppelganger named Constantine who looks a little like Kermit but it is actually played by two separate performers."
KTF: "Constantine is just one of my cousins from the swamp, he just happens to have the right facial features for the role."
MP: "There can only be one Kermit. I have no idea what you're talking about. I will say though, that some days, Kermit seemed more like himself than others."
How the music rocks:
TL: "Oscar winner [and Flight of the Conchords member] Bret McKenzie is back. The first movie showcased a lot of the talents of Bret and what he can do musically in different genres. This movie will do the exact same thing. We've got music that spans from a ballad to just an unbelievably fun, old school, musical-style romp."
KTF: "We did a number called 'The Big House,' which is actually Tina Fey's big number. She sings a song where she's welcoming me to prison. And I have to say, I was meant to act as if I'm kind of depressed about that, but it was hard to do because it's such a fun song. I think people will see a side of Tina they haven't seen before. She's really wonderful."
MP: "I actually get a solo in this movie that I do not have to sing with somebody else. The last one I had to do a solo with Amy Adams. This one I do not have to share the stage with anyone."
W: "In the making of the film, I did whistle once. Quite well. At least I will once the guy who does my whistling puts it in post. Because I'm a hack."
How the scope of this film is broadened by European adventures:
TL: "When the idea was pitched that it was going to be a European adventure, we obviously wanted to shoot there and we were lucky enough to be able to utilize the background and amazing architecture of these cities. Certainly in London… The Muppets against the backdrop of the Tower Bridge looks pretty damn cool."
KTF: "Imagine taking Sweetums and Thog to London. It's like a quarantine thing. There's quite a lot of coordination."
TL: "We've got two really good explosions in this movie."
How the Muppets stayed in shape for the film:
MP: "I don't do any of that myself; I have people who do that for me."
KTF: "I had to train to be more serious. It's a whole different kind of acting when you're playing those kinds of action hero roles, like hanging on the bottom of helicopters, and fun stuff like that."
W: "It's certainly not smooth sailing, as it were. I get seasick quite easily, and we don't do anything on boats… But I continue to do my own stunts in this film, and that's always a lot of fun, and very painful, but good."
See Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Walter in the brand new promo for "Muppets Most Wanted":