Frank Oz (born Frank Richard Oznowicz; 25 May 1944) is an American actor, puppeteer, director and producer. He began his career as a puppeteer, performing the Muppet characters of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show; and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. He is also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars series, providing the voice for the character in several films and television series.
Oz at the 38th Annual Saturn Awards 2012
Frank Richard Oznowicz
25 May 1944
|Education||Oakland Technical High School|
|Alma mater||Oakland City College|
|Occupation||Actor, puppeteer, director, producer|
(m. 1979; div. 2005)
Victoria Labalme (m. 2011)
His work as a director includes Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), What About Bob? (1991), In & Out (1997), Bowfinger (1999), The Score (2001), Death at a Funeral (2007), and an episode of the US TV series Leverage (2011).
Oz was born in Hereford, England; the son of Frances (née Ghevaert; 1910–1989) and Isidore Oznowicz (1916–1998), both of whom were puppeteers. His father was also a window trimmer. 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 Catholic. They left England when he was six months old and lived in Belgium until he was five. Oz and his family moved to Montana in 1951. They eventually settled in Oakland, California. Oz attended Oakland Technical High School and Oakland City College. He worked as an apprentice puppeteer at Children's Fairyland as a teenager with the Vagabond Puppets, a production of the Oakland Recreation Department, where Lettie Connell was his mentor.
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 Eagle on The Muppet Show, and Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert on Sesame Street.
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 Muppet performer in over 75 productions 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, although he semi-retired from performing his Muppets characters in 2001. In 2001, his characters were taken over primarily by Eric Jacobson (with David Rudman as Cookie Monster).
Oz explained why he decided on leaving the Muppets in a 2007 interview:
"One was that I was a dad, I have four kids. The reason was that I was constantly asked to do stuff. And also, I'd done this for 30 years, and I'd never wanted to be a puppeteer in the first place. I wanted to be a journalist, and really what I wanted to do was direct theatre and direct movies. So it was more a slow progression, working with Jim, but I felt limited. As an actor and a performer, you always feel limited because you're not the source of the creation, and I wanted to be the source. I wanted to be the guy and give my view of the world. And if I screw it up, I screw it up, but at least I tried. And as a director, what you're really showing is you're showing the audience your view of the world...I've always enjoyed, more than anything else in the world, bringing things to life, whether it's characters or actors in a scene or moments in movies. I've done so much with the puppets, that I'd always wanted to work with actors."
Oz is also known as the performer of Jedi Master Yoda from George Lucas' Star Wars series. Jim Henson had originally been contacted by Lucas about possibly performing Yoda. Henson was preoccupied and instead suggested Oz to be assigned as chief puppeteer of the character, as well as a creative consultant. Oz performed the puppet and provided the voice for Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). Oz also provided the voice of the computer-generated imagery (CGI) Yoda in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). The conversion to CGI was met with some criticism among fans, but Oz himself said that was "exactly what [Lucas] should have done." Oz had a great deal of creative input on the character and was himself responsible for creating the character's trademark syntax. Oz returned to voice Yoda in the Disney theme park attractions, Star Tours–The Adventures Continue and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and in the Star Wars Rebels episodes, "Path of the Jedi" and "Shroud of Darkness."
"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."
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 film 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, Jim Belushi 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 helming comedic productions, 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, starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn (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).
In the late 1980s, Oz was attached to direct a film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for Universal Pictures, with Martin Short slated to star. Oz dropped out of the project after he could not work out how to make the story work.
Oz was also going to direct the 1990 film Mermaids after Lasse Hallström dropped out of the project. However, Oz also left the project due to creative differences and was ultimately replaced by Richard Benjamin. Oz reportedly did not get along with Cher, who starred in the film.
It was reported in 1992 that Oz was slated to direct a film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls for The Geffen Film Company. Oz also planned to direct an unmade film titled Swing Vote before directing Dreamgirls.
In 2006, Dick Cook hired Oz to write and direct The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made for Walt Disney Pictures. However, Disney passed on the project in favor of Jason Segel's script following Cook's departure from the studio.
As an actor, Oz appeared in one scene as a Prison Storeroom Keeper in The Blues Brothers (1980), directed by John Landis. He appeared in a similar role and scene in Trading Places (1983), also directed by Landis. He had roles in several other Landis films including An American Werewolf in London (1981), Spies Like Us (1985), Innocent Blood (1992) and Blues Brothers 2000 (1998). In 2001 he had a voice acting role in the Pixar film Monsters, Inc. as Randall's scare assistant, Fungus. 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, 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.
Even if he does not appear 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 for 'Mr. Frank Oznowicz'.
