Muppets Most Wanted
Writer and Director James Bobin Interview
One of the reasons I went to L.A. was to interview Muppets Most Wanted Director, James Bobin. I mean, this is the man directing the Muppets, wouldn’t you want to know more? Such a fun, interesting interview. Plus, I learned so much about the filming process and what it was like to work with puppeteers.
You may have heard of James Bobin before. He’s a writer and director known for Flight of the Conchords, The Muppets, and now Muppets Most Wanted.
Here are a few of my favorite answers during the interview.
Q: What is the difference between shooting the first movie [The Muppets 2011] and then the second movie?
A: Oh, for me obviously it was the first movie – I’d never worked 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 and the world’s just, the world we live in, the recognizable world we live in happened to have puppets in it. That idea I love, and that’s a very important part of it.
And that was quite, the–– the training of the first movie was just getting, I think just getting to that level for me was an achievement. I could make a movie that like worked on that level. And 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. And the last, you know, most of it was and so I thought this time, well, 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–– you can do bigger action sequences.
And, obviously, you never want to put the words “puppet” and “action sequences” in the same sentence as a director, because 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. And the way I love both movies equally, but this film–– film I feel like has slightly more ambition which I love about it and 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.
Q: When writing The Muppets did you take any inspiration from your funny show Flight Of The Conchords? And then do you think that adult humor and children’s humor are closer than we think?
A: Good questions. Uh, adult humor and, I’ll do them in the reverse order. Adult humor and child humor, yeah they are kind of different but they can be the same.
I mean, we’re all big kids, really, I am, I know for sure. And so often I find things like, things falling over, I will find that funny forever. Like Tom and Jerry makes me laugh as much as my kids might laugh. And that’s always gonna be the way. But sometimes it’s useful to have a thing that works on two levels, that they like it for some reason, and we like it for a different reason.
And often that’s because we’re putting clever words into the mouths of puppets and so they see a–– a blue thing with a funny nose and white hair, which is funny, but we hear them say smart words. And I love it, that idea works for both adults and children. I think whenever you make anything you can’t help but put an imprint of yourself in it to a degree. So when you do like a show like Conchords and move into Muppets you can’t help but bring a bit of–– of that, your personality, with you.
Especially when you have half of the Conchords working on the movie with you, of course, because Brett [McKenzie] writes the songs and so Brett and I worked together for a good 1- years now. And so be it set out on the streets of New York and Conchords or set on the streets of London and Muppets, there’s some of Bret in many ways. In many ways the Conchords Muppets aren’t that different, they’re both quite innocent.
I don’t know but Conchords is the quite accessible innocent, sure they’re very kind of likeable innocent people. And the Muppets are also very innocent, likeable people. So, it didn’t feel like a huge leap going from Conchord’s to Muppets.
Q: Do you approach celebrities to do cameos, or do they come to you and say, “I want to appear in the movie?”
A: generally we write them in for the right 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 that joke, you know? 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. And then we start finding out just subtly who are Muppet fans. And people who we know, and we hear about who like the Muppets. For example, of course Christoph Waltz I knew, we heard liked the Muppets, and I thought, “Well if here’s a Muppet show today, obviously what you do with him, his name is Waltz, you are going to do a Waltz with him somewhere, and somehow that came about that way. It’s mostly us writing people in, but sometimes we hear about people that want to be in the show too.
Q: The first movie was kind of like a comeback movie for the Muppets. What are you hoping to accomplish with this movie?
A: The last movie I loved, but it was like we were in this situation we couldn’t deal with the Muppets until halfway through, because they have 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. So for me it feels like this one could really show you what the Muppets do, like what they do in a movie, what the roles they can play, how they can interact with each other, mainly just by being brilliant on stage and doing funny things in the show, but also outside of that, just being interesting and funny. I think that’s a really, it’s a good showcase for the Muppets and what they can do.
And I hope that means that in the future there will be many more, so I think this sets it up so nicely that they can do any sort of thing. So I really hope that they keep going.
What an enlightening interview, things I hadn’t thought about when filming puppets. Did you go to see Muppets Most Wanted this past weekend? Let me know what you thought! If you haven’t gone yet, be sure to read my movie review and take a look at the red carpet pictures. If you haven’t read my interview with Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Constantine yet, what are you waiting for? It was so much fun! My review with Bret McKenzie will be coming up soon so keep an eye out for that.
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Disclosure: This was included as part of an all expense paid press trip. I received no monetary compensation for this post. All opinions are completely my own.