Time again for Muppet Monday! Every Monday until The Muppets hit the theater a few bloggers will be bringing you awesome posts about The Muppets. Today I’m bringing you the interview transcript from our fun interview with Jason Segel & Nick Stoller. You could really tell from the answers that Jason gave he truly has an emotional attachment to both the Muppets themselves and this film.
Q: For this Muppet movie what was your favorite movie or episode in song?
NICK STOLLER: Oh, wow. Well my favorite Muppet movie I think is actually Muppets take Manhattan. Which I just love. My favorite song oddly enough it’s not a very popular one but it was a Peter Sellers episode of the Muppet show and Peter Sellers somehow gets away with singing a song called Whiskey, Wine, and Wild Women. And I just remember at that point realizing what the Muppets did that was so special is the whole family could sit and enjoy that.
Kids are just watching a goofy guy sing a song with a bunch of puppets and it’s fun. And adults are experiencing it on a whole different level and I think there’s something neat about the whole family walking away having enjoyed something together, having a shared experience.
JASON SEGEL: I loved– someone’s phone is ringing. I love the great Muppet Caper. It was just like, it was the video we had. The video you have, just watch it over. And I love Happiness Hotel. For some reason that song, I just love that song. So, yeah.
Q : Are you guys still in awe that you did this project?
NICK STOLLER: I mean it was a childhood dream of mine. I have a list of dreams that I wanted to publish. One was being on David Letterman, which I did a few years ago. One is hosting SNL which I still haven’t done but I think that I will soon. [PRODUCTION CONVERSATION]. And then one was make a Muppets movie. And then be on the cover of Men’s Health. Start the campaign for that. Rough.
Q : How did that process start for you when you said okay now so time to go after them and make it happen?
JASON SEGEL: Well Nick and I had just made Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I had been a crazy puppet lover for a long time. And I made short films with puppets.
NICK STOLLER: We actually– I just need to tell one quick story. We had a meeting on Sarah Marshall. We had a meeting with various puppet companies to decide who we were going to — of course we ended up going with Henson company but we had our meeting with the Henson company and they passed out puppets to everyone in the meeting. The business meeting. They’re just doing as like a little goof, right. So Jason’s in the meeting. I’m in the meeting. The producers are in the meeting. And they had out puppets. Everyone’s like ha, puts them down. The entire meeting Jason has his hand in the puppet [LAUGHING] going like this like this with the puppet. Like the puppet is part of the meeting. [OVERLAPPING CONVERSATION]. You’re embarrassing me. We’re trying to have a meeting about the puppets and he’s like– like pretending.
JASON SEGEL: Take it easy sweetheart. But so after, after that movie we had a little bit of writing juice. The movie did well and we’re trying to figure out what the next thing was. And I went to Nick and I told him I would like to make a Muppet movie and Nick helped me think of the plot you know. And–.
NICK STOLLER: You said, do you want to write a Muppet movie? And I said yes.
JASON SEGEL: It was pretty easy. And so we went in and pitched it and the next thing you knew we were writing this movie. One of the, one of the greatest things is sitting, if you could, watching Nick and I along in my house writing the script, doing all the different voices terribly to each other. It was really an exercise in trying to realize slowly going crazy.
Q : Since you are so passionate and knowledgeable about the Muppets did you have a mentor that you looked at for this?
NICK STOLLER: Well I think, I think what we look towards was the legacy that they had created with those first three movies and the TV show. That was really our model and we didn’t have to stray very far from that time or try to update it or anything like that. The Muppets, their style of humor is pretty timeless and you know, he really moves in cycles. And I think we somehow, you know CGI is amazing but I feel a little bit like its Hollywood playing with their new toy, you know.To get back to something here like you know, puppetry and the Muppets style of just kind humor I was excited about that.
Q : Was Disney receptive to your idea when you approached them?
NICK STOLLER: They were very receptive to the idea of us writing a script. You know at that point it becomes about kind of re-launching a giant franchise too, which is something–.
JASON SEGEL: We’re not Johnny Depp.
NICK STOLLER: Yeah, exactly.
JASON SEGEL: We have no experience in that.
NICK STOLLER: All of a sudden I mean we are, we’re writers you know. We’re sitting in meetings about toys and rides, you know. We didn’t have any experience at all. Or at least I didn’t. You designed a few rides.
JASON SEGEL: I’ve designed a few rides.
NICK STOLLER: But you know I think realizing the scope of what we were going to do it made us understand why it took a while to get made because you know there’s a lot that could come from this. Hopefully the Muppets will be back in full force.
