I had the opportunity to sit in an interview with James Bobin, director of the Muppets Most Wanted movie. I will admit I was quite fascinated by all the work that truly goes into a movie. After visiting sets and talking with people behind the scenes I realized how much work goes into making the magic happen.
Here are some snippets from our interview with James Bobin:
QUESTION : So what is the difference between shooting the first movie and then the second movie?
JAMES BOBIN : Oh, for me obviously it was the slightly, uh, the first movie I’d never worked puppets before, so it was a very big experiential learning curve of how to frame shots, how to make this world feel realistic, that these puppets were alive, breathing people who are interacting with humans and the world’s just, the world we live in, the recognizable world we live in happened to have puppets in it. That idea I love, and that’s a very important part of it.And that was quite, the–– the training of the first movie was just getting, I think just getting to that level for me was an achievement. I could make a movie that like worked on that level. And so for this one I just wanted to push that a bit further. Because the last movie is kinda set in the theater for a lot of the final act. And the last, you know, most of it was and so I thought this time, well, we should just get out and about a bit more and just do some slightly more adventurous, bigger stuff. And, obviously, the fact that the movie’s kind of a caper movie with some criminal stuff in it, feels like you–– you can do bigger action sequences.
And, obviously, you never want to put the words “puppet” and “action sequences” in the same sentence [LAUGHS] as a director, ’cause that is very hard. But I like the idea of trying difficult stuff. It’s ambition about the movie I really like about it, it feels like a very different film to me. And the way I love both movies equally, but this film–– film I feel like has slightly more ambition which I love about it and I think that’s when you’re doing a sequel there’s all sorts of things you have to deal with. One of them is you want to try and make a different movie. You don’t want to make the same movie twice, and that’s very important. Yes?
QUESTION : How much filming do you actually do?
JAMES BOBIN : A lot, I mean, it’s, the principal photography, which is a good money 95 percent of the film was in London. We shot on a––a, the stages at Pinewood, uh, which is just about a half an hour outside London, and then even places like Berlin and Madrid are also shot in or around London. Because going to Berlin with the entire Muppet cast and crew would’ve been a very expensive endeavor in doing it. And London is, as you know, a very ancient historical city, and therefore has lots of different architectural styles in it.
So you can kind of get a rough idea, “this looks a bit like Madrid,” ” this looks a bit like Berlin,” and certainly enough with some, you know, added set dressing and stuff, you could really feel like you’re there. And so most of the movie was shot in London, and in or around London. Which is kinda nice because the Muppet show back in the ’70s, uh, was made in London and not many people know that, you know. I mean, it feels like a thing that just, well it felt very much like a homecoming for Muppets.
Because of the Muppet Show being from London, these guys felt like they were coming back. And they actually ended up hiring, uh, a lady called Louise Gold, who is the only female puppeteer and who back in the ’70s worked on The Muppet Show and hadn’t, is always, and still puppeteering but, and being back in London now I could hire her again to do the characters that she did in the show in the ’70s. So she–– she reappears in this movie as, um, Annie Sue Pig, which the Muppet fans amongst you will know as Miss Piggy’s great rival from Series 4 and 5 Muppet Show, has this kind of blonde afro. And she’s back in the movie, ’cause Louise Gold was available. And that’s a really fun thing.
QUESTION : Do you approach celebrities to do cameos, or do they come to you and say, “I want to appear in the movie?”
JAMES BOBIN : Uh, the, generally we write them in for the right specific idea in mind, then we have a person, or a type of person in mind, quite often it’s the actual person who we write in. Like, you know, the Usher is gonna be played by Usher, that’s a good, that’s that joke, you know? Uh, and but sometimes there are roles which are just like “a guy who’s delivering something,” or “a waiter” or something where by it could really be anybody. And then we start finding out just subtly who are Muppet fans. And people who we know, and we hear about who like the Muppets.
For example, of course Christoph Waltz I knew, we heard liked the Muppets, and I thought, “Well if here’s a Muppet show today, obviously what you do with him, his name is Waltz, you are going to do a Waltz with him somewhere, and somehow that came about that way. So it’s kind of, it’s mostly us writing people in, but sometimes we hear about people that want to be in the show too.
QUESTION : On the last film you were just the director, on this film you’re the writer and director. How does that transition feel to this?
JAMES BOBIN : Yes, yes two hats. Uh, it’s fine, what you find about it, though, is often you’re, you’re writing brain is writing checks so you’re writing brain can’t cash. And in this sense then often as a writer you have like the sky’s the limit, you can do anything. And you really want to try and, you know, be as ambitious as you possibly can. And then your directing head’s going, “Wait a minute, this is gonna be really difficult, and take a longer time and be very expensive.”
So you have to be, you know, on both, generally the writing head always wins because you want to try to make the movie the best as you possibly can. But at the same time for me it–– it feels slightly more of a personal one because obviously you can’t help but be, you know, when you write it’s really you. And so for me this felt slightly more, I guess, well it’s more of a comedy so it felt more personal to me ’cause I want a comedy. But, I’m not, but to be fair, on the last one as a director you also often help out with just a bits of writing here and there.
So I did a bit of writing on the last one. It wasn’t a completely new experience. And I also have been writing for a long time so it’s not my first go, wasn’t the first movie, this is something I’ve been working on for a while and I knew Nick really well, and he’s our good friend outside of work. He’s just my friend. And so I knew working with him would be a, you know, and that’s one of the most important things about writing partnerships is having just a friendship. Because, you know, it’s like your friends, you just get on and you laugh together and we just write stuff down, and that’s the movie.
QUESTION : Have you started on the next Muppet movie?
JAMES BOBIN : [LAUGHS] No, too tired, sorry, no no no, no no no, I’m exhausted. Ask me again in another year’s time, but no no on, they’re sadly not, but, I mean, maybe, who knows. I love working with these guys, and as you know they’re my heroes, so I really loved it. So I don’t know when in, in what capacity it would be, I don’t know, but I would love to do more ’cause this is really fun. I mean, I’m incredibly lucky to have this job, it’s like my dream so, you know, I’m so pleased.
All photos are © Louise from Mom Smart, please do NOT use photos without permission! ( Thank you Louise for allowing us to use them!) I received an all expense paid press trip to facilitate this post. All opinions are 100% my own.