For “Muppets Most Wanted,” Walt Disney Pictures assembled an all-star cast of humans led by Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell, plus a roster of cameos that guarantee surprises for audience members of all ages.
“It takes a special actor to work with the Muppets,” says producer David Hoberman. “There has to be a passion for these characters, a genuine belief in them and an appreciation for their performances. Ricky, Ty and Tina all have a natural rapport with Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang—which shows on screen. It would be impossible to pull off a movie like this without the right chemistry.”
Director James Bobin says the cast and filmmakers may have created an all-new genre for “Muppets Most Wanted.” “We have comedy. We have a caper. And we have songs. To me, it’s an action-comedy-musical—and I don’t think there are many of those around.”
Ricky Gervais was tapped to fill the role of Dominic Badguy (pronounced “Badgee,” it’s French!), a handsome opportunist who books the Muppets on a grand global tour. What they don’t realize is that he’s really the dastardly sidekick of Constantine, the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog.
The award-winning actor did most of his scenes with newcomer Constantine. “I’ve been a fan of the Muppets for about 35 years, but this is my first time acting opposite a frog,” says Gervais, “but it’s probably the best experience of my life. This is a big Hollywood production. The sets are amazing. The effects are great. It’s a really funny caper plot.”
“Ricky Gervais is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” says Bobin. “He’s incredibly sharp and loves the Muppets. He’s the perfect foil for Constantine. They’re both quick thinkers and are great at the classic one-upmanship banter.”
Tina Fey was called on to portray the complicated and feisty prison guard, Nadya. She does her homework and is always one step ahead. Nothing gets by Nadya.
“She loves entertainment and Broadway,” says Fey. “Nadya’s been in charge of the prison review here for years. And when Kermit is wrongly imprisoned in the gulag, she’s very excited to force him to help her make the show good.”
“I thought it would be good to have someone who’s apparently quite tough, but secretly soft inside,” says Bobin. “She develops a liking for Kermit because he’s a charming frog. We needed someone who’s funny and could play hard and soft. Tina pulls it off with style—and a hilarious Russian accent.”
“Tina is fantastic and so funny,” adds Kermit. “My only problem was that she really gets into character, and I really don’t think she had to leave me locked up when we finished shooting each night. But what can I say? She’s an artist.”
Fey worked opposite a few other super-stars. “I had the pleasure of working with Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo and Jemaine Clements. We did—as you would expect of the four of us—a lot singing and dancing. I only had one scene with Miss Piggy, but I hope to spend more time with her because I’m kind of in awe of her.”
Ty Burrell portrays the outlandish Frenchman Jean Pierre Napoleon, an Interpol agent who’s charged with solving an elaborate crime spree. He’s not alone in his mission, however, as Sam Eagle, CIA, is assigned to the same case.
“James Bobin first described my character as being a sort of an amalgam of all the French inspectors that have ever existed, which I loved,” says Burrell. “We went back to the ’60s films, with Clouseau or Poirot—it’s sort of a mash-up of all of them. And I don’t remember James’ exact words, but I believe it was something like ‘Don’t worry too much about subtlety.’”
“I think Ty is one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen on TV,”says Bobin. “I thought he’d be great opposite Sam Eagle.”
“Ty Burrell is a suspicious character,” says Sam Eagle. “And while he claimed to be upstanding Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon, he is actually an actor. Imagine my shock! Needless to say, I had to keep track of him throughout the production to make certain he did not try to steal any scenes. Sadly, he does—repeatedly.”
“For me, as a kid growing up—and now as an adult—the Muppets represent the best of both worlds,” says Burrell. “They’re sweet and wholesome, but so funny.”
In the grand tradition of the Muppets, the film also features a host of cool cameos. Among them are Danny Trejo, Tom Hiddleston, Celine Dion, Salma Hayek, Sean Combs, Christoph Waltz and Ross Lynch.
“Muppets Most Wanted” opens across the Philippines on March 19 and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.