Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy have been big movie stars for many years, and now they’re back with The Muppets, which opens in theaters this week. In their latest big screen adventure, Kermit and Piggy are joined by Muppet superfan Walter, as well as non-Muppets Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams), who help to get the whole gang back together for a wild televised variety show that may help them to save their old Muppet Theater from the wrecking ball. In interviews with Rotten Tomatoes, Kermit (performed by Steve Whitmire) and Miss Piggy (performed by Eric Jacobson) shared a few of their favorite films (spoiler: Miss Piggy prefers her own movies), and also talked about their craziest fans and their longevity in the movie business. Without further ado, let’s begin with Kermit the Frog’s Five Favorite Films:
The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, King Vidor, 1939; 100% Tomatometer)
Kermit the Frog: Wow, do I have five favorite films? Well, I love The Wizard of Oz because of the rainbow; it’s kind of an inspiration for me. That’s a good one.
Quite frankly, I really like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s one of my favorites.
What do you like about that one?
Well, Tim Curry. And I’m sorry he got so typecast in that because he’s got such a broad range, but we worked with Tim in Muppet Treasure Island, and we actually sung some of those songs in between takes. Even in this movie we were singing them with Jason [Segel] and Amy [Adams].
Five films, wow. What else? I love Vanilla Sky.
I love it. It’s so weird. It’s like what happens to me when I sit on a log and stare at the water too long. I love that one. I’m giving you strange answers, aren’t I?
No, no, this is great. You watch a lot of movies, then.
I do. I do, whenever I can.
Next, Kermit talks about working with Fozzie, his craziest fans, and how his family first got into show business.
Kermit the Frog: I’m familiar. I love your website.
I was wondering, Kermit… in your early days, did anyone throw rotten tomatoes at you?
All the time, all the time. You’d be surprised how many rotten tomatoes actually grow in the swamp. They’re everywhere. It happens to all of us.
I’m guessing Fozzy more than you, mostly.
Yeah, that’s true, that’s true. It’s harder to clean Fozzy, too, so it’s tough. He’s furry.
You seem to collaborate well with Fozzy. Did he want to write the whole script?
Well, Fozzy always wants to. He always comes to me and he says, “Hey Kermit, I got a joke.” The problem is, when Fozzy writes a script, it’s all jokes. And most of them are kind of sour jokes. It’s the same with all the Muppets. Gonzo wants it to be all stunts, Piggy wants it to be all her… So I have to delicately, diplomatically rein in the troops.
Do you know if Fozzy has had any contact with his elusive and mysterious comedy writer Gags Beasley?
Oh, well, I think he and Gags are still in contact. You know, Gags has been around since The Muppet Show. Gags is now living in Queens, New York, and I think he and Fozzy still stay in contact.
So he wasn’t like a script doctor or consultant?
For this? Well… Don’t tell Jason and Nick [Stoller], but I think Fozzy probably let Gags have a pass.
Are there any other good movies with frogs?
Well, I just found out that some of my relatives were extras in, I believe, The Ten Commandments, when it rains frogs. That’s how we got our start in showbiz.
Would you say that’s one of your favorites?
Well, for the frogs, sure. Not that Charlton Heston isn’t wonderful.
Do you get upset by the depiction of frogs in movies? Were you concerned, say, at the end of Magnolia, another movie with raining frogs?
You know, I figure anything that gets the frogs work, go for it. It’s not easy being short, green, and getting a job in Hollywood.
Right, but would you say that it’s gotten easier to be green?
It has, it has. I am more comfortable in my skin. Environmentally — you know, that’s the other meaning of “green” these days — they sort of took that and ran with it. And being a frog, you know, I’m pretty close to the environment. I live in the swamp, so I have to make sure I don’t sprout extra limbs or grow two heads.
At the beginning of the movie, you’re living in a mansion, but that’s just where your character lives, right?
That was just an idea in the movie, really. It made the story a little bit better for Walter, because he comes to Hollywood, and if he finds me like that… You know, this is probably my most dramatic role to date. I’m kind of depressed a lot, and down, and serious, which is not exactly like me at all. Maybe I’ll change that if we do more movies. I’ll be more myself, you know.