Q : I hope they have a Muppet show again.
NICK STOLLER: Like immediately understood, Disney understood the tone that we wanted to do. There was no like, the notes but once we got into it, or all, we were all on the same page, you know in terms of figuring, figuring out what the tone was. It was a very cool and creatively liberating experience.
JASON SEGEL: I must say our executive at Disney, her name is Kristen Berg, she is, she loves the Muppets as much as we do. And–.
NICK STOLLER: Her office is filled with Muppets.
JASON SEGEL: Yeah, it is, filled with Disney paraphernalia and Muppets. And every image you have of like a studio executive who doesn’t quite get what you’re doing, she was the opposite. She, she really did spearhead this alongside us.
Q : What was it like working with the Muppets?
JASON SEGEL: I was saying before I got to do a lot of sitting which was nice. [OVERLAP]. Yeah, yeah, because I am a good like 2 feet taller than most of the Muppets.
NICK STOLLER: The hardest thing was not being like awestruck while filming. So the way we handled that is we made it so that our characters were awestruck. Make it very easy. Can you do the face you do for us–?
JASON SEGEL: Yeah, this is, this is my job in the movie. I go like this a lot.
NICK STOLLER: Because he had to make sure you could see, like he could do that face.
JASON SEGEL I feel like that’s how I’ve made my living is the face. [LAUGHING]
NICK STOLLER: Or sad, embarrassed, sad, embarrassed.
Q : The whole family can sit down and watch a Muppets movie. When you were writing the script how conscious were you of keeping that throughout the movie?
NICK STOLLER: Yeah, I mean it was, it was kind of natural that it is just the tone of the Muppets and so there wasn’t, it wasn’t you know, because we both grew up on it, it wasn’t like we attempted to do that so much as a just naturally happened.
JASON SEGEL: Yeah, that, that just isn’t there to you. We didn’t have to put much effort into it. I was really inspired by Toy Story 3 as well in that movie hit on every level. Kids are watching [OVERLAP]. Yeah, it’s because kids are watching a movie about losing their toys. And parents are watching a movie about losing their children.
NICK STOLLER: Afterwards my wife was like do you, do you cry so much because you miss your toys. And I was like [LAUGHING] cause my daughter’s gonna leave me. I was like–.
Q : Is she like going to college soon or is she like 3?
NICK STOLLER: No, she’s four.
Q : How was your first encounter with Miss Piggy and Kermit?
NICK STOLLER: My first encounter was at a table read in New York where they surprised us and brought the puppets out for the table read. And when Kermit first spoke line that we had written I literally cried at the table read and they had to stop the table read for a second while I pulled it together.
JASON SEGEL: Shameful.
NICK STOLLER: It was because I’m a grown man. I should be able to handle this. This is also my profession. But no, I cried like a little baby just for a second. But it happened.
Q : Who is your favorite Muppet?
NICK STOLLER: Um, I mean you always have to think Kermit first because that’s you know, he’s the best. But, but then Beeker is my favorite.
Q : Everyone’s favorite is Beeker.
JASON SEGEL: Yeah, Beeker’s awesome.
Q : Is there more Beeker in the movie?
NICK STOLLER : There’s quite a bit of Beeker, yeah, absolutely. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] in the movie, yes. [PRODUCTION CONVERSATION].
NICK STOLLER : We cut a lot of really good stuff just because that’s the process of making a movie. You know it always ends up much longer than anticipated. The one thing that I was disappointed that we had to cut not everything but how I had pictured it, was I had written a scene, we had written a scene where it’s supposed to be a full body shot of all the Muppets running away from a building that explodes, which is great to write but then you show up on set in they’re like do you have any plan for how to do this. I didn’t think that was part of my job. And so then we, we rewrote it so you never see the explosion. You just see them from waist up and then you hear an ocean and then Fozi Bear says wow, that was an expensive looking explosion.
JASON SEGEL: We needed more Muppety.
NICK STOLLER: Yeah, it’s a much more Muppety joke.
NICK STOLLER: Yeah, Walter is in the original script in a different form. Walter is like the eyes and the ears of where we hope our new audience will be. Just crazy Muppet fans with a wide-eyed naïveté who think anything is possible and they’re just super, super excited to meet the Muppets.
JASON SEGEL : He reminds me of when Kermit, I picture, Kermit would like before he became famous.
Q : Being both an actor and a writer are you ever surprised by all the changes that are made in script?
