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The Muppets - Kermit and Miss Piggy UK press conference

The Muppets

Interview by Rob Carnevale

KERMIT and Miss Piggy attended a press conference in London earlier this month to promote their new film, The Muppets. Chaired by Chris Hewitt, of Empire magazine fame, the ensuing 30 minutes was filled with laughter and biting social and political commentary!

Here’s what Kermit, Miss Piggy and director James Bobin had to say…

Q. Chris Hewitt: Shall we bring out the other Muppet who’s here?
Kermit: I’m sorry Chris, I’m afraid we might have to hold on Miss Piggy, last time I saw her she was leaving the bar.

James Bobin: This feels strangely familiar to me from the shoot. She had her moments, let’s put it that way.

Kermit: I’m not saying she was drinking, I’m just saying she was leaving the bar.

Q. Chris Hewitt: So, how did you find working with Piggy James, did she refuse to come out of her trailer any time?
James Bobin: No, she was an absolute delight to work with.

Kermit: Wow, you’re good at that.

James Bobin: Thank you, it’s my job. She was fantastic, obviously, she’s one of my absolute favourite characters, I love working with her.

Kermit: You have a beautiful wife James, but I suspect you might have dated a pig in the past.

James Bobin: Quite possibly Kermit, but maybe not for quite as long as you have.

Q. Chris Hewitt: Kermit, what’s your relationship with Piggy like, has it matured over the years?
Kermit: Matured? Interesting word! I would say it’s fine, it has developed. It is a bit tumultuous at times, but I thought we weren’t going to ask any personal questions. Oh, you said for them not to ask any personal questions, it’s [okay from] you.

Q. Chris Hewitt: Let’s take some questions from these guys…

Q. Kermit, it’s been a long time since you’ve made a film, did you still get along with all your old friends? And James, have you made any new ones?
James Bobin: Well, I hope so. I grew up watching The Muppet Show, when I was younger, and those guys felt like friends even then. Now to have actually met them I really hope we are actual real friends.

Kermit: Of course we are, that’s wonderful. We all made new friends on this film, and that’s always the best part of being with The Muppets. It is always wonderful to get back together with all the gang, all the different personalities, their little quirks. I love it.

Q. Jack Black was a fantastic guest star in the movie, is there anyone else – past or present – you would love to work with, and why?
James Bobin: I’ve always liked the idea of The Muppets and Radiohead working together. One day that will happen, I promise you.

Kermit: Wow, that is a tough question. I’ve worked with a lot of people….

James Bobin: You’ve worked with absolute legends in your time.

Kermit: They were legends, yeah. Unfortunately, many of them are not with us anymore. But I suppose, you know what I’m going to say I’m fine with who I work with because I got to work with Jason Segel and Amy Adams and of course James, and Chris Cooper, and some wonderful, wonderful performers. I’m just going to be happy with who I have there.

Q. Can we have the next film in Bollywood?
Kermit: Sure, I’d love that with lots of curries and some Masala Dosas.

James Bobin: If you watch online we actually did cut a Bollywood trailer, if you look for it. We had quite a lot of shots that could be Bollywoodesque, so it would be fun to do a Bollywood version.

Kermit: I think Piggy would fit quite well in the Bollywood style, there’s musical numbers in a lot of the films. She’d get that, that sort of high, nasally sort of sound. Piggy in a sari…. Yeah, we’d all be sari!

Kermit, why do you think The Muppets have retained such immense popularity over the decades that you’ve worked here?
Kermit: You know, that’s a great question. If we knew the secret of that we’d have been back before 12 years. I think it’s probably, and James can elaborate on this too, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we stayed true to who we are, and yet we tried to evolve with the times. We’ve never been interested in becoming background guys who would turn into CG, we’ve always wanted to be real, in a real world. Let me give you an example. If you were talking to me and I was, say, Woody from Toy Story this would be your interview [Kermit ducks out of sight]. So, it’s nice that we can be here.

James Bobin: For me, and Kermit cover your ears here…..

Kermit: I don’t have any, but okay.