Do you ever miss your days as a reporter doing hard-hitting journalism on Sesame Street News?
Yeah, that’s always fun. Every now and then — I still have the trenchcoat; it still fits, I can still button it — and every now and then I put it on, get out on the street, and interview folks for various things. Once in a while on Good Morning America, I’ll do stuff like that, you know. Because I inspired — he’s not there any more — but I inspired Charlie Gibson in his career, to be a reporter. I love that.
Who’s the strangest person — from fairy tales or real life — you’ve ever met?
Well, there’ve been a lot of strange ones. I think the fairy tale one was probably Rapunzel, which you can probably find on YouTube. Strangest real person? It’s a tossup between some of the rather strange celebrities and some of the fans. We have some strange fans out there, too. I mean, I love them, but yeah, they show up to events with me tattooed on their ankles. Stuff like that, which is kind of weird.
In the movie, superfan Walter just had the watch with your face on it.
Walter had the watch. Well, the watches are out there. But I actually had somebody ask me to sign their ankle when I got my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and then they ran across the street to a tattoo parlor and had my signature tattooed on their ankle.
That really happened?
Could a frog get tattoos?
A “tat?” A “too?” I think I’d rather call it a “too,” because I like doing my face that way. If I had one, I’d probably have to get it put on the bottom of my foot, because otherwise I’d have to put makeup on over it. I don’t know what I’d have tattooed on me. Maybe a copyright symbol. These days, it’s hard to say.
You’ve inspired a lot of people over the years, and I noticed during the screening that there were a couple people who got a little misty-eyed.
I hope it wasn’t my singing.
Your singing was pretty good. Your banjo-playing was pretty good, too.
Oh, good. Good, thank you.
Do you hope to connect with a new generation?
Yeah. It’s funny because, you know, part of the idea, obviously, for this film was to kind of reintroduce ourselves to the younger fans who haven’t seen us in a while. I have a feeling the parents are already doing that. You know, I think they’re probably digging out the old VHS and DVDs of The Muppet Show and showing them to their kids anyway.
The Muppet Show seemed inspired by Ed Sullivan or vaudeville, and that seems kind of anachronistic these days, though not in a bad way. Do you think that the whole idea of, “Hey gang, let’s put on a show!” is timeless?
I don’t know, I don’t know. Variety shows, you know, they sort of come and they go. It’s interesting, because when I look at something like American Idol, it has that competitive aspect, but it kind of is a big variety show. I think it’s always possible that if the acts are good enough, variety could make a comeback. Or, maybe if the acts are bad enough, in the Muppets’ case. If you think about us Muppets, there’s only about one place in show business where we can be successful, and that’s on our own show. You know, like Gonzo getting fired out of a cannon might not work elsewhere, but it works on our show. I think maybe we could bring it back, perhaps.
We are a site that collects movie reviews, and I was worried that you might have thin skin about reviews, but then I realized that you’ve had to deal with Statler and Waldorf for years.
Yeah, you can’t have thin skin with those guys in the box, that’s right. No, you know, I try not to… People sometimes ask me what my advice is to young people starting out, and I always say, “Never believe your own PR.” And it’s also, “Never pay too much attention to the reviews.” Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. But that goes equally for those that are complimenting you, you know? You gotta be careful. You gotta just stay the course, and be true to yourself, I think, which is what I try to do. I think that’s part of the key to the Muppets anyway; we’re all pretty strong individual folks. Hopefully people identify with that.
And you also seem to make room for other people, like Walter.
True. We’re pretty welcoming. You know, when we did The Muppet Show we always had a cast of characters who were on every week, and then some of those background folks stuck around, and some of them didn’t. But I think Walter’s got a good start. We sort of pushed him right to the front on the first go. We have to find something else for him to do — I love him whistling – we have to find something else. He can’t just whistle. Gotta have a job, gotta put him to work.
Kermit, it’s an honor to meet you.
