They say you should never meet your heroes. They say that it's common for a person to raise someone they respect and admire to the point where that celebrated individual can't possibly live up to the expectations set, especially if this awe has existed since childhood. Well "They” can all go suck a lemon, because I'm sat in the conference room in London's Mayfair Hotel about to meet Kermit The Frog. That's right, THE Kermit The Frog.
It's difficult to explain exactly how much I love the Muppets. Slightly too young to remember the show that bore their name, I nevertheless watched the repeats until I was blue in the face, and sat through The Muppet's Christmas Carol several hundred times, once in August. Now, I know what the cynics among you are going to say. "That's ridiculous”, "Kermit's just felt sewn together” and "For God's sake, you're a grown man, stop getting teary whenever you hear Rainbow Connection”. No, no and shut up.
Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet crew have been doing their thing now for such a long time, for so many different generations, that they, in an almost deity-like fashion, have ‘earned' their realness almost through strength of belief alone. This probably explains why nobody during their extensive tour to promote the release of The Muppets seems to have any trouble speaking to them as equals. That said, it is a certain surreal air that descends when he and very human director of the film, James Bobin, settle down to answer our questions.
Kermit, James, thanks for your time. Um…isn't Miss Piggy supposed to be here?
Kermit the Frog: Uh, we might have to put a hold on Miss Piggy, uh yeah, last time I saw her she was leaving the bar.
James Bobin: That's very familiar to me from our time on the shoot. She does have her moments.
KtF: Yeah, I'm not saying she was drinking, just that she was leaving the bar.
So what was it like working with Piggy, James? Did she ever refuse to come out of her trailer?
JB: [laughs] No, absolutely not. She's always been one of my favourite characters and she was a delight to work with.
Ktf: [to JB] Wow, you're really good at that.
JB: Thanks, it's my job.
So Kermit, why do you think the Muppets have retained such lasting popularity over the years?
KtF: Great question, if we knew the answer we'd have been back before 12-years probably. I think it has a lot to do with that we stay true to who we are but also trying to evolve with the times. We were never interested in becoming background guys who turned into CG, we've always wanted to be real, in the real world. Let me give you an example, if you were talking to me and I was Woody from Toy Story, this would be your interview [disappears from view]. So it's nice that we can be here.
JB: For me…Kermit, cover your ears here.
KtF: I don't really have any, but ok.
JB: Um…just plug the holes then. Anyway, I think it's because they're not very good at what they do. They're the perennial underdogs and you have to root for them because of that.
KtF: I can accept that.
James, how would you describe your journey to making this film and how was it getting to work with legends like these?
JB: Obviously it was amazing. I grew up watching the Muppets here in England when I was four on my Grandmother's wooden box TV. So to not only meet them and write for them and have Kermit and Miss Piggy say lines that you wrote for them, was incredible. The story of how I got here though is very prosaic; I literally got an email from my agent saying "Do you like Muppets?” [laughs] And I sent an email back saying "Yes. Of course I do, who doesn't like Muppets?” It was very straightforward but I'm thrilled to be here.
At this point, and with much fuss as possible, we are joined in the room by the indomitable queen of the Muppets, Miss Piggy herself.
Welcome Miss Piggy. If we may ask, why the delay? We started 10 minutes ago.
Miss Piggy: Hm? Yes, well, mois is something of a diva, y'know, and I just wanted to keep everyone waiting just a little longer.
Well, now that you're both here, there's been a lot of talk that Uggie, the canine performer from The Artist, should have been nominated for awards this year, do you think it's time for other species to be nominated?
MP: Thank you for bringing that up. For some reason, the academy doesn't recognise other species than the human species as actors, as artists, as…talent.
KtF: Yeah, they're very species-ist, but if you do have any pull with them, please, put our names in the pot.
Kermit, you had a career as a roving reporter on Sesame Street, do you ever miss journalism?
KtF: Well I do, I absolutely do, I still have my trench coat in a bag with mothballs all around it. I'd love to get back into that, to maybe cover the Olympics, I could cover the Leap Frog event, and also I'd like to cover the next Presidential election, ‘cos boy, that one's going to be a doozy.
So how did you feel when Eric Bolling of FOX News said that your movie "pushes a dangerous liberal agenda and brainwashes children against corporate America”?
KtF: [sarcastically] Oh yeah, I mean its sooo dangerous. Y'know it's a funny thing, they were concerned about us having some prejudice against oil companies and I can tell you that's categorically untrue, I mean besides, if we had something against oil companies, why would we have spent the entire movie driving around in a gas-guzzling Rolls Royce?
MP: It's almost as a laughable as accusing FOX News of being…news.
KtF: Boy, that's going to be all over the Internet tomorrow.
MP: Well, if they take what I say seriously, they've got a real big problem.
You've had a personal and professional relationship on and off screen now for a long time, what's the secret to making it last?
MP: Yep, works for me.
Piggy, in the movie you're the plus-size editor of Vogue Paris and-
MP: [interrupting] No, no, no, no. Mois is NOT plus-size, the editor is NOT plus-size, the department she edits IS plus size. But please, go on with your question.
So what fashions do you think the plus-size girls will be wearing next year?
MP: Well, I think…next winter…everyone will be wearing…coats.
KtF: Wow, that is an edgy prediction.
MP: Thank you.
So James, let's just talk about the music in the film, you worked with Brett McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, how did that come about?
JB: Well I wanted the film to be very much a comedy musical, and I had a good friend who was good at comedy and music, so it seemed like an obvious choice and I asked him to write some songs. I felt the songs should be like the film, sort of a tribute to the heritage of The Muppets but also very contemporary in their feel and something like "Man or Muppet” ticked both those boxes. I'm also very pleased for him [McKenzie] because he's a very humble, modest man and it's great that he has the chance for an Oscar.
And for Kermit and Miss Piggy, what's it like working with James?
KtF: Oh it was wonderful.
MP: He took direction very well.
KtF: Uh, yeah. We actually did The Muppet Show in Elstree [Studios] many, many years ago and one of the things we slightly missed over the last few years was a sort of British sensibility and it was really nice to have that from James.
And finally, what's the most inspiring piece of advice you've received during your years in showbiz?
KtF: Try to find a way to do what you enjoy doing and still survive that, if you can. If you can't, find a way to survive and learn to enjoy it. Oh, and never listen to your own PR.
Disney's The Muppets hits cinema on February 10th.
Writer: Alex Hall