The Muppets Space Out
An interview with Kermit the Frog and Gonzo
By Devin D. O'Leary
JULY 19, 1999: In everyone's career, there is one defining moment of weirdness -- one singular point at which you have to wonder, "Is this for real, or am I just hallucinating?" Interviewing Kermit the Frog and Gonzo for the new Muppets from Space movie probably fits the bill.
Despite their felt-and-foam-rubber foundation, this intrepid ensemble has gone from public television ("Sesame Street") to prime-time variety show ("The Muppet Show") to feature film success (starting with the original Muppet Movie in 1979). Their names have been legend for generations: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, The Swedish Chef. Think about it -- how many actors can you name that have worked with such showbiz luminaries as Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Bob Hope, Diana Rigg, Peter Ustinov, Richard Pryor, Art Carney, Liza Minelli and Orson Welles?
None of that background, however, can prepare one for an early morning conference call with two of the world's most famous non-human movie stars. After all, what do you ask a Muppet?
Gonzo: Hi. This is the Great Gonzo, and I have my buddy here.
Kermit: Hi Ho! This is Kermit. How are you?
K: I'll let Gonzo do that because it's basically Gonzo's film.
G: Yeah, it's not only my film, it's the story of my life. As you may or may not know, we've been wondering for the last 20 years what the heck I am. Where am I from? And I haven't frankly known the answer myself. This movie answers that question. And I can tell you this right now without even showing you the movie: I'm an alien. I am from outer space.
G: Yes. A whole other planet. And my people are coming. That's what the movie's about.
G: Oh, yeah. I've enjoyed all kinds of science fiction all my life. What are your favorites?
K: Yeah, I like the Star Wars movies too.
G: We never really thought of it as competition. It's hard to compare. Ours is cheaper and shorter and funnier. There's plenty of room in the galaxy for two space movies.
G: Wow, you sound like a really deep guy.
G: Yeah, that's a great question. Are aliens misunderstood? I think that they have been.
G: Yeah! You're right. They are always portrayed as guys who invade and take over and stuff. Well, you know what? We are gonna break that mold!
G: It didn't take long for me. In my frame of reference, I'm 6,022 years old. So it just seems like it happened right away.
K: Yes, there are. We have a couple new guys who are working with us. We worked with them on a show we did called "Muppets Tonight," but this is their first movie.
G: Bobo the Bear
K: Sure. Bobo the Bear and Pepe the Prawn.
G: Or "King Prawn" as he would have it.
K: Just don't call him a shrimp, though. He hates that.
K: I've been behind the camera. I usually just walk out front again, though. ... No, I've done plenty of work behind the camera.
G: Punching all those holes in the film is hard work.
K: Oh, yeah.
K: Sure. I mean, I love the work I've done with the Muppets, but there's no reason I couldn't get those big leading man roles. Those Tom Cruise parts. I can do anything Travolta can do. There's no reason a frog couldn't make it as a leading man.
G: I don't know, Kermit.
K: You don't think so?
G: I don't know. Hollywood is really kind of a Homo sapiens town.
K: Are you talking Oscar the Grouch? Oh, you mean the Oscar Award. Sure. It just goes back to getting those parts. Did you see Instinct? I could have played either of those parts. I could have played the professor. I could have played the psychiatrist. ... I could have played the gorilla.
K: Film is easier to work on. It's less slippery than videotape.
G: OK, here's the scoop. I've never studied acting. I've never taken any classes. I really have no idea what I'm doing. ... I feel so much better now that I've come clean.
K: The key is that we really just play ourselves on screen.
G: For you or for me?
G: It's gotta be the legs.
K: Yes, but it's top secret.
G: Hush-hush Hollywood stuff. We're always makin' deals.
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