Same here, same here. I actually really do enjoy your website. It’s a wonderful thing.
Wow, thank you! How do you type?
I don’t. I don’t even have a computer. Usually when I’m in hotels, I can go to the business center. You can’t have a computer when you live in the swamp. You drop it once, that’s the end.
Next, Miss Piggy shares her beauty secrets, and explains how she became such an outstanding martial artist.
Miss Piggy: I was going to say The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Muppet Christmas Carol, and this movie. I also love Casablanca. It’s romantic, it’s the golden age of Hollywood. It’s where I truly belong. Don’t you think?
Yes, you look great.
I’m truly one of those faces that they don’t make any more.
That’s true. You’ve been able to maintain a pretty good pig look for a long time. What’s your secret?
Well, the truth is, pigs don’t really get wrinkles, and the reason they don’t is because, you know that stuff they inject into your face? To plump it up? That stuff comes from my people. Some people donate blood; my people donate dermal filler.
I was also wondering, how did you learn to be such an expert martial artist?
I was born doing a karate kick. That’s how I got out. But then I also studied at Master Chang’s Finishing School and Karate Dojo. I didn’t have a lot of money early on in my career, so I figured, “Why not? I’ll just spend it here and get two for one.”
What was your journalistic philosophy when you were editing the magazine in France?
You do realize that this is a movie we’re talking about. I wasn’t really an editor; I just played one in the movie. Just like I wasn’t really in Paris; that was a Hollywood backlot. Do you know how movies are made?
No, I guess not. So you’re just putting on a performance?
Yes, it is called “acting.” I understand I am such a brilliant actress, that…
…you made me think you were in France.
Yes, I made you think I was in France, that I was actually an editor of a fashion magazine.
You are a brilliant actress, but are you afraid of being typecast as Miss Piggy?
I’m not afraid that that’s going to happen. I’m very pleased that it has happened. I’m sure there are many other actresses who would love to be typecast as moi, but it ain’t gonna happen because they’re not me.
That’s true. So, when you started working on this movie, how did you get contacted? Did they call your agent? Did they call you directly?
No, they sent a script to my people, and my people gave it to me. I read it — well, actually, I just thumbed through it and counted my lines — and when I saw how many lines I had, I said, “This is a part for moi. This is a part I was born to play.” The fact that the character’s name was Miss Piggy helped, too. I don’t really like to have to memorize another name to respond to on set; it’s just confusing to me. I don’t really like memorizing lines either, so that’s why I don’t actually read the script. I just make up my lines.
So you do a lot of improvising? Did you study acting, or is this just how you’ve always been?
I studied with…
…with Master Chang?
Yes, well, he also had an acting class that I took. Then I also studied with “Stan Slavski.” You know Stan?
The method acting guy, right?
There must be a different Stan Slavski.
So, Miss Piggy, are you ready to be a big star again?
Well, moi has always been a big star. I’m really shooting for the solar system with this movie, actually. The world is just not big enough.
I work for a movie review site. Do you ever read what critics say about you? Do you ever listen to them at all?
If it’s good, yes. Are you about to say something nice about my performance?
I thought you were excellent.
Aww, that’s so sweet. But you’re just telling the truth. (pause) Is that it? Is that all the questions you got? You ran out of questions, huh?
I’m just so dazzled by your amazingness.
I’m so glad to sit here and talk with you, and I do hope you liked moi’s movie. Did you have a favorite part?
It’s tough to say. I mean, with you? The part where all the Muppets showed up in your office in disguise as one giant Muppet, and you were appalled by your gullibility.
Yeah, that was me exposing my vulnerability. I think that any good actress has to do that. They have to bare it all! That’s what I told Kermit early on, and he took it quite literally, and just never wore any clothes. It’s not what I meant, but hey, it works for me.
How have you managed to maintain your working relationship, despite having very different personalities?
We love each other very much, but things can get kind of tense on a set. We were not always seeing eye to eye, but it just made it all the better when we made up at the end of the day.
The Muppets arrives in theaters this week.