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