LOS ANGELES — Jason Segel, star of the CBS comedy "How I Met Your Mother," grew up a devoted fan of the Muppets. All he wanted was to one day have a cameo role in one of their movies.
Unfortunately for Segel, his first major acting role, in the 1999 series "Freaks and Geeks," came the same year the Muppets made their last feature film, "Muppets from Space." Since then the Muppets have done only a few TV and Internet projects.
Segel finally got tired of waiting and co-wrote, with Nick Stoller, "The Muppets," a story of getting the old gang together to save The Muppet Theater. He not only helped pen the story, but he stars alongside Kermit and Miss Piggy.
"I never thought that I would be working in this capacity with the Muppets. It's thrilling and unbelievable and does feel like a fantasy sometimes," Segel says.
Segel's motives for helping get the Muppets back on the big screen go beyond wanting to work with the group. He's convinced they're needed in this very cynical era of comedy. The Muppets have shown for 40 years that it's possible to get laughs without having to do it at anyone else's expense. That's something Segel wants youngsters to understand.
As for adults, he thinks the Muppets reflect who we wanted to be as kids.
"They remind us of our best versions of ourselves. The world kind of beats something out of you that anything is possible, this sort of wide-eyed wonder, and you come to the reality of what the world is like. But the Muppets have never given in to that. They believe they can accomplish anything and they just go forward with their eyes open wide and a smile on their face. It sort of reminds us of the best in us," Segel says.
"The Muppets" was the first film idea Segel pitched after his successful "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Once he got the OK, he and Stoller had no shortage of ideas. For example, Animal should be in an anger management and Fozzie should be performing in Reno with a knockoff version of The Muppets.
They wanted to have the Swedish Chef working as a judge of "Top Chef," but didn't get to film the scene. The theme of the movie is that the Muppets are better together than apart, so Segel wanted them together as quickly as possible.
He also knew he wanted to use the song "Rainbow Connection," and he decided to make it a duet by Kermit and Miss Piggy after listening to a CD in his car of people covering Muppet songs.
The rest of the film is filled with original music, other Muppet favorites and some familiar tunes. Segel was impressed that co-star Amy Adams knows every Muppet tune.
The only one real problem for Segel was that, at 6-feet-4, he looms over most of the Muppets. The solution was to have him sit in most scenes, something Segel embraced.
"I just don't like moving around. I'm not making a joke. I even like to sit in chase scenes," Segel says.
He used a lot of that time sitting around to think about how great it was to fulfill a life-long dream. His only regret is that the real stars — the puppeteers — don't get the recognition they deserve for being able to act, dance, sing and be funny while working in a confined space.
As for the rest of the film, Segel says, "We did what we set out to do for the lovers, the dreamers and you."
(c)2011 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)
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