Lately, the name “Frank Oz” has appeared in the news and in social media posts and threads.
The veteran director, voice actor, and famous “Muppeteer” has been vocal lately about Disney’s refusal to allow Oz to work on any Muppets projects anymore because–he says–they want a new kind of Muppet brought to life, and Oz refuses to do it, saying there’s a big difference between the Jim Henson Muppets and the Disney Muppets.
But in a much lighter story, Oz recalls the first time he was tasked, dare we say privileged, with bringing Jedi Master Yoda to life.
Oz says the first time he read the script for The Empire Strikes Back (1980), he noticed that it had “a bit of that odd syntax in it.” He also says he noticed that the character of Yoda spoke very “colloquially.”
“Use the Force, you must,” is just one example of the ancient and wise Jedi Master’s way of speaking.
Rather than fight it or try to make something of his own from it, Frank Oz decided to embrace that colloquial speaking and strange syntax, to the point that he approached George Lucas and asked, “Can I do the whole thing like this?”
Lucas was delighted, and the true soul and character of Master Yoda were born.
It’s that “odd syntax” delivered in an almost professional tone that lent itself to giving the 900-year-old mentor an air of wisdom from the get-go, and we have Oz to thank for that.
The old Jedi Master first appeared in Episode 5 of the Star Wars saga, but The Empire Strikes Back would only be the beginning for him. From 1980 forward, Master Yoda has been a staple in the Star Wars universe, making appearances in Return of the Jedi (1983), The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), Revenge of the Sith (2005), The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019), but only as a voice-over in this film.
He also has roles in 3 animated Star Wars series as well.
When asked whether he gets annoyed or frustrated when he hears fans attempting to copy Master Yoda’s iconic voice, Oz says it really doesn’t bother him.
“Anyone can do a voice,” he explains. “It’s not the voice; it’s the soul that’s key to a character.”