DIFF Daily 2011

Variety - James Bobin: Leapfrogging into film with ‘The Muppets’

Dec 11,2011 - 03:14 PM


When Brit helmer James Bobin got the call to direct Walt Disney’s ‘The Muppets,’ a reboot of the classic TV series, it seemed like a perfect fit for his first foray into the feature film arena.

It’s true that the scale and scope of the big-budget Hollywood project may have seemed like a big leap from his TV background - Bobin’s credits include ‘Flight of the Conchords,’ the hit adult Kiwi comedy for HBO, which he co-created, penned and helmed and Brit click ‘Da Ali G Show,’ Sasha Baron Cohen’s first TV vehicle – but for him, segueing into big budget family comedy was a seamless one.

‘I was very confident that I knew what I was doing because I had been watching “The Muppets” since I was a kid so I knew them really well,’ Bobin tells Variety. ‘Plus I had been doing musical comedy for a long time with “Flight of the Conchords.”’

‘So I kind of felt that it was my area, my forte,’ he says. ‘I took what I knew of “The Muppets” and what I knew of “The Conchords” and blended them together.’

It seems to have paid off. So far ‘The Muppets’ has grossed more than $58 million at the US box office and counting and has yet to rollout in most major international territories.

‘I was really aware of the scale and scope of this storied franchise,’ he says. ‘And I wanted to make a film whereby the Muppets were remembered as I was a kid so that my daughter will remember them and love them the way I love them.’

And for any fan of Jim Henson’s creations, this pic lives up to expectations. Puppet-lover Jason Segel (who stars in the pic) and scribe-helmer Nicholas Stoller (‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’), who both penned the script, offer up a clever reboot with a vintage feel, keeping true to Henson’s characters while peppering it with some upbeat musical fare.

‘Jason is a man who loves puppets,’ says Bobin. ‘His house is full of them and he operates them himself. He was just so pleased to be there that everyone kind of felt good about the day. When you’re doing a shoot with puppets and guys who think it’s funny, you just sort of have a laugh.’

The transition from small to big screen was, says Bobin, not too difficult for him.

‘People assume that TV and film is very different,’ he says. ‘But it’s really only different in scale. Film just means that when I turn around in my chair there are more people behind me.’

So, with his first feature pic under his belt, which has received a slew of glowing reviews and is roaring at the domestic box office plus a recently-inked first look deal with HBO (the cable channel which aired ‘Conchords’), what’s next for the helmer?

‘I’d love to work together again with Bret [McKenzie] and Jemaine [Clement] [stars of ‘Flight of the Conchords’] but I’m not quite sure what form it will take in terms of a TV show or another format,’ says Bodin, adding that a ‘Flight of the Conchords’ movie is not out of the realms of possibility. ‘We like working together, it’s just a question of our diaries syncing in together because of all of the different stuff we’re up to.’

‘But of course, whatever it is, it will be a musical and a comedy,’ he says. ‘That’s because we love musicals.’

And while Bobin’s trip to Dubai has been a fleeting one – the helmer flew in for a 48 hour stint from L.A. for the fest – his first trip to the emirate has been, he says, a fascinating one.

‘I’ve never been to this part of the world before,’ he says. ‘It’s a fantastic location and has an incredible look. I have no doubt we will see more and more films get made here because it has that international element to it.’

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