In the heart of Awards season earlier this year, I got to visit the set of The Muppets when they were filming on the streets of Glendale, California. Even though Amy Adams (who plays Jason Segel’s somewhat neglected girlfriend) had been in all the shots and was quite busy, when she came over to talk to the visiting press, she was in a great mood and willing to answer every question. During the interview she talked about her character, what does it mean to be a part of something that has this much linage, the challenges of working with The Muppets and the puppeteers, the musical numbers, is it more intimidating to share a scene with Meryl Streep or Ms. Piggy, did she get starstruck when she met the Muppets for the first time, has she “borrowed” anything from the set, the cameos, and a lot more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.
Before going any further, you should watch the brand new trailer and read the synopsis:
On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. With secret, signature, celebrity cameos, “The Muppets” hits the big screen Nov. 23, 2011.
Amy Adams: There have been more comfortable situations, but everybody is really nice. So that is good.
What can tell you us about your character? We know about Jason Segel and Walter’s connection. How do you fit into that story?
Adams: I am Mary, who is Gary’s somewhat neglected girlfriend due to his close relationship with Walter. So I am kind of along for the ride desperately trying to get him to be more romantic. Well, in a Disney way. You know?[laughs]
What does it mean for you to be a part of something that has this much linage?
Adams: It is awesome. I have been lucky to be a part of a lot of family films that have a great linage with Enchanted, Night at the Museum, and now to be a part of this. This is something I grew up with and was in love with. When I heard they were doing a new one I was really excited. Jason sent me a DVD where he and Kermit were inviting me to be part of The Muppets. It was really cool. Once Kermit asks you to do something it is really hard to look at him and say, “No.” So I was hooked.
Has it been an adjustment for you as an actor working with The Muppets? Do act with them as Muppets or with the puppeteers? How does that all work?
Adams: You know, it wasn’t. It’s amazing when you are doing a scene and you just so accept them as the other actor. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up with The Muppets. I don’t know. It’s actually great because a lot of the times when you are doing films that involve special effects you are acting with nothing. So in reality they are actually very giving scene partners for being inanimate objects.
Was it weird getting used to talking to them while seeing the puppeteering?
Adams: Yeah. That took awhile to get used to or when you see them mounted on the tables by themselves. I did not enjoy that. But you get used to it and they come to life. You oddly develop different relationships with different Muppets.
Who are you the friendliest with?
Adams: Walter just because I’m in most of the scenes with Walter. Then it is probably Fozzy because he was my favorite as a kid. So I am always interacting with Fozzy when I get a chance.
Adams: The Moopets are pretty funny. They make me laugh. It is different ones at different times. It just depends on what the scene is. 80s Robot, who guys will meet, makes me laugh. He is the one driving the car. He is very funny.
You’ve done a lot of movies, but have you noticed that you have more friends that want to visit you while you are on this set?
Adams: Yes. I have a lot of friends. Not just for The Muppets, but for Jason. I have a lot of girls who really like Jason. There have been a lot of visitors. I have visitors today. It’s exciting because a lot of people grew up loving The Muppets and it’s nice for them to get to see it.
Jason talked about the challenges of working with The Muppets and the puppeteers with the strings. He talked about how he was watching himself on occasion. Did you have any of that to overcome?
Adams: Sure. Not once the scene started, but during the set up. You become very self aware and you can see yourself. It’s helpful for continuity, but it does take a second to get used to.
Jason said that there was a surprising amount of improvisation. Are you comfortable with that?
Adams: Yeah. I am. I’ve been luckily enough to work with a lot of people who are great at improv. Jason is wonderful at it. All of the puppeteers are amazing at improv. I am comfortable with it, but I usually don’t do a ton of it. I don’t know if it’s the way it is written, or if my character is more submissive, or if it’s just my fear of keeping up with the improv artists.
Will any of The Muppets throw out a line? Will they improvise with you in scenes?
Adams: They do. My character is very reactive. So I just go with the flow.
Jason said that he was able to become a puppeteer with some of the Muppets. Did you get to do any?
Adams: I have. Just for simple stuff.
Can you say for which one?
Adams: For different ones. Just when they need somebody, you know? Today, we did it and it was funny because Jason and I both accomplished what we needed to with our Muppet, and then we forgot to act. We forgot that we were in the scene. It has its challenges.
Can you talk about filming in L.A.? Is that one of the reasons why you agreed to do the movie?
Adams: It’s a huge benefit for me having just had a baby. I can be at home and be working with The Muppets, which is such a family friendly set and family friendly film. She is here today. I’m sure you’ve seen me flying around with her. That is a huge plus. Also, just to get to introduce her to the Muppets is very fun. She was interacting with Walter today. It was the first time she had ever interacted with any of the Muppets. So that was cool.
How involved with you with the musical numbers?
Adams: I’m somewhat involved in a few of them. I get in there.
You said that you grew up with the Muppets. What was your exposure to them?
Adams: I watched The Muppet Movie obsessively. I can still pretty much say a lot of the lines and do a pretty mean Fozzie Bear. It’s actually the worst thing. They have me do it on the set all of the time and I am so bad of it. I realize they are laughing at me, but I still enjoy it.
Adams: I come from musical theater and a lot of musical theater is about accepting fantasy. I think it is more about just being open and accepting. I think it comes from my musical theater background more than anything else. You know, musicals were at their height at a time of…the world seemed to be a more innocent place. We had less information. That is probably where it comes from more than anything. It is my experience in theater and more specifically musicals.
Everyone loved Enchanted. Are you surprised that you guys have not been able to move forward with a sequel?
Adams: I don’t know. I haven’t thought a lot about it because I loved the first film so much. So I always just accept it that if that is the only one then I feel like it is a really great story. It has a beginning, middle, and end. I’m really comfortable with that. If they have a script then I am here. I haven’t seen anything, though. I don’t know if I am surprised by that. I really loved the first one and I think it stands alone.
Is there another musical movie that you would like to do? Maybe a play that you did on stage?
Adams: I don’t know. I would like to do it on stage. I would like to do more on film. It would be great if they made them. They do make some, but not a ton. I’ve already done Enchanted and I think that is how people see me. I would like to go on stage and do musicals.
Adams: You know, you’re not the first person to ask me that. I have to say that I can’t win in that answer because I am working with Ms. Piggy. So if I say, “Meryl Streep” I have see Ms. Piggy tomorrow and it will be like, “So I heard…”. So I’m just going to plead the 5th. I know Meryl will be ok, but I don’t want to cross Ms. Piggy.
What has been your favorite scene or part of the shoot that you have done so far?
Adams: There have been a couple of musical numbers that have been really fun to be a part of.
Are you afraid that they are going to be cut or anything like that?
Adams: There is a lot of them. There is a part where Kermit gives a speech and it actually makes me very sentimental. I’m still hormonal. It’s having just had a baby.
Are you part of the big scene in Hollywood Blvd?
Can you tell us anything about it?
Adams: I don’t know anything about it. I know that it is a big dance number. It’s going to be fun.
Adams: From your mouth to god’s ear. That would be awesome. I would love it. Especially with my baby. We would have a good time. I love Disneyland. I have gone there a couple of times since Enchanted and it is a little strange. It’s not strange for me, but I think it is probably strange for the kids. We were in Fantasyland and all of a sudden you could see little girls start to get confused. They were like, “But I just saw Giselle in the big princess dress…but that is Giselle.” My fiancé was like, “We got to get out of here, Amy. We got to get out of here.” I said, “They are little girls. They are going to be fine. They are totally safe. They are just little girls.” [laughs]
Have you run into yourself there? Would the universe collapse?
Adams: [laughs] No. I haven’t. I’ve seen the girl and I don’t know if she still does me there. But she was at the premiere and she also did the dancing at the Oscars when they did the musical number. She was the dancer and everyone thought it was me. It is an eerie resemblance. She does Giselle better than me I have to say. She is fantastic. So it was a little weird seeing somebody capture all of your mannerisms. It is very strange.
Who is tougher: Ms. Piggy or the sisters from The Fighter?
Adams: [laughs] Well, I’m going to see the sisters from The Fighter really soon, but I’m going to have to say the sisters from The Fighter on that one. I would like to give it to Piggy, but she is too refined. She likes to keep a ladylike air.
Adams: It is amazing because you don’t know when you are working on any film that it is going to be a sure thing. So that is an amazing thing. I’m really happy for Mark [Walhberg] and for the rest of the cast. It feels really good to be a part of a film that people enjoy not only because it is entertaining but because it moves them and says something. It just doesn’t happen that often. So it is exciting to me. I’m enjoying it.
