I recently got the chance to talk to Dan Crane about his involvement in the new ‘Muppet’ movie. Here, Dan talks about how he got involved in the film and about his search for a great air guitarist…
Hey Dan. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Muppets’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The plotline of ‘The Muppets’ is: Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance. Oh wait, that’s ‘Citizen Kane’. The plotline of ‘The Muppets’ is that they reunite to save their old theater from an oil tycoon whilst salvaging the Muppet legacy.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a nameless fishmonger who struggles with his lot in life and searches for meaning in a technologically based world that has rendered his trade all but obsolete. His weltanschauung — that sometimes life’s inherently ephemeral nature can lead one to find it utterly devoid of meaning—is perhaps best summed up by his one line in the film: “Life’s a fillet of fish – eh!”
How did you get involved in the project in the first place? Had you always been a fan of ‘The Muppets’?
I’m fortunate to be friends with Bret McKenzie who wrote many of the songs for the film, including the Oscar-winning: “Man Or A Muppet” (on which I do not sing). When Bret was doing the original demo for “Life’s A Happy Song”, the film’s opening number, he asked me to swing by the recording studio and do a few of the voices. I assumed I was going to do Kermit (as I do a pretty mean Kermit) but instead I did many of the one-liners in the song including: “Life is full of highs” and also “Life’s a leg o’ lamb.” But it was my deeply honest and understated delivery of “Life’s a fillet of fish” that apparently spoke to the film’s producers and director James Bobin, and thus remained in the film.
Interesting note: The addition of “eh!” to the end of the “Life’s a fillet of fish!” line was pure improv — an artistic choice that I felt really added a richness and complexity to the role.
Interesting additional note: There was apparently much heated debate amongst Disney top brass over my pronunciation of “fillet.” I pronounced the word “fillet” with a hard “t” per the suggestion of Bret (a native New Zealander). This is not a common pronunciation in the US, where we would normally say the word in the soft, or French pronunciation (as in “filet mignon”), leaving the ‘t’ silent. Disney execs, I am told, agonized as to whether American audiences, unused to this predominately British pronunciation of “fillet” would know what I was talking about when I said, “Life’s a fillet of fish, etc…”. In the end, I believe my artistic vision prevailed.
How would you say this film continues Jim Henson’s original legacy?
I think the film is a tremendous celebration of ‘The Muppets’ as cultural icons and brilliantly utilizes the notion of preserving of their legacy as the primary story arc.
The film stars Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy – with James Bobin onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Was it you in a booth mostly?
It was me in a booth mostly.
Which is your favourite Muppet?
My favourite Muppet is Sgt. Floyd Pepper – bassist for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
Let’s talk a bit about you Dan. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place? I understand you’re also a journalist and musician as well?
I wanted to get in the film industry because I had a story to tell; and that story was that life, sometimes, may be thought of (metaphorically speaking) as resembling the breaded and fried flesh of the paraphyletic group of organisms consisting of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals lacking limbs with digits.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Give as many interviews as you can.
I’ve got to talk about this – in the summer of 2010, you embarked on your search for the USA’s greatest air guitarist – covering, well everywhere in the US. In your mind, what makes a good air guitarist? I was quite good at it once, except I lost my G-string and now it doesn’t work.
People often ask, what do I need to become good at competitive air guitar. You must have charisma, stage presence, guts…but it’s more about what you lack. You need a real lack of dignity. Generally, it helps to lack sobriety. Most importantly, you — and some people just don’t get this — you need to lack a guitar. It seems an obvious point, but you’d be surprised.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
- Jacques Cousteau — that guy saw a lot of incredible fish.
- Abe Vigoda – famous for his role as Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on TV’s ‘Fish’.
- Mrs. Paul (or Bernard Matthews in the UK) — responsible for making delicious frozen fish sticks (aka fish fingers).
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three personal things could you not live without?
Flip-flops, sunscreen, fishing rod (and ideally, some bait/tackle to go with it) —I’d say, more specifically, if offered, a “fully outfitted fishing package.”
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’ll be continuing to perform standup comedy around Los Angeles and then in June, once again I’ll be touring the United States in search of its greatest air guitarist as I emcee the US Air Guitar Championships. In August it’s off to Edinburgh to perform a one-man show at the Fringe Festival and then to Oulu, Finland to host the World Air Guitar Championships. Then I’ll be heading to an island off the coast of France to help translate a rock-and-roll musical by the legendary air band, Airnadette.
http://dancrane.com/Site/Fringe.html [Fringe show]
Thanks for the interview!