What would you get if Hollywood crossed Avenue Q with The Silence of the Lambs? The Henson Company has long been developing an “alternative” puppet project aimed at adults, and it's suddenly gained traction: Vulture hears Cameron Diaz has been offered a starring role in The Happytime Murders, a mystery set in a world in which humans and puppets co-exist, but puppets are viewed as second-class citizens. No deal has been made yet — Happytime moved to Lionsgate Films only as of last month — but insiders tell us the Diaz camp is excited to read it.
It's easy to see why talent agencies have flipped out for the darkly comic, anti-Muppet puppet movie: It's kind of the Muppet movie you’d always kind of hoped Henson would make. And as it happens, a Henson will make it: Regardless if Diaz accepts or demures, we're told that Lionsgate plans to start shooting Happytime by January with Jim Henson’s son Brian, the Henson Company’s co-chairman, directing. (Just without any actual Muppets; the whole lot of 'em were sold to the Walt Disney Company in February 2004.)
Still, as one of our spies explains: “This is definitely not a PG-13 movie. They’re not fucking around with this: It’s 'Go big or go home.'" Vulture can confirm that's not just hyperbole, having acquired a copy of the script: One scene has a character opening the wrong door at the "Puppet Pleasureland," and finding a cow puppet on a massage table having all of its teats milked by an octopus puppet. Reads the stage direction: "The cow MOOS in ecstasy. MILK is just SQUIRTING EVERYWHERE." Sam the Eagle would be shocked. Shocked!