TR Interview: James Bobin, Master of Muppets (Most Wanted)

By Luke Y. Thompson in Movies, Puppets
Friday, March 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm

LYT: Is this the first time Floyd has blinked, because I noticed that a couple of times?

JB: No, he's always had a mech, I think. That mechanism has been in - he's certainly blinking in the first movie. Again - people think Piggy blinks. Because your brain kind of fills in the gaps, I think, sometimes. But she doesn't. But you know, that mech's been around for ages, I'm pretty sure. Don't quote me on it. Maybe it's an innovation in the past 10 years, but certainly, since I've been working with him, he's had the ability to blink. Maybe Matt wasn't pulling it that much before - I don't know.

LYT: With all the cameos in this, I think it sets the record for a Muppet movie, maybe for any.

JB: [chuckles] That's a good thing to research, isn't it? Who knows?

LYT: The one that I noticed, that I'm the most curious about, is Hornswoggle. That's not one that the casual viewer is going to recognize. Even a wrestling fan, you've got to be sort of hardcore to know who he is.

JB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, you'll be unsurprised to know that we didn't write that one into the script. We didn't put - we are sometimes made aware of people who like the Muppets and who want to be involved and are keen to help out. And he - I just thought, I had seen him on WWE and whatever, had seen him being an interesting character, and I had seen him interviewed out of character, and knew Dylan was a lovely guy, and he was just kind of one of those guys who was really keen to do it, and I loved the idea of him being in the prison with Jemaine [Clement] and Danny [Trejo] and Ray [Liotta] - to make a little gang, and the gang is just a funny little group of people. They're just fun.

So yeah, he came about because I thought he'd just be a fun kind of - and he's great! He's really fun, and he loves the Muppets. Have you ever seen his leg? If you ever get a chance, you meet this guy, ask to see his leg. He has the world's gigantic - most enormous tattoo of all the Muppets going down his leg! All the way down here - like, a third of his leg is Muppets. You think, "Well, that's a guy who likes the Muppets, so he's perfect for the movie!"

LYT: Did you have anything to do with when the Muppets were hosting RAW?

JB: No. That's all the marketing department. We make the movie, write the movie, direct the movie, edit the movie, put it together, put it out there. Marketing department is everything else. So we don't even write their stuff when they go on chat shows and stuff, it's just completely separate department. We are aware of it, and we get comments, but we're not responsible for it. Like marketing will do the great Twitter trailers - it's not us. That's the marketing department.

LYT: The marketing is amazing for this.

JB: Oh, it's really fantastic! It's so good. It's so complementary, and it's so teased the movie up perfectly, because if you followed the marketing campaign, you're going to like the movie, because they're very much similar in tone, which was really helpful for me.

LYT: Do the puppeteers ever give you feedback, like "This character won't do that"?

JB: Of course.

LYT: "I know this character better than you."

JB: Of course! Of course! They inhabit the character. They've been doing it - Steve's been doing Kermit for 30 years. I've been doing it for four years. He has every right to say that, so it's totally fine. But all actors do that, anyway. If you give an actor a script, and say, "This is your character," after a while they'll start saying to you, "He wouldn't do this." And it's fair enough, because obviously, when you ask someone to perform, you are asking for input on that thing. I'm very collaborative like that. I like the idea that they would say this, because it makes you question the way the story is going and how you're working. And generally, you work something out, and that's part of the creative process. It's good.

LYT: There's so much there, because you have the puppeteers, obviously, and then you have the Hensons. Do you talk to the Hensons about what the characters would and wouldn't do?

JB: Not really, because they weren't really - I mean, again, they're kind of separate these days. They are involved in a kind of advisory way, because of their history with them. On the last movie, they were around a lot, because we were in LA, but this time we're in London, so they weren't there nearly as much. We saw them - occasionally they do things like costuming for us, but generally they're not really that involved, rather than emails and stuff. So, yeah, we are - I'm always aware of the history and the tradition of the Muppets, and I always try to do justice to that.

LYT: OK. So last question - you're doing the new Alice in Wonderland movie.

JB: Yes.

LYT: Is it true that this one is going to be more based on Through the Looking Glass?

JB: It is. Yes. Through the Looking Glass is the title of the movie, and she will get through the looking glass. Other than that, there's not much... [laughs]. Like the last movie - it's very influenced by, rather than the book itself, which as you may know is an eight-chapter allegory for a chess match.

LYT: Yes.

JB: It does not exactly lend itself to movies and stories, I think, frankly.

LYT: And they sort of mixed up the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen in the last one.

JB: Yeah, it's a very disconnected series of eight events. It doesn't really make for a great movie, so it'll be based in that world, and it has that Looking Glass element, but the story itself is a different story.

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