Question: Who created Walter?
Jason: Well, Nick Stoller and I did. We wrote the script together. He’s my writing partner. We invented Walter.
Question: How long did the design process take?
Jason: We did not get to design him physically, because then they would owe us a lot of money. So we came up with him on paper, and then they were very clear that we could not be involved in any aspect of the physical design of Walter. But it is pretty crazy when I saw him and I knew that he was born in our brain. It’s like Nick and I had a little baby with our brains! It’s pretty crazy.
Question: I talked to you about this way back on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I’m curious how the scripting process has changed since then.
Jason: The concept has stayed the same. Some of the particulars have changed based on finding out more about the Muppets. In the original script, to be honest…I think it’s fine to talk about this. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. In the original script, I was a ventriloquist and Walter was my puppet. But one of the things that you find out is that you really don’t want to cross the line into mentioning puppet. It becomes very, very complicated, because the Muppets are not puppets. The Muppets are living creates in this world. So as soon as I realized that that made things really complicated to have a puppet versus the Muppets—one thing is a puppet, these things are not puppets—it became complicated. So we cut that aspect of the story, and it actually really simplified the story. So that was one of the things I found out just from working with these guys.
Question: Are you all nervous to bring new puppets into the mix?
Jason: I’m not nervous about Walter one bit. Walter is the sweetest little guy you’ll ever meet. He’s like a very young Kermit. He’s naïve and he’s sweet. Walter’s thing is that he has never met anyone like him. Like I said, you don’t use the word “puppet”, but he’s my best friend. We grew up in Smalltown USA; that’s literally the name of the town. He’s never seen anything else like him except for the Muppets on television. So his dream is to go meet the Muppets and kind of maybe have a family. So it really does have tones of a young Kermit.
Question: But there’s other new Muppets, too, isn’t there?
Jason: Oh yeah, there’s some other new Muppets, some villainous characters. They’re not specifically Muppets. They’re not very nice, so they’re not Muppets. But yeah, they’re adorable. I love them. They’re another great creation. I can’t give too much away about them, but they’re really cool.
Question: You seem like you’re a big fan of the Muppets. Can you talk a little bit about using this film with references to other films?
Jason: We have some mention of the standard Rich and Famous contract from the original Muppet movie. We have a lot of things like that in there. To me, I just really wanted to pay homage to those movies that meant so much to me growing up. I wanted the experience, like we talked about, where parents…Our generation of kids, we’ll remember those great movies, those great moments. And then also being able to have our age introduce our kids to the Muppets. So yeah, that was my goal.
Question: Why was Amy Adams a great choice?
Jason: I wrote it for her. She was in my mind from the beginning. Every since I saw Enchanted…[ audio cuts out]. First of all, she’s the best actress alive. To go from Enchanted to Doubt and a fighter, I mean this woman can do anything. But she’s able to do this wide-eyed naivety that is not part of her personality in real life. She’s one of the most smart, on top of it women I’ve ever met. But she can do this kind of thing that was really…my character, her character, and Walter are true innocence. She’s able to do that. She channels it through her eyes, and she can sing. She is totally game. She’s up for it. She also really gets the joke. So she was just the perfect choice right from the start. I don’t know what I would have done if we hadn’t gotten her.
Question: Can you talk about doing the movie and the TV show at the same time?
Jason: It’s been tricky. I’m doing seven day weeks; I mean true seven day weeks. My hard day is doing Tuesday to Wednesday. I do Tuesday daytime on the TV show, come here and do Tuesday night night shoot, and then go immediately back to the TV show to do Wednesday day. So it is a 36 hour day.
Question: You’re not sleeping at all?
Jason: I sleep in my trailer or when they drive me to set. I usually get back to the TV show at 7 and they start at 8, so I get a quick little naparoo. But it’s my dream come true, so you can’t complain about it. It’s what I had to do to get the movie made. And it’s really tough to be in a bad mood around Kermit, as silly as that sounds. I show up here as tired as I might be and they bring out Kermit going, [in Kermit voice], “Hi-ho!” “Aw, all right. I’ll smile.” It’s just great. And the TV show is a pleasure to be on. We’ve been doing it for six years now. We’ve got it kinda down to a science. They’ve been, first of all, incredibly kind just to make the schedule work, because they’ve shot me out of a day of filming every week. My cast has been very patient about it. Everyone’s working hard. They knew that it was my dream. When I told them I was selling this three years ago, I think all of us thought, “Oh, awesome.” But we knew it would be an uphill battle to get it made. And then once they said they were going to make it, everyone in my life was like, “All right, whatever you need, let’s get this thing made.” I’ve had puppets and Muppet figurines in my house or my bedroom since I was a kid.
Question: How was it acting alongside The Muppets for the first time?
Jason: Meeting Kermit for the first time was pretty crazy. We did a photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly where it was the first time they arranged all the puppets. They did something called armature them so that they were all in a pose. I was sitting at this table and I looked around and it was every single one of them. It was like 20 puppets. I think what struck me is…I’m not an arrogant dude. To be even like the tiniest footnote in the Muppet lineage is nuts to me. That is insane. So I feel very honored.
Question: Did you have a favorite episode?
Jason: Peter Sellers’ episode just slaughters me. It’s so weird.
No, it truly is. It’s exactly why I love the Muppets. Scooter comes in at the beginning of every episode and he’s like, “Five minutes to curtain, Mr. Sellers!” And then Peter Sellers is like, “What should I do when I get out there?” He’s like, “Well, all you have to do is be yourself!” “There is no Peter Sellers. I lost Peter Sellers some time ago. All I know how to do is inhabit a character.” He goes on for like five minutes. It’s like a dude having an existential crisis.
And then he sings a song called “Whiskey, Wine, and Wild Women”. So it’s why I love the Muppets. The kids are just thinking, “Oh, cute! Fun!” Like a guy singing a song with puppets. Puppets are like watching Peter Sellers sing “Whiskey, Wine, and Wild Women”. That’s exactly my point. It’s working on every level. It’s firing on all cylinders.