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Thursday 14 December 2017

Old ham gets to act the diva again

With The Muppets set to hit our cinemas again, Paul Byrne meets the pig princess

You can tell how successful someone is by the help they have floating around them. Millionaires have other people making breakfast, driving cars and holding up umbrellas. When I walk into Miss Piggy's room in a London hotel, I realise instantly just how successful this Hollywood legend is. She has a guy kneeling beside her for the entire interview. Just helping her sit straight. And, it would appear, to keep her cheeks warm. Now, that's rich.

Miss Piggy is in town to promote The Muppets, the first movie from our furry little friends in 12 years. Back in 1996, the failure of Muppet Treasure Island at the box-office heralded a low period for Jim Henson's much-loved collection of cuddly creatures. Sure, Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Miss Piggy and the gang were still working, but the audiences just kept getting smaller.

This from the gang who, with The Muppet Show -- which ran from 1976 to 1981, with a total of 120 episodes -- once commanded a worldwide audience of 235 million.



diva

In the latest Muppets big-screen outing, fan Jason Segal teams up with his Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller to write an adventure that sees the now nearly forgotten Muppets getting together for a show in the hope of raising $10m to save The Muppet Theatre.

It's plain that the diva sitting in front of me will always be a star. Having first come to our attention back in 1976, with The Muppet Show, I point out to Miss Piggy that 36 years later, miraculously, she hasn't aged a day . . .

"I know," she squeals. Literally. "Has it really been that long? Wow!"

And you're still looking great.

"Well," she says, with a flick of her hair, "that's true." So, what's Miss Piggy's secret? There were rumours about suckling injections?

"No, no," the lady protests. "Actually, I don't receive any of those kinds of injections. You know, Resilin, that stuff that they inject into your skin to smooth it out -- that actually comes from pigs. So, I don't really need any of that. I'm just naturally like this."

The original material girl, mainly foam, it seems, Miss Piggy undoubtedly provided the blueprint for the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga. Add to that, famous fans around the world -- Liam Neeson recently expressing his love and admiration for the porky princess -- and you have to wonder, has Miss Piggy ever had a moment of self-doubt?



beauty

"No," she says quickly, before doing a double-take. "Did you see that? Did you see how quickly I answered? You can't answer no after hesitating. You have to just say 'No', like that!"

Blessed with her own particular brand of porcine beauty, there have been many pretenders to the Miss Piggy crown down the years. Mariah Carey, Kim Kardashian, Snooki, Elton John. Has anyone ever come close . . . ?

"Not really," says Miss Piggy. "You know, it's very flattering that they all try, so hard, and it's kind of sad that they can't be moi. Nobody can. So, I don't fault them for not being successful. You can't help but feel sad for them too."

Second only to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Miss Piggy has had plenty of ups and downs when it comes to the love of her life -- thanks to the fickle heart of one Kermit the Frog. This is truly the story of The Princess And The Frog, but the marriage in 2008 of supermodel Carla Bruni and French president Nicolas Sarkozy must have given Miss Piggy some hope for the future . . . ?

"Yes, well, you know, we may not be married," she says, "but we are still a couple and very much in love. And there are not too many frogs and pigs who can say that after . . . how many years?"

Thirty-five.

"Oh, boy."

As with all Muppet outings, the new movie is full of cool cameos, including Feist, Mickey Rooney, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman and Jack Black. There were rumours that Miss Piggy had Kevin Bacon escorted off the set . . .

"Yeah, well," Miss Piggy says sternly, "neither one of us take too kindly to bacon jokes."

They say behind every great star is a sly Svengali, someone who pretty much controls everything the star says and does. Does Miss Piggy feel that Frank Oz, or even that young upstart Eric Jacobson, deserve some of the credit for the wonderful career that she's had?

"I'm sorry," she says, straight-faced, "who are these people that you're talking about?"



committed

Supposedly, they're the guys who pull the strings. Who provide you with a voice. Frank from 1976 to 2000, Eric from 2000 to the present day.

"You know," says Miss Piggy, composing herself, "I have a lot of people who work for moi and I really haven't committed any of their names to memory. So, you know, it's possible."

And how does it feel, after 12 years away from the big screen, to have the second-best-reviewed movie in the US of 2011?

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," shouts Miss Piggy. "Second best!?"

I'm afraid so. After the French, silent film homage The Artist.

"What!?" rasps Miss Piggy. "WHAT!? Oh, that . . . that . . . they don't even talk in that movie! Are you kidding me?! Come on!"

The Muppets hits Irish cinemas on Friday

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