JASON SEGEL : I mean if you know, you kind of always know when you’re writing that the first, especially that the first draft is really, is really just a blueprint for what it’s going to be. And like you know — and as you revise it you just know it’s going to change and get better and better and better. Like those first drafts, like and we tend to write a lot of drafts quickly kind of the way we do it. So it’s not like we spend a lot of time on one draft.
Q : Does it always get better?
NICK STOLLER : There are occasional draft– well we have a no pride agreement.
JASON SEGEL: We really do. Amazingly it works too. But like we are happy to change each other’s stuff. Basically the way it works is to break the story together and then we each take chunks and hand them back and forth. And revise each other’s work and change what you know we think needs to be changed and it’s really pretty seamless. But yeah, we’ve taken you know, back steps or side steps but we always try to get back to where it should be. Yeah.
NICK STOLLER: I was pretty excited about the 80s robot.
Q : I thought was the same robot from Lets To to the Mall.
NICK STOLLER: It is basically an Omni-bot [OVERLAP]. I had a friend who had an omni-bot and it never — and I was always so excited to go to their house and always forgot that it never ever worked or did anything.
JASON SEGEL The promise of robots like, it should have come much further right now.
NICK STOLLER: I didn’t want the promise or the threat. But [OVERLAP]. I don’t want them taking over the earth or serving you like–.
JASON SEGEL: All it can do is bring you soda.
NICK STOLLER Maybe.
JASON SEGEL : Maybe. Or it can vacuum.
NICK STOLLER : Oh, that’s right. [PRODUCTION CONVERSATION]
Q : Did you guys improvise a lot?
JASON SEGEL : We did you know, and I didn’t expect that given that you know, I didn’t realize how talented these puppeteers are. And I was saying, I said it a few times. I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself but their job is to be invisible basically, is to disappear. And it’s such a shame because they’re comedians and actors and hilarious improvers and they’re hiding under this table most of the time. You’ll never see their faces. That was what I walked away from most impressed by is how crazy talented guys are.
Q : How did you guys come up with a story of where they left off?
NICK STOLLER : We revise the — that was a good revision there. We rewrote that a lot. A lot of times. I mean that was, and that was a big, you know, we wrote, yeah, many different, different versions.
JASON SEGEL : Of where everybody was, yeah. Piggy was always doing that. And I think Fozi was always in Reno.
NICK STOLLER : He was in Reno but then James [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
JASON SEGEL : Right.
NICK STOLLER : Yeah, yeah. So yeah like and you had thought of the Ralph [OVERLAP]. Yeah, and uh, yeah, but I think– I mean we also had much longer version of that and then the reality as the production kind of– because I think Swedish chef was going to be on top Chef.
JASON SEGEL : Yeah, he was hosting top Chef.
NICK STOLLER : He was doing Top Chef. Yeah, we had a few really fun things but I think that–.
JASON SEGEL : It can’t take up that much time.
NICK STOLLER : It can’t take up that much time. You want the Muppets back together. One of the whole themes of the Muppets, this is like an amazing segue, is that they’re stronger together than they are apart. And you kind of felt it when you were watching the movie. You are hungry for them to be back together.
Q : Maybe you can do Swedish chef origins.
NICK STOLLER : Yeah, it’s really funny you say that. I actually think, I think like a Muppets origin, origins movie would be hilarious you know. Like where they all started.
JASON SEGEL : Yeah, totally.
NICK STOLLER : Before they met.
Q : You have any plans of doing another movie?
NICK STOLLER : Well I’m superstitious and so we’re trying not to think of it until this comes out. But we’re starting to think of ideas. I think my main goal is just to try to get the Muppets back to where they belong and you know the forefront of comedy. And to have, to have our generation get to experience what they had when they were young. And share that with like their kids. I just think it would be great.
JASON SEGEL : Because, like I said the Muppets are always a force for good. Their humor is never mean and I think that’s a really great lesson to impart to children, personally.
NICK STOLLER : And I’d like to introduce the first mean Muppet. I think the children could learn how to be mean to each other, to survive in this world Just when they’re about to be too mean–.
JASON SEGEL : Then they do something nice, yeah.
NICK STOLLER : So. They’re judgmental though.
JASON SEGEL : They are judgmental.
Q : Did you guys write a lot of the songs?
JASON SEGEL : Brett McKenzie from Flight of the Concords wrote most of the music, which was a perfect match. Because if you think about it, Flight of the Concord’s are Muppety. Two kind of wide-eyes innocents dwelling through like, you know the hard cruel world and that’s very much what the Muppets are like.
***Disclosure: I attend the #DisneyDreamWorksEvent and Disney paid for my flight, hotel, and expenses, but my thoughts and opinions are my own.***