Frank Oz

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Frank Oz
BornFrank Richard Oznowicz
(1944-05-25) May 25, 1944 (age 68)
Hereford, Herefordshire, England
OccupationActor, director, puppeteer
Years active1963–present
Spouse(s)Robin Garsen
(m. 1979–2005; 4 children)
Victoria Labalme
(m. 2011–present)[1]
 
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Frank Oz
BornFrank Richard Oznowicz
(1944-05-25) May 25, 1944 (age 68)
Hereford, Herefordshire, England
OccupationActor, director, puppeteer
Years active1963–present
Spouse(s)Robin Garsen
(m. 1979–2005; 4 children)
Victoria Labalme
(m. 2011–present)[1]

Frank Oz (born Frank Richard Oznowicz;[1] born May 25, 1944) is a film director, actor, voice actor and puppeteer who is known for creating and performing the characters Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear in The Muppet Show, as well as Cookie Monster, Bert and Grover in Sesame Street. His work as a film director includes 1986's Little Shop of Horrors remake and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He is also the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars film series.

Contents

Early life

Oz was born in Hereford, England, the son of Frances (née Ghevaert) and Isidore Oznowicz, both of whom were puppeteers.[2][3] His parents moved to England after fighting the Nazis with the Dutch Brigades. Oz's Dutch/Polish father was Jewish and his Flemish mother was a lapsed Roman Catholic.[1][4][5][6] Oz moved to Oakland, California, United States, with his parents when he was five years old. He attended Oakland Technical High School and Oakland City College. He worked for a time with the Vagabond Puppets, a production of the Oakland Recreation Department, where Lettie Connell was his mentor.[7]

Puppeteering career

Oz is known for his work as a puppeteer, performing with Jim Henson's Muppets. His characters have included Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam the Eagle on The Muppet Show, and Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert on Sesame Street, among many others.

In addition to performing a variety of characters, Oz has been one of the primary collaborators responsible for the development of the Muppets over the last 30 years. Oz has performed as a Muppeteer in over 75 movies including Labyrinth, video releases, and television specials, as well as countless other public appearances, episodes of Sesame Street, and other Jim Henson series. His puppetry work spans from 1963 to the present, though he has retired full-time from the Muppets. His Muppets were taken over by Eric Jacobson and David Rudman in 2002, though Oz still performs his Sesame Street characters on occasion.[citation needed]

Oz is also known as the performer of Jedi Master Yoda from George Lucas' Star Wars series. Oz performed the voice and puppet for Yoda in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and provided the voice of the computer-generated imagery (CGI) Yoda in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The conversion to CGI was met with some criticism among fans but Oz himself said that was "exactly what [Lucas] should have done."[8] Oz had a great deal of creative input on the character and was himself responsible for creating the character's trademark syntax (whose nature some professional syntacticians discuss in their spare time).[9] George Lucas was so impressed by Oz's performance as Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back that he tried to get him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Oz reprised his vocal role as Yoda in Disney's Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.[10] Frank Oz is more eager than ever to reprise the voice of Yoda in one of the forthcoming Star Wars stand alone movies.[11]

Directing career

Inspiration as a film-maker came to Oz upon a viewing of the film Touch of Evil, the director tells Robert K. Elder in an interview for The Film That Changed My Life.[12]

I think it opened up my view of film—that there’s so much more that could be done. Actually, by breaking so many rules, he allowed other people to say, “Hey, I can maybe think of some stuff, too!” He just opened up the possibilities more for me. That’s what he did.[13]

Oz began his behind-the-camera work when he co-directed the fantasy film The Dark Crystal with long-time collaborator Jim Henson. The film featured the most advanced puppets ever created for a movie. Oz further employed those skills in directing 1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan, as well as sharing a screenwriting credit.

In 1986 he directed his first movie that did not involve Henson, Little Shop Of Horrors. The musical film starred Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene, as well as Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and a 15-foot-tall talking plant (voiced by Levi Stubbs) which at times required up to 40 puppeteers to operate. The film allowed Oz to show his ability to work with live actors, and led to opportunities to direct films that did not include puppetry.

Usually directing comedies, Oz went on to direct Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in 1988, starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, What About Bob? in 1991, starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, and HouseSitter in 1992 (all of which were scored by Miles Goodman). Later films include The Indian in the Cupboard (1995), In & Out (1997), Bowfinger (1999), The Score (2001), the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives, and the original Death at a Funeral (2007).

Acting career

As an actor, Oz appeared in a bit part as Prison Storeroom Keeper in The Blues Brothers (1980), directed by John Landis. He also appeared in later Landis movies An American Werewolf in London, Spies Like Us, Trading Places and Innocent Blood. In 1998, Oz portrayed a warden in Blues Brothers 2000. In 2001 he had a minor part in the Pixar film Monsters, Inc. as Randall's scare assistant, Fungus. He will reprise his role in the upcoming prequel film Monsters University.[14] In 2005, he had a minor part in the Columbia film Zathura as the voice of the Robot.

Other cameos have included playing a surgeon in scenes cut from the theatrical release of Superman III,[15] The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan and several other Jim Henson-related films that did not involve just his puppeteering.

Significant collaborations

Landis has cast Oz in small roles in several of his movies. Oz played a corrections officer in Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000. He also had roles in An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places, Spies Like Us, and Innocent Blood. Even if he's not appeared in a Landis movie, his name is often spoken in the background. During airport scenes in Into the Night and Coming to America, there are announcements on the PA system requesting a 'Mr. Frank Oznowicz' to pick up the white courtesy phone. John Landis made a cameo in Oz's film The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Oz worked as a puppeteer, performing with Jim Henson's Muppets. They co-directed a film together, The Dark Crystal. Oz wrote and directed the Muppet film The Muppets Take Manhattan. He also worked with the puppets on several of Henson's films (both produced and directed by Henson), including Labyrinth, starring David Bowie.