James Bobin: Plug the holes. I think it’s because they’re not very good at what they do. you’ve got to really root for them because of that. They’re the perennial underdogs. But they really try very hard and that’s very lovely.

The Muppets

Q. James, as a Muppet fan how did you get to the position of directing them, and how thrilling was it to work with them for the first time?
James Bobin: It was amazing, obviously. I grew up watching them here in England, and I remember watching them aged four in front of my grandma’s TV, a big old wooden box tv, so to actually not only meet them but maybe write lines and have Kermit and Piggy say lines you wrote is just incredible. But the story of how I got here is very prosaic, I literally got an e-mail from my agent asking if I liked The Muppets. And I sent an e-mail back saying ‘yes of course, who doesn’t like the Muppets?’. So, it was very straightforward, but I’m thrilled to be here.

Kermit: I’ve just realised that someone has arrived.

Enter Miss Piggy to rapturous applause…

Kermit: Ladies and gentlemen Miss Piggy!
Q. Chris Hewitt: Miss Piggy, thank you for joining us. Why the delay?

Miss Piggy: Hmm?

Q. Chris Hewitt: What were you doing?

Miss Piggy: I was just, well, you know, moi is something of a diva, and proud of it. I just wanted to keep everyone waiting a little longer.

Kermit: They were only here for, like, three hours waiting for us. Sorry about that.

Q. Chris Hewitt: Piggy, the last time we met, trans-Atlantic ally, I made you a Dame on behalf of the Empire. Have you been using your Damely powers for good?
Miss Piggy: Yes, you know, I really haven’t had much time to do that while here. I’ve been working so hard, working so very, very hard.

Q. Chris Hewitt: I believe you…
Kermit: At Harrods, Covent Garden, Camden Market. That’s hard work.

Miss Piggy: That’s hard work.

Kermit: I know, I know.

Miss Piggy: Sometimes the escalator goes off and you have to actually climb the stairs.

Q. How difficult is it for all of you to work with The Swedish Chef? Are there any language barriers?
Kermit: Well, yeah, I suppose so.

James Bobin: I’ve actually no idea what he’s doing at all times. He’s fine.

Kermit: There are a number of The Muppets that you sort of just have to let them do whatever it is they do and hope it fits in….

Miss Piggy: I don’t mind working with the Swedish Chef, I just don’t want to eat any of his food.

Kermit: Very good point.

James Bobin: To be fair, he’s the least of our… he has to work with chickens, that’s much harder.

Q. There’s been quite a lot of talk that Uggy, the canine performer from The Artist, should be nominated for awards, do you think it’s about time other species were nominated, and do you have any favourites for this year’s Oscar race?
Kermit: Well abso-blooming-lutely.

Miss Piggy: Thank you for bringing that issue up.

Kermit: It’s very important to us.

The Muppets

Miss Piggy: For some reason the Academy does not recognise other species than humans as actors, as artists, as talent.

Kermit: They’re very species-ist. Anyway, thank-you, if you have any pull with them please put our names in the pot.

Q. Chris Hewitt: You could always hold your own Muppet Oscar ceremony….
Kermit: Yeah, but it doesn’t quite mean the same thing. You have the Emmys, the daytime Emmys, the Oscars…. all different awards. If you don’t go for the big one it doesn’t really matter.

Q. Kermit, you’re a very funny frog, what’s your favourite joke?
Kermit: Mmm, okay, you mean it’s not a multiple choice?

Miss Piggy: Come on, what’s your favourite joke?

Kermit: Well, I’ve got to say I heard a great one this morning that I’m going to pass along to you. You may know it, but I quite like it, but I’m trying to remember it for sure. I always screw up jokes, that’s why I let Fozzy screw them up.

Miss Piggy: He screws them up pretty bad.

Kermit: What do you call cheese that isn’t yours? Notch yo cheese [nacho cheese]! I love that joke, thank you.

Miss Piggy: You taking credit for that?

Kermit: No, I stole it.

Q. Who’s naughtier, Animal or Jack Black?
Miss Piggy: I am!

Kermit: They’re naughty in different ways. Jack Black is Jack Black. Animal is not so much naughty as sort of ADD. As James will attest, if you can get him to stay on his mark you’re fine.

