Frank Oz Forbid Star Wars' Cast And Crew From Doing Yoda Impressions On Set
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Frank Oz Forbid Star Wars' Cast And Crew From Doing Yoda Impressions On Set

Jul 18, 2023

Frank Oz is a man of many memorable voices. As Jim Henson's closest collaborator and most trusted Muppeteer, Oz helped shape our childhoods by providing the voices of, among others, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Bert, Grover, Animal, and Cookie Monster. What's perhaps most amazing about his work is how, when you hear him speak in his own voice, you can close your eyes and hear notes of just about every character he originated. He was every bit as virtuosic as Henson in this regard, but it's possible he went on to do his most indelible work outside of his partner's workshop.

Yoda is a miracle. He's a hunched, pea green, 2'2" Jedi master who's cackling like an imp one moment and dispensing the most profound spiritual advice the next. When Luke Skywalker first encounters him in "Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back," he can't believe this mad little creature is one of the wisest teachers in the galaxy, and, our first time through, neither can we. But Oz gradually locates the character's depth without sacrificing his mischievous side. It's the most sophisticated voice performance he's ever given, and easily the most vital portrayal in the entire "Star Wars" franchise. Oz's Yoda imbued the franchise with the soul that keeps us coming back for more 40+ years later.

And everyone on the Dagobah set of "Empire" almost ruined it for us.

In an interview with Wired pegged to his appearance in Bert Kreischer's unabashedly silly film "The Machine," Mark Hamill was asked if he could do a Yoda impression. The answer to this is, yes, he absolutely can, but this proved to be a problem during the shoot of the film. As he told Wired:

"When Frank [Oz] was doing Yoda, everybody started doing Yoda. The cameramen, the caterers, wardrobe, stand-ins, stunt doubles. 'Oh, hungry are you? To the commissary you are going?' And Frank eventually had to say, 'Look, I'm being influenced by your impressions and I want to keep it pure.' So I could see exactly what he was talking about. We all stopped on a dime. And the rest is history."

Thank god they reined it in, but can you blame them for taking the voice out for a spin and speaking in his patented object-subject-verb style? Anyone who's even a little bit of a fan has a Yoda impersonation in their back pocket, and, if you're not on the set of a "Star Wars" movie when Oz is performing the iconic character, commended this should be.