The Muppets Take The Huntington

George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Owen Wilson, and Kermit the Frog? Although it may seem like “one of these things is not like the others,” in fact it’s a list of famous movie stars who have filmed at The Huntington.

You might have seen Kermit at The Huntington in “The Muppets,” which opened on Thanksgiving (although really, the scene was more about Animal). Filmed last January, the movie used the North Vista to portray the grounds of a celebrity anger management center, and the al fresco group counseling session included not just Animal but Jack Black—with predictable results.

Any filming project taking place in a botanical garden full of artwork and specimen plants is bound to have its challenges, and in the case of “The Muppets,” one of the biggest issues was the large hole the film company wanted to dig in the middle of the North Vista in order to hide the puppeteers below ground level. Fortunately, the production team came up with a solution that did NOT require a hole and instead designed a movable platform with cushions for Animal and all the necessary puppeteers. The puppeteers were a delight to watch; between takes they usually remained where they were, scrunched down all together, and they stayed in character, bantering in their Muppet voices with the other crew members and singing along with Jack Black and his guitar.

The North Vista is a hugely popular location for film crews, serving as mansion grounds, upscale park, or just a generally classy background for a variety of TV shows and movies (“Nip/Tuck,” “Valentine,” “Scavenger Hunt”) and advertising for products from hamburgers to hot tubs to every kind of clothing—jeans to shoes to children’s princess gowns. It was probably most recognizable in “The Wedding Planner” (Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey meet with a misadventure as they shop for statuary), but it’s been a popular location since the shooting of the very first movie that was permitted here—”Mame,” in 1974 (Lucille Ball and Robert Preston dance near the fountain). Adam Sandler was stood up at the altar there (“The Wedding Singer”), George Clooney watched Catherine Zeta Jones marry Billy Bob Thornton (“Intolerable Cruelty”), and an episode of “CSI: Miami” staged an elaborate wedding scene, only to shoot the bride dead (by mistake, the shooter was aiming at someone seated behind her).

Tune in next month to read more about filming at The Huntington and the multiple times the various “CSIs” have filmed here—most recently, a new episode of “CSI: Miami” that will air Dec. 11.

Caption: The movie still at the lower right is from the 1994 film “The Little Princess,” however the scene near the fountain of the North Vista did not make the final cut.

Dinah LeHoven worked in the film industry for 12 years as an assistant director before taking the job of filming coordinator at The Huntington ten years ago. In her spare time, she sporadically maintains a list of projects that have filmed at The Huntington.

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