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Sitting at a high table draped in a black cloth, the human stars of The Muppets, Jason Segel and Amy Adams, were joined by their puppet co-stars Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and newcomer Walter for a press conference about the upcoming Disney film.
With the puppeteers hidden from view, the three Muppets waved at the crowd before Miss Piggy launched into an apology for a recent magazine promotional spread.
“I just want to say I am sorry about that spread in In Style, and I am sorry to all the ladies who have lost their beaus and their husbands to moi!” she said. Flipping her hair, Piggy added, “People just fall in love instantly when they see moi, and I just wanted to apologize.”
That set the tone for the conference, where the Muppets improvised with their human co-stars, answering questions with a wink and a nod. As Piggy continued to “apologize” and brag about her couture wardrobe in the film (created by high-end designers like Zac Posen and Christian Louboutin), Kermit yawned and Segel and Adams rolled their eyes.
“What?” Piggy demanded as Kermit muttered under his breath.
“We were just saying what a wonderful answer that was, and thank you,” Kermit replied to laughter.
Turning to the human stars, Adams said the film marked her return to singing and dancing, something she hadn’t done on screen since the 2007 Disney musical Enchanted.
“I got involved because Jason and Kermit sent me a demo DVD singing to me and asking me to join,” she said. “I started crying, and I think that’s when I knew I was definitely doing the film.”
“Of course the tears were for a different reason at the end of the film,” Kermit joked.
Piggy and Kermit then clarified that while they were estranged in the film, they were “together” in real life. However, when pressed about their feelings for each other Kermit asked to be able to rebut whatever Piggy said.
“I was just going to say I love you. You’re going to rebut that?” Piggy said as Kermit shrank below the table.
Talking about the comedic aspects of the film, Segel credited The Muppet Show with sparking his interest in comedy as a kid.
“I grew up with the Muppets, and when you’re a kid the Muppets are sort of the gateway drug to comedy that leads to harder comedy, like Monty Python,” he said. Referring to Kermit as his childhood idol, Segel continued,“Kermit’s like the original Tom Hanks or Jimmy Stewart. So I sort of modeled my career after Kermit and the rest of the Muppets.”
Although the two stars told reporters they’re “superstitious” about a sequel before The Muppets even debuts, Segel said, “The goal is to set the stage for the Muppets to take the torch and do a million more movies and TV shows, so hopefully we accomplished that.”
They also spoke about the film’s final dance number, an enormous sequence that shut down all of Hollywood Boulevard and involved every member of the cast, both human and Muppet.
“The dance number came very naturally, as you can see by my body,” Segel joked. Adams, however, complimented Segel on his dancing, saying they had to learn multiple dance numbers quickly before shooting.
“We actually learned that dance an hour before we shot it, so Jason is actually much more talented than he gives himself credit for,” she said.
Segel also told reporters the filming of the big dance finale coincided with his 31st birthday. “We filmed that the night of my birthday,” he said. “Hollywood Boulevard was filled with extras and I walked out and all the Muppets sang me ‘Happy Birthday,’ which is the greatest moment of my life.”
Both Segel and Walter the Muppet said they felt at home working with the original Muppets, with Adams agreeing that everyone was welcoming. “We’re a real easy bunch to come into,” Kermit offered. “We’re quite accepting.”
“Not really,” Piggy countered before looking around and asking, “Who is Walter?”
Waiting for the laughs to die down, Segel took the conference in a more serious direction as he told reporters the telethon in the film’s third act is structured exactly like an episode of The Muppet Show, down to the original theme song.
“It was the first time that song had been recorded in 30 years, so it was really kind of inspiring for all of us,” he said. “I think everyone got choked up.”
The actor and co-writer also thought that having the movie end with a show was natural for the Muppets. “Coming up with the idea of the movie was actually very simple. What do Muppets do best? They put on a show,” Segel said. “So I knew ultimately the movie would be about putting on a show because that’s the real spirit of the Muppets.”
Adding that he felt the Muppet movies always had a “great villain,” Segel praised Chris Cooper, who plays The Muppets antagonist Tex Richman.
Every human and Muppet on stage named Cooper’s bad-guy rap as their favorite moment in the film. “When Chris Cooper started rapping and dancing I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I really tricked everyone,’” Segel laughed. “I’ve got an Academy Award-winning villain rapping and dancing. This is the craziest thing that’s ever happened!”
“He scared the bejesus out of me!” Kermit added.
However, while Segel described most of the movie as a “dream,” he admitted they hit a snag when it came to Miss Piggy.
“As for Piggy’s part, she wanted it bigger,” he confessed. “She wanted a very strange credit sequence where everyone is introduced and then it would say ‘And Miss Piggy,’ but that would just stay on for the entire movie.”
“I see nothing wrong with that!” Piggy fired back. She then told the press she didn’t ask for rewrites, “But that’s partly because I didn’t read the script,” Piggy said. “I just showed up to set and people said their lines and I said whatever I wanted.”
Kermit, meanwhile, revealed that after all this time, it’s gotten a little easier being green. “I think it’s about being comfortable in your own skin,” he said before Piggry interrupted to “set the record straight,” telling reporters she hasn’t had plastic surgery.
“Moi is perfect! Perfect in every way! But let’s just say I’ve gotten a little bit more perfect over the years,” Piggy said as the crowd laughed.
Switching back to the film, Segel said that he and co-writer Nick Stoller included as many references as they could to the original Muppet movies.
“I borrowed one of my favorite jokes from The Great Muppet Caper, that Walter and I are brothers, and we never explain it just, like in that movie they never explain how Kermit and Fozzie Bear were identical twins,” Segel laughed. In addition, Segel said the idea of the Muppets putting on a show borrowed heavily from The Muppets Take Manhattan, and that, “Meeting the gang along the way came from the original Muppet movie, so it really is paying homage to those three films.”
The Muppets wasn’t the only Segel-written film influenced by those movies, however. “Kermit is the inspiration for the opening scene in Sarah Marshall,” Segel said, referring to the all-puppet opera that opens his 2008 romantic comedy.
Despite all the attention paid to past Muppet films, Segel said when it came to the plot and music he wanted to make sure there was a lot of new material to interest kids who may have never seen the previous movies.
“We wanted a fair amount of nostalgia for our generation who grew up with the Muppets, but we also had to acknowledge that there are a generation of kids who are just being introduced to the Muppets,” he said. “So if it was just a nostalgia fest it wouldn’t have meant anything to kids who didn’t experience it the first go around.”
Ending the conference, Adams said The Muppets was special for her as she recently gave birth to a girl.
“It was my first family film I did after having a daughter, and it was really cool to work with the Muppets,” she said. “It’s going to be fun to introduce [my daughter] to these guys.”
Of course, the last word went to Miss Piggy.
“I can’t wait for the next movie to have the same experience as Amy,” Piggy said, staring pointedly at Kermit, who again shrank beneath the table.
The Muppets opens nationwide Nov. 23.