Frank Oz

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Frank Oz
Frank Oz 2012.jpg
Oz at the 38th Annual Saturn Awards 2012
Born Frank Richard Oznowicz
(1944-05-25) May 25, 1944 (age 70)
Hereford, Herefordshire, England, United Kingdom
Nationality American
Education Oakland Technical High School
Alma mater Oakland City College
Occupation Film director, puppeteer, actor
Years active 1963–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 an English-born American film director, puppeteer, and actor who created and performed the Muppet characters Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear along with Jim Henson in The Muppet Show, as well as Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street.[2] His work as a film director includes 1986's Little Shop of Horrors remake and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He is also the puppeteer and voice of Yoda in the Star Wars film series.

Early life[edit]

Oz was born in Hereford, England, the son of Frances (née Ghevaert) and Isidore Oznowicz, both of whom were puppeteers.[3][4] 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][5][6][7] 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 as an apprentice puppeteer at Children's Fairyland as a teenager[8] with the Vagabond Puppets, a production of the Oakland Recreation Department, where Lettie Connell[9] was his mentor.

Career[edit]

Puppeteering[edit]

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, 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 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, though he has retired full-time from the Muppets. His Muppet characters were taken primarily over by Eric Jacobson (with David Rudman as Cookie Monster) in 2002.

In 1999, Frank Oz voiced Pasqually in the direct to video movie, Chuck E. Cheese in the Galaxy 5000, with John Kennedy puppeteering Pasqually, because Oz was unavailable to perform him, except dubbing the lines later on.

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 pre-occupied, and so Oz was assigned as chief puppeteer and as creative consultant. While other Henson alumni worked on the fabrication of Yoda, 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. Oz also 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."[10] Oz had a great deal of creative input