Michael Caine Had Already Worked With Miss Piggy Before The Muppet Christmas Carol

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There are few things in this world that wouldn’t become more enjoyable with the addition of the Muppets. Are you suffering through the child’s birthday party you’re attending? Well, here come the Muppets to liven things up! Is the anti-smoking PSA you’re watching a bit depressing? Send in the Muppets! Divorce proceedings got you down? It’s much more fun when you discover that The Great Gonzo is the judge!

This universal rule is why “The Muppet Christmas Carol” is so great. The movie is wonderful, however, because it also has Michael Caine playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. The film was the directorial debut of Brian Henson — the son of the legendary puppeteer, Jim Henson — and was greatly enhanced by the clash in styles of two legendary performers: Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog. While Kermit and his Muppet co-workers are known for their madcap antics, Caine went into the film with a different mindset. According to an anecdote from Brian Henson in a 2015 article in The Guardian, Caine took playing the role of Scrooge very seriously.

“I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company,” Henson recalled Caine saying. “I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role and there are no puppets around me.”

Caine’s high-end performance alongside the usual shenanigans of the Muppets served as a humorous dichotomy in the film, making Caine a fish out of water as a serious actor. But this wasn’t Caine’s first time working with the wacky puppets.

Working Alongside Legends

Working with the Muppets is one of the greatest honors I can possibly imagine. When Jason Segel, a lifelong fan of them, worked on “The Muppets” in 2011, he often spoke about how honored he was to even be working alongside such legendary entertainers. “To be even like the tiniest footnote in the Muppet lineage is nuts to me,” said the actor in a 2011 Collider interview. “That is insane. So I feel very honored.”

Some actors had more heated experiences with the Muppets, like Ray Liotta, who had a passionate kiss with Miss Piggy behind the scenes. Michael Caine worked with Miss Piggy as well, but he also had the rare opportunity to work with her while she was directing, as he shared in a 2016 interview with GQ:

“There was one extraordinary thing: I was directed in one of my favorite movies, called ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,’ by Miss Piggy! Miss Piggy, also known as Frank Oz, directed ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.'”

Frank Oz — the performer behind many of the Muppets, including Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Animal, is also a successful director — and Caine was bemused by their prior work together. “That’s one of the most successful comedies I ever made, directed by Miss Piggy,” the actor said. 

The Role Of A Lifetime (Sort Of)

But Michael Caine’s work on “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was not his only connection to Henson’s brood of comedians, as he explained in the GQ interview:

“There’s one last connection with me and the Muppets, which is that I come from South London where Charlie Chaplin, whom I knew, is from. And the Muppets now have the Charlie Chaplin studio. It’s very weird. Full circle for me.”

In 2000, Jim Henson’s children bought Charlie Chaplin Studios — the property built by the legendary silent film star, Charlie Chaplin — and turned it into the home of The Jim Henson Company. For Caine — who had run into Chaplin a couple of times as a fellow South Londoner — it was yet another connection that makes “The Muppet Christmas Carol” seem like a serendipitous project for him.

Sure, most people probably won’t remember a legendary actor like Caine, known for dramatic roles in films like “Zulu,” “Children of Men,” and “The Italian Job,” for his time working alongside Rizzo the Rat in a movie that was almost going to be a television special

But for someone like me, his dedication to putting in a serious, fantastic performance in a role where plenty of other legendary actors would have phoned it in has earned Caine my respect, not that he’s exactly been begging for my approval. If a man can work alongside Kermit the Frog and not be swallowed by the green menace’s star power, he’s proven himself a star in his own right. Now, to find a legendary actor to star as Jean Valjean in the adaptation of my screenplay, “A Muppet Les Misérables.”

Read this next: 29 Alternative Christmas Movies That Aren’t Die Hard

The post Michael Caine Had Already Worked With Miss Piggy Before The Muppet Christmas Carol appeared first on /Film.

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