February 10th, 2012
09:29 AM ET
"Flight of the"... Oscar?
Bret McKenzie, better known as half of the Flight of the Conchords musical duo, got the enormous task of writing songs for "The Muppets," and his "Man or Muppet" track could snag the Grammy winner his first Oscar. He's nominated in a two-song race with a song from "Rio" in the best original song category.
"It's a very surreal and exciting time. This comes as a great surprise," McKenzie told CNN. "I’d love to meet Martin Scorsese [at the Oscars]. Maybe he’d want to do a musical." (Referring to his fellow Oscar nominee, director of the 3-D "Hugo," McKenzie suggested, "Musicals as 4-D. Musicals as the fourth dimension!")
Unfortunately, McKenzie won't get to show Scorsese what he's got at the Oscars. Deadline recently reported that neither "Man or Muppet" or "Real in Rio" would be performed at the ceremony, and McKenzie is just as disappointed as "Muppets" fans.
"From my experience, it’s good to have a couple of songs in a show," he said. Even so, McKenzie is just excited to be attending the Oscars at all.
(In the meantime, "Muppets" star Jason Segel, his co-screenwriter Nick Stoller, and their pal, writer-director Judd Apatow, are supporting petitions and "Twititions" to get members of the Academy to change their minds.)
Thinking back to how a musician and HBO star from New Zealand got to write songs for "The Muppets," McKenzie said, "I was intimidated by the legacy that we were dealing with." Kermit the Frog, he said, left him "starstruck."
"I knew I wouldn’t write another ‘Rainbow Connection.’ I just had a go, did my best."
The creative process involved listening "to as many early ‘70s songs [as] I could," he said. "There is one called ‘Sweet City Woman’ by the Stampeders, which was a real inspiration."
For "Man or Muppet," McKenzie hit upon the idea of making it a power ballad: "It deals with an identity crisis that I think we’ve all had in some stage in our lives."
As for any comparisons between the Muppets and Flight of the Conchords, McKenzie described himself as similar to Kermit, and his partner Jemaine Clement (who, coincidentally enough, played a villain in "Rio") as closest to Miss Piggy.
McKenzie said the pair are still interested in doing a feature film, but in the meantime, they plan to tour Australia and New Zealand while McKenzie ponders doing another Hollywood musical.
"I enjoyed the experience of doing these big musical numbers," he said. "We spent days in the studio recording penguins and rats and all these different monsters [for the final scene in 'The Muppets']. It was just really fun to see them all on screen together singing."
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