After a twelve-year absence from motion pictures, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and the rest of the gang returned to the silver screen with 2011's The Muppets, a loving celebration of these iconic characters that endeavored to return them to their rightful pop-cultural place. With The Muppets proving successful and the eponymous characters back on their pedestal, Disney is now moving full steam ahead on the The Muppets...Again!l, having targeted a Spring 2014 release date.
A prolific producer, Lieberman's credits include films as varied as The Fighter, Surrogates, The Proposal, the upcoming Warm Bodies, and, of course, The Muppets. Speaking from the set of The Muppets sequel in London, England, Lieberman spoke to IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick to promote the new zombie-romantic-comedy Warm Bodies, directed by Jonathan Levine. During the exclusive interview, Lieberman also obliged with an update on the continuing adventures of Kermit, filling us in on the production, the new movie's story, the role of music, and the cast, both human and Muppet alike.
Principal photography kicked off this month in London, and Lieberman was exceedingly positive about the process, saying, "It’s going great. I’m very superstitious and I’m knocking on wood. Yes, we have started. It’s going really well. There are tons of laughs. I’m really happy with where we are on this one. I hope it’s embraced."
"I’m pretty proud of what we’ve put together on this one," he added.
The Muppets consciously tapped into the exuberant "let's put on a show" spirit of The Muppet Show. By contrast, this sequel is more influenced by 1981's The Great Muppet Caper. The story finds our Muppet heroes traipsing across Europe as part of a triumphant world tour, only to get mixed up with Constantine, a jewel thief who happens to look just like Kermit the Frog. Asked about the story, Lieberman replied, "There is a caper element to it, yeah. It’s kind of, you know with the first one we did a lot of kind of honoring what the Muppets were in the late Seventies early Eighties and then essentially the story was getting the gang back together, in this one because we’ve set our foundation this one is lets just go have some fun. So I think it’s going to be a pretty good ride."
Jason Segel, star and co-writer of The Muppets, opted not to return for the sequel, but his writing partner Nicholas Stoller stayed aboard to work on the screenplay with James Bobin, who is back in the director's chair. In addition to the helmer, Lieberman confirmed that Bobin's Flight of the Conchords co-creator is also back, saying, "Yeah, we’ve got a really great group of people for this one and Bret McKenzie is back for songs. James Bobin is back directing. So it’s going to be a lot of fun."
"Yeah, oh yeah, there will be a great array of songs," the producer said, clarifying that the caper plot won't exclude musical numbers.
"He is an Oscar-winner," Lieberman said of McKenzie, whose "Man or Muppet" won the Original Song Academy Award last year. "How 'bout that? That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? That was really fun. I brought my mom to the ceremony and she had a blast."
Though neither Segel nor The Muppets leading lady Amy Adams are returning as Gary and Mary, the sequel has recruited a cast that's more than comedically capable. Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell are all signed up to play the human leads in The Muppets...Again!, playing Constantine's sidekick, a Russia prison guard, and a French Interpol agent, respectively. Oscar-nominated Django Unchained star Christoph Waltz has been associated with a role in the film, though his involvement remains unclear. Asked whether or not we can expect to see Waltz in the next film, Lieberman said, "I cannot confirm or deny that one."
The Muppets introduced a new Muppet character, the idealistic and passionate Walter. Voiced by Peter Linz, Walter found himself joining the gang over the course of the film. "Walter is back," Lieberman said enthusiastically. "We landed Walter! We signed him. Walter is in!"
The Muppets...Again! is set for nationwide release on March 21, 2014
In the meantime, enjoy this first look at the sequel, thanks to Entertainment Weekly: