Muppets creator Jim Henson is set to be the subject of a new bio-pic from the indie Empire Film Group. The production company has acquired Robert D. Slane’s screenplay Henson, which charts the rise of Henson from his small-town Mississippi roots to the head of one of the most worldwide recognized entertainment empires.
In a press release posted at Coming Soon, Empire Home Entertainment President Eric Parkinson, who will be producing the film along with Xavier Mitchell, stated-
Jim Henson is one of the best known and most beloved entertainers of all time. His story is inspiring, tragic, heartwarming and epic, and will make for an important and entertaining motion picture. This is the sort of movie that Empire will be pursuing as we build the company into a leading independent studio.
The announcement gives no indication if any of Henson’s family is involved with or has approved the project. Indeed, it seems hard to imagine how the film could go ahead without some sort of approval and permission to use the classic Muppet characters, as they are so intertwined with Henson’s story.
Although the press release states that Empire “anticipates hiring a major director, such as Penny Marshall,” I think the very first one they should talk to is Frank Oz. Oz began his career as a Muppeteer in 1963. He and Henson formed a fast friendship that was reflected in their character work as Bert (Oz) and Ernie (Henson), Kermit (Henson) and Fozzy Bear (Oz) and Kermit and Miss Piggy (Oz). While Oz’s directorial career hasn’t been much to writer home about in the past few years – last year’s farce Death At A Funeral was poorly marketed while no amount of marketing could have saved 2004’s The Stepford Wives remake – his nearly three decades of working with Henson probably give him the best insight in how to tell this story.
Empire hopes to have the film in production by the late summer, raising its projected $30 million budget through international presales and various production partners.