Sad news this holiday season. Charles Durning, better known to us as Doc Hopper from The Muppet Movie, has passed away.
Durning had a long history with the Muppets, covering much more than his memorable role as the Muppets’ first movie villain. He appeared in the 1979 special The Muppets Go Hollywood, in which he is seen slow dancing with Miss Piggy. When Superman himself, Christopher Reeve, asks to cut in, Piggy lets him know that she’d much prefer to dance with Durning. The moral here: Charles Durning is cooler than Superman.
When Jim Henson began work on The Great Muppet Caper, Durning was on the short list of actors that Jim envisioned for Mr. Tarkanian, the editor of the newspaper where Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo worked. Had he been cast, Durning would’ve been among the very few to have worked in two Muppet movies.
In 1996, Charles Durning returned to the Muppet world to portray Santa Claus in Elmo Saves Christmas. That’s an appropriate way to remember Durning, as we’re all celebrating the holidays at the time of this writing, especially because Durning’s version of Santa was more pure and true than what we might’ve seen (I’m looking at you, Kevin James).
But of course, we’ll all remember him most fondly as Doc Hopper, the businessman (and lousy frog) who had a dream of owning his own worldwide fast food franchise. But because his motivations were led by greed and the lack of friendship, his dreams were never realized like Kermit’s. Thankfully, that didn’t matter, as Durning gave us such a memorable performance to help make The Muppet Movie the example of Muppet perfection it is today.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com