Oz was previously married to Robin Garsen. He is now married to Victoria Labalme. Oz is the father of three sons and a daughter. He maintained a residence in England for nine years and currently resides in Manhattan (as of 2012).
|1981||The Great Muppet Caper||No||Yes||No|
|1982||The Dark Crystal||Yes||No||No||Co-directed with Jim Henson|
|1984||The Muppets Take Manhattan||Yes||No||Yes|
|1986||Little Shop of Horrors||Yes||No||No|
|1988||Dirty Rotten Scoundrels||Yes||No||No|
|1991||What About Bob?||Yes||No||No|
|The Muppet Christmas Carol||No||executive||No|
|1995||The Indian in the Cupboard||Yes||No||No|
|1996||Muppet Treasure Island||No||executive||No|
|1997||In & Out||Yes||No||No|
|2004||The Stepford Wives||Yes||No||No|
|2007||Death at a Funeral||Yes||No||No|
|2017||Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind
the Show the Whole World Watched
Lefty the Salesman
Semi-now performs his characters a few episodes per year.
|1975–1976||Saturday Night Live||The Mighty Favog||Puppeteer/Voice The Land of Gorch segments|
|1976–1981||The Muppet Show||Fozzie Bear
George the Janitor
|1977||Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas||Alice Otter (puppetry)
Chuck Stoat (puppetry and voice)
|1989–1990||The Jim Henson Hour||Miss Piggy
|1990||The Muppets at Walt Disney World||Miss Piggy|
|1994||Jim Henson's Animal Show||Sam Eagle||Puppeteer/Voice;|
Episode: "Bald Eagle"
|1996–1998||Muppets Tonight||Miss Piggy
|2015–2016||Star Wars Rebels||Yoda||Voice;|
|2002||The Funkhousers||Television film|
|2011||Leverage||Episode: "The Carnival Job"|
|1996||Muppet Treasure Island||Miss Piggy
|The Muppet CDROM: Muppets Inside||Miss Piggy|
|2000||Muppet Monster Adventure||Miss Piggy|
|Muppet RaceMania||Miss Piggy|
Awards and nominationsEdit
|1974||News & Documentary Emmy Award||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming
Shared with Fran Brill, Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson & Caroll Spinney
|1976||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Children's Programming
Shared with Gerri Brioso, Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson & Caroll Spinney
|1977||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series
Shared with Jack Burns, Dave Goelz, Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, David Lazer, John Lovelady, Jerry Nelson, Eren Ozker & Caroll Spinney
|The Muppet Show||Nominated|
|1978||Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series
Shared with Jim Henson, David Lazer, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt & Dave Goelz
|1979||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming
Shared with Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson & Caroll Spinney
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series
Shared with Jim Henson, David Lazer, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt & Dave Goelz
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- Gray, Tim (January 15, 2018). "Rian Johnson Answers All Your Spoilery 'Star Wars' Questions About Luke And That Surprise Cameo". Variety. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- Exclusive: A Chat with Frank Oz, comingsoon.net
- Geoffrey K. Pullum (May 18, 2005). "Yoda's syntax the Tribune analyzes; supply more details I will!". Language Log. Retrieved September 30, 2010.
- "Countdown to an All-New Star Tours | Fans Insider | Disney". Disney.go.com. May 10, 2011. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
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- Rabin, Nathan. "The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark (9781556528255): Robert K. Elder: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
- 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.
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- Chitwood, Adam (January 3, 2019). "The Curious Development History of 'Benjamin Button'". Collider (website). Retrieved July 1, 2019.
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- Fleming, Michael (January 6, 1997). "Stallone pumped about 'Ump'". Variety. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
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- "BRUCE WILLIS MAY BE OUT, BUT MOVIE 'UMP' STILL ON". Orlando Sentinel. December 24, 1999. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
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- Rabin, Nathan (August 16, 2007). "Frank Oz". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
I was asked to direct, like, the second Harry Potter and things like that, but I have no interest.
- Masters, Kim (October 20, 2011). "Kermit as Mogul, Farting Fozzie Bear: How Disney's Muppets Movie Has Purists Rattled". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
- Ihla, Andrew. "The untold truth of Frank Oz". Looper.com. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
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- "Frank Oz". supermancinema.co.uk. Retrieved December 13, 2011.[dead link]
- "Pixar's 'Inside Out' Cast Includes Some Awesome Voice Cameos (Spoilers)". Stitch Kingdom. May 20, 2015. Archived from the original on May 22, 2015. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
- "J.J. Abrams reveals Obi-Wan and Yoda are secretly in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' - EW.com".
- "A Frank Oz-Directed Muppet Show Documentary Is Coming - Muppet Fans Who Grew Up - Tough Pigs". January 31, 2017.
- "Muppet Guys Talking - Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched".
- "Frank Oz – Awards". IMDb. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Frank Oz.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Frank Oz|
- Frank Oz on IMDb
- Frank Oz at the TCM Movie Database
- Frank Oz on Twitter
- Talking About Frank Oz at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
| Performer of Cookie Monster
November 10, 1969 – January 1, 2001
| Performer of Bert and Performer of Grover
November 10, 1969 – January 1, 1998
| Performer of Marvin Suggs
| Performer of Miss Piggy
1976 – 2002
| Performer of Animal
1975 – 2000
| Performer of Sam the Eagle
1975 – 2000
| Performer of Fozzie Bear
1976 – 2000