Miss Piggy: Animal’s not really trying to get into trouble, he just does.

Kermit: Jack’s trying.

Q. Kermit, having begun your career as a roving reporter for Sesame Street News do you miss journalism?
Kermit: Well I do, I still have my trenchcoat in a bag with mothballs all around it. I’d love to get back into that, maybe in connection with the [London] Olympics. I could cover leap frog. I’d love to cover the next presidential election because boy, that’s going to be a doozy. So we’ll see what happens.

Q. And as a former journalist do you have any comment to make on the current phone hacking scandal?
Kermit: Very interesting. I probably should refrain from any serious comment – which I do on most subject.

Miss Piggy: I have no problem with wire tapping, tracking individuals. I actually have a GPS chip implanted on Kermit.

Q. But as one of the biggest celebrities in the world do you think your phone has ever been hacked?
Miss Piggy: Wow. I never thought of it working the other way around. I don’t know.

Kermit: Usually when you say the word hacked about The Muppets, it’s usually something that one of the dogs did.

Q. Kermit, the film has been warmly received, but how did you feel when someone on Fox News accused it of pushing a dangerous liberal agenda, and trying to brainwash children?
Kermit: It’s so dangerous. It’s a funny thing, they were concerned about us having some prejudice against oil companies and I can tell you that’s categorically not true. And besides if we had a problem with oil companies why would we have spent the entire film driving around in a gas guzzling Rolls Royce?

Miss Piggy: It’s almost as laughable as accusing Fox News of being, you know, News.

Kermit: Boy, that’s going to be all over the Internet. You are in such deep water.

Miss Piggy: If they take what I say seriously they’ve got a real big problem.

The Muppets

Q .The backstage scenes of the original series were like an early form of reality television, would either of you be tempted by modern reality series like Dancing With The Stars or maybe judges on American Idol?
Kermit: I’m not sure we should be the ones to judge American Idol, but sure. We do play ourselves in our films, and we take some artistic licence with that of course, but there is a little bit of a documentary going on I’d say.

Miss Piggy: I don’t think it would be quite fair if were, certainly contestants on the show. It wouldn’t be fair. But judging doesn’t feel right either.

Kermit: Because you’re not at all judgmental. In no way are you judgemental.

Miss Piggy: No, I’m not.

Q. What are the secrets to a good relationship, such as yours?
Kermit: Compliance. I find that works very well.

Miss Piggy: It works for me.

Q. And also Miss Piggy, you are Plus Size editor for Paris Vogue….
Miss Piggy: No, no, no, no, no, no. Moi is not plus size, the editor is not plus size, the department she edits is plus size. But go ahead, what is your question?

Q. What trends do you think will be coming up that the plus size girls will be wearing?
Miss Piggy: I think everyone, next winter, will be wearing coats. You heard it here first.

Kermit: That is an edgy prediction.

Q. Miss Piggy, how do you stay looking so youthful?
Miss Piggy: Me? Thank you so much. I just decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to get any older. Ageing wasn’t for me.

Kermit: Is that working for you?

Miss Piggy: Oh yeah. Why are you asking that?

Kermit: No reason. No reason, [looks down] that’s a nice counter.

Q. Chris Hewitt: Let’s dig Kermit out of this hole. James, let’s talk about the songs in the movie, and an Oscar nomination…
James Bobin: I’m very excited for Bret.

Kermit: Bret McKenzie, yay.

James Bobin: I wanted this film to be very much a comedy musical, and I had a good friend who was good at comedy and music so therefore it was a pretty obvious choice to ask him to write some songs. I felt the songs should be like the film is, a tribute to the heritage of The Muppets but also very contemporary in their feel. So, something like Man Or Muppet ticks both those boxes. I’m really pleased for him because he’s a very humble, modest man and for him to have the potential to have an Oscar in his house. And also he has a 50% chance of winning the Oscar, which is just unbelievable. I’m thrilled for him.

