How Jason Segel Went From Apatow Bro to Master of Muppets

'I just really appreciate puppetry as an art form,' he says in our Hot Issue

Patrick Wymore
The Muppets with Amy Adams and Jason Segel
By |

To hear Jason Segel tell it, his house is pretty creepy. "It's filled with puppets," the 31-year-old actor and screenwriter says over dinner at L.A.'s Chateau Marmont. "Literally packed." His puppet jones doesn't stop there: He turned his personal fantasy of making a puppet opera into a Forgetting Sarah Marshall plot point, and he grew up acting out movies with puppets, a trick he still deploys to fine-tune material. "I just really appreciate puppetry as an art form," he says.

So when Disney handed him the keys to the Muppets franchise after he pitched execs on a reboot, it was a dream come true. "I told them, 'I'm not concerned with toys and rides, I'm concerned with the Muppets being the Muppets that I remember.'" The Muppets, which stars Amy Adams and Segel (he co-wrote the script with pal Nicholas Stoller), features musical numbers, a new Muppet named Walter (Segel's character's brother) and a throwback-simple setup: "Their old studio is going to be torn down, and they have to put on a show to save it."

Segel is best known as part of Judd Apatow's happily crass circle, but he envisions Muppets as a salve against cynicism: "They never make fun of anyone – they're nice. I think there's a hunger for that at the moment, when the world has gotten so contentious." He takes a sip of scotch and chuckles. "The other reason I'm glad the movie's being made? Before this was an actual job, I was just the fucking weirdo with puppets everywhere. Now it's legitimate."

Watch The Muppets trailer here:

Related
The Hot List: The Best, Brightest and Baddest of 2011

This story is from the November 10, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.

NEXT: Makerbot's Thing-O-Matic 3D Printers Turn Ideas Into Reality