Filmography

Film
YearFilmRoleOther notes
1979The Muppet MovieFozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Sam the Eagle, Animal, variousPuppeteer/voice
1980The Blues BrothersCorrections officer
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes BackYodaPuppeteer/voice
1981The Great Muppet CaperFozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Sam the Eagle, Animal, various
An American Werewolf in LondonMr. Collins
1982The Dark CrystalAughraAlso co-director
The Fantastic Miss Piggy ShowMiss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, others
1983Superman IIISurgeonDeleted scene
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the JediYoda
Trading PlacesBooking cop
1984Muppets Take ManhattanMiss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal, Bert, Cookie Monster, Ocean Breeze Board member, variousAlso director
1985Spies Like UsTest monitor
Sesame Street Presents Follow That BirdBert, Grover, Cookie MonsterPuppeteer/voice
1986Little Shop Of HorrorsDirector
LabyrinthThe WisemanPuppeteer
1988Dirty Rotten ScoundrelsDirector
1991Muppet*Vision 3DMiss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal, variousPuppeteer/voice; Theme park attraction
What About Bob?Director
1992HouseSitterDirector
Innocent BloodPathologist
The Muppet Christmas CarolMiss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal, variousPuppeteer/voice
1995The Indian in the CupboardDirector
1996Muppet Treasure IslandMiss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal, variousPuppeteer/voice
1997In & OutDirector
1998Blues Brothers 2000Warden
1999Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceYodaPuppeteer/voice
Muppets from SpaceMiss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal, variousPuppeteer/voice
BowfingerDirector
The Adventures of Elmo in GrouchlandBert, Grover, Cookie MonsterPuppeteer/voice
2001The ScoreDirector
Monsters, Inc.Jeff FungusVoice role
2002Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the ClonesYodaVoice role
2004The Stepford WivesDirector
2005ZathuraRobotVoice role
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the SithYodaVoice role
2007Death at a FuneralDirector
2011Star Tours: The Adventures ContinueYodaVoice role; Theme park attraction
2013Monsters UniversityJeff FungusVoice role; upcoming film
Television
YearsTitleRoleOther notes
1969–presentSesame StreetBert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Lefty the Salesman, various othersPuppteer/voice; still performs the characters on occasion
1976-1981The Muppet ShowFozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Sam the Eagle, Animal, Marvin Suggs, variousPuppteer/voice
1996-1998Muppets TonightMiss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal, various
2011"The Carnival Job"Director; episode of Leverage

References

  1. ^ a b c "A Conversation with Frank Oz at the Museum of the Moving Image". Jimhensonlegacy.org. 2011-10-25. http://www.jimhensonlegacy.org/legacy-events/8/97-a-conversation-with-frank-oz-at-the-museum-of-the-moving-image. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  2. ^ "Frank Oz Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Movies.yahoo.com. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800020736/bio. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  3. ^ http://www.zwinstreek.eu/zs/images/publicaties/hle/hle198002p021-023.pdf
  4. ^ "Oz L.A. Times Score article- Edward Norton Information Page". Workprint.powweb.com. 2001-07-09. http://workprint.powweb.com/score/ozlatimes.html. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  5. ^ "JewishJournal.com". JewishJournal.com. http://www.jewishjournal.com/arts/article/the_wizard_of_score_20010803/. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  6. ^ Arnold, William (2007-06-08). "''seattlepi.com'' "Director Frank Oz takes a new tack with low-budget dark comedy, 'Death at a Funeral'" William Arnold, 6/8/07". Seattlepi.com. http://www.seattlepi.com/movies/319064_frankoz09.html. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  7. ^ "International Puppet Museum: Lettie Connell Schuburt". Puppetrymuseum.org. http://www.puppetrymuseum.org/IPM-Lettie.html. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  8. ^ Exclusive: A Chat with Frank Oz, comingsoon.net
  9. ^ Geoffrey K. Pullum (May 18, 2005). "Yoda's syntax the Tribune analyzes; supply more details I will!". Language Log. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002173.html. Retrieved 2010-09-30.
  10. ^ "Countdown to an All-New Star Tours | Fans Insider | Disney". Disney.go.com. 2011-05-10. http://disney.go.com/disneyfans/insider/article/20110510. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  11. ^ Dibdin, Emma (February 8, 2013). "'Star Wars': Frank Oz eager to play Yoda in solo movie". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.com/movies/news/a457497/star-wars-frank-oz-eager-to-play-yoda-in-solo-movie.html. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  12. ^ Rabin, Nathan. "The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark (9781556528255): Robert K. Elder: Books". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1556528256/ref=nosim/wwwrobelderco-20. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
  13. ^ Oz, Frank. Interview by Robert K. Elder. The Film That Changed My Life. By Robert K. Elder. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011. N. p. 272. Print.
  14. ^ Paquette, Danielle (12 July 2012). "Frank Oz speaks — but not as Yoda or Miss Piggy". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/26/entertainment/la-et-mn-frank-oz-yoda-miss-piggy-20120726. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  15. ^ "Frank Oz". supermancinema.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. http://web.archive.org/web/20070311034319/http://www.supermancinema.co.uk/special_features/super_innovators/make_up/make_up_animatronics_oz_p3.htm. Retrieved 2011-12-13.

External links