Q. And who knew Chris Cooper could rap?
Kermit: I know. It’s amazing. I don’t think he knew it until he turned up and did it.

James Bobin: He took no persuading. That wasn’t a thing of me twisting his arm at all, he was very keen to do it.

Kermit: He went for it.

Miss Piggy: And who knew what a lovely voice moi has – everybody!

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Q. What are the unusual aspects of working with The Muppets? And was it difficult getting any human cast members to agree to be in it?
James Bobin: No, it was really a very pleasurable experience, asking people to do the film. We asked Amy on a video, Jason and Kermit made a video where they say in chairs and talked to her about doing the movie. I think once Kermit asks you to do something you can’t say ‘no’, so she said ‘yes’. And in terms of the difference, obviously there’s a few differences because the Conchords are six foot tall and these guys can be a little smaller sometimes, so my life can be a little tricky. Technically there are some complications because of the nature of the job.

Kermit: It’s a nature thing.

James Bobin: But as they are present I can’t really talk about that.

Kermit: You wouldn’t believe what goes on under here, [looks under the table] oh yeah.

Miss Piggy: [looks under her side of the table] Whoa!

Q. Kermit and Miss Piggy, can you describe what it was like working with James?
Kermit: It was wonderful. James is a very merry soul.

Miss Piggy: Yes, he took direction very well.

Kermit: And we actually did The Muppet Show here, at Elstree, many, many years ago and one of the things that we slightly missed over the last few years was a British sensibility. And it was nice to have that from James.

James Bobin: Thanks Kermit.

Q. What’s the most inspiring advice you’ve ever been given?
Kermit: Never listen to your own PR. That’s super important.

Miss Piggy: What? I listen to it all the time, what’s the matter with that?

Kermit: I’m just saying, I know, I know. That’s actually quite important for real. But the most inspiring piece of advice? Try to find a way to do what you enjoy doing and still survive that, if you can. That’s always nice. Or, if you can’t find a way to survive and learn to enjoy it. You know? That’s not funny but it’s so true.

James Bobin: Very good, very profound.

Q. Do you agree with that Miss Piggy?
Miss Piggy: I have no idea what he just said.

Q. Who were your big idols growing up?
Kermit: Wow, that’s tough.

Miss Piggy: Besides myself?

Kermit: When I was growing up I was in the swamp, where the culture there was a little different, it was more like a culture, you know, like in a Petri dish. But the first time I went to the movies, one of the first films I ever saw was The Wizard of Oz, which inspired me. It sort of sent me down a Yellow Brick Road so to speak, on a path to rainbows.

Miss Piggy: I really love the screen legends; Garbo, Marilyn and Dietrich. I feel like I am a continuation of that legacy.

James Bobin: I always used to love the films of Woody Allen, I’ve always loved those. They are something which stand the test of time. I love them.

Q. You’ve worked with some pretty amazing people, who would you love to work with now?
Kermit: You mean other than the people we’ve already worked with?

Q. Yeah, who are you dying to work with?
Miss Piggy: I wouldn’t die to work with anyone. Cover your ears Kermit.

Kermit: As I said earlier, I don’t actually have them, but go ahead.

Miss Piggy: [whispering] “Brad Pitt. BRAD PITT!

James Bobin: I’ve always been a huge fan of Mr Bill Murray. I would love to work with Bill.

Kermit: He’s a great guy. Let’s do a Brad Pitt-Bill Murray movie, James can direct and if we can just get Reese Witherspoon I’d be quite happy.

Miss Piggy: What?!

Kermit: She’s so talented, she’d be Brad’s co-star.

Miss Piggy: Alright.

Q. What do you feel Jason Segel and Walter contributed to the piece?
Kermit: An enormous amount, my goodness. Jason wrote the film, along with Nick Stoller. He was certainly the star of the film, along with Walter.

Miss Piggy: Somebody wrote this movie?

Kermit: They didn’t actually write the stuff that you did, they wrote around the things that you did.

James Bobin: Do you remember that book that I gave you a long time ago, with some lines in it? The thing you ignored and gave back to me.

Miss Piggy: Aah yes.

James Bobin: That was the script.

Miss Piggy: That was the script. I’m sure it was very good.

Kermit: And Walter… Walter’s sort of the epitome of the ultimate Muppet fan. A lot like Jason. We always love our fans all over the world, and we have about three, so it’s nice to pay tribute to them.

Q. There are loads of great cameos in the film, were celebrities beating down the door to be in the film, or did you have specific people in mind? And Kermit and Miss Piggy did you have any favourites among them?
James Bobin: There’s a great tradition in Muppet films of making cameos, and we had a very clear idea of who we wanted. And it was that brilliant thing that pretty much everyone was asked said yes. Not only yes, but ‘thank you for asking us,’ and ‘can I bring my kids along as well please?’. So, it was really lovely, often on set there was a whole load of kids watching us work. They’d meet Kermit and Piggy, and that’s a lovely environment to work in.

Kermit: Hard to pick a favourite, because they were all really wonderful and great to work with.

Miss Piggy: For me, it’s hard to pick because I didn’t really work with any of them. I did most of my scenes on green screen. I work better that way.

Q. Do you insist upon that?
Miss Piggy: Oh yes.

James Bobin: Kermit, of course, is less successful on green screen.

Kermit: I sort of look like an ad for ping-pong balls.

Q. Kermit and Piggy, you always play variations of yourselves in the movies, are you worried about typecasting? Do you feel unfairly excluded from non-amphibian and pig roles?
Kermit: Frankly, a little bit. I tried out for a couple of other roles over the years that I didn’t get. One was Yoda, right body type, wrong ears. And The Incredible Hulk… right colour, wrong body type. So, it is tough.

Miss Piggy: I don’t mind playing myself, I rather prefer it actually. There’s no one else who can actually portray me as well. And I don’t have to do any research for the role, so I kind of like that part too.

Kermit: That’s true.

Q. Kermit and Piggy, there was an online campaign to get you to host the Oscars….
Miss Piggy: Yes, which I started.

Q. Is it something you’d consider for the future?
Kermit: Well sure, we’d have to be asked of course, we can’t just barge in. Billy Crystal’s doing it, and he’s a great friend, we actually got to see him recently.

James Bobin: We have. On the DVD.

Kermit: He’s one of our best friends, and of course we didn’t cut him out of the film until after he took the Oscar job. It would be wonderful, but who knows. With the song being nominated maybe we’ll join in and help sing it or something.

James Bobin: They’d be brilliant hosts, of course, but I think they’d rather be there picking them up [rather] than giving them out.

Miss Piggy: I just don’t right being a part of an institution that continues to ignore the contributions of pig actors.

Kermit: And there are a lot of them too.

Q. James, tell us about Dave Grohl’s involvement in the film?
James Bobin: Well, we knew we had these characters called The Moopets, a sort of terrible tribute band to the Muppets who were just going through the motions for cash basically. And so we thought they would be fun if they had a human component to it, and obviously Animal is a natural, he’s a fantastic character. So, we thought who are the world’s greatest drummers?

All drummers in the world love Animal, that’s just a fact I think, so we asked Dave and he sort of jumped at the chance of doing it. It was a great moment when he walked on set in that ridiculous Animal outfit, those weird shabby trousers, and a sort of weird waistcoat and basically nude underneath. It was absolutely amazing to look at. But he loved it, he was brilliant. And the other thing is he doesn’t actually play the drums, he just did a little shaking [percussion]. But he was great, he was fantastic.

Q. Kermit, given that it isn’t easy being green, how do you feel about Shrek? Do you see him as a rival?
Kermit: You should ask him yourself. Of course, you can’t……… [applause].

Q. You’ve been going for 50 years, can you talk a little about the Muppets phenomenon?
Kermit: Well, we’ve been here for 20 minutes, that’s as phenomenal as it gets.

Q. Chris Hewitt: Did you say phenomenon?
Audience: Doo Doo Doo-Doo Doo

Kermit: Boy are we ready!

Q. Chris Hewitt: We didn’t rehearse this at any point, but on that note I think it’s time we called an end to proceedings…

Read our review of The Muppets