You’ve reached a point where you have done so many great films. What is your criteria for what you are looking for in the future?
Adams: I start out with a list of what I am looking for. Sometimes something presents itself that is on that list and sometimes something surprises. I didn’t expect The Fighter to come along. I had been working straight for 4 years. I was like, “I’ve done too much. I need to take a break.” And then The Fighter came along and I couldn’t say no. I try to stay open. I have a list of things I am looking for. You know, I want a great director, or something fun, or some great material. All of that is there anyway for what I am hoping for. But I try to stay open so that I can be surprised like I was with The Fighter or The Muppets even. I didn’t know that I would return to family films. I love doing them, but after The Fighter I was like “I’ve played this tough girl” and now I’m like, “Oh, no. I am in ringlets again” But I couldn’t say no to the Muppets. I love the Muppets.
Jason mentioned to us that he was thinking of you while writing the script. Did you know that?
Adams: I didn’t know the extent to which he had thought of me. I knew for him to send a personal invite to be a part of it and getting Kermit to be a part of it – I knew that he was serious about it. I didn’t know that he specifically had me in mind until I after I was on set. It’s a lot pressure and I didn’t know. We are having a great time.
Had you seen Flight of the Conchords? Were you a fan of the show?
Adams: I hadn’t seen the show actually. I don’t have HBO so I had not seen it. As soon as I was offered The Muppets I caught up with it. I really loved what James [Bobin] was doing. He is such a competent, creative, and fearless director. He is really fearless and he really gets the Muppets.
Did you have a moment where you got particularly starstruck when you met one of the Muppets?
Adams: Yeah. It’s a strange thing because I am an adult now so I understand that they are Muppets,. I think when it hit me was when like I was saying when Kermet talks and give a speech at one point. It was like I was a kid again and I believe everything he was saying. For a moment I was there. It was really, really cool. I’m glad that I’ve had this experience having just had a baby because I feel like I am going to be able to bring so much wonder and awe into my relationship with her when I get to introduce the world to her in that way.
We were talking about the original films and show. While they were obviously made for kids they were also made for adults with adult humor. Is that the kind of tone for this film?
Adams: Yeah. It is a true family film meaning that I really do believe that adults will love it, teenagers will get something it, and we have a lot of cultural references. We have a lot of people that people will recognize. Of course, I think the kids are going to love the Muppets. There is still that childlike charm to the characters. But, yeah, it is successful.
Adams: Sometimes we do. Walter, especially. I definitely talk to Walter a lot. There are some times that Walter is on remote control and they like to pretend that he has a bad attitude then because he doesn’t talk back. It is a fun set. You can let your imagination run wild. I am exposing myself as the dork that I truly am.
You obviously can’t take things home from set. Hypothetically speaking, can you talk about what you might’ve brought home or what you are planning to take home?
Adams: I don’t have that sort of like “I need to have everything.” Jason, I don’t know if you asked that question to Jason, because he wants anything. Seriously. He is like, “Look at that ‘o’ in that sign. I’m going to take it home. I have a great place for it.” There was this Kermit face and he is like, “Hey, is that props? Or is that something that was there? Or is that something that like…” Everyday he is wondering how he can acquire it. He is clearly a single man because his whole house is going to be…[laughs] If there is a woman involved she is like, “I’m sorry, but we are not going to have a big Muppets logo over our driveway. That is not going to happen!” [laughs]
Seriously, though. Do you plan on taking anything home?
Adams: No. I haven’t. That would be stealing. They frown upon that in general. But I think Disney…
Adams: Hypothetically? No. I probably won’t. I might have gone home accidently with a pair of earrings that I have to tell props about so that I can return them. I think they are looking for them.
Jason and the producers said how they had a number of friends who said, “Oh, I would love to do a cameo! Get me in!” Did you have any friends who told you that they wanted to do a cameo?
Adams: Yeah. I have a friend that is doing a cameo. I know a lot of people. Every time I tell people that I am doing it they are like, “Oh, I love the Muppets!” and I’m like, “You should be in the Muppets!” and they look at you strangely like, “…really?” So I keep trying talk everyone into doing it while we are doing the awards circuit. When they are like, “I love the Muppets!” I’m like, “You should be in the Muppets! We can find somewhere for you.” It’s a great thing. The Muppets have such a great tradition of bringing together all of genres of actors and all ages of actors. We are keeping with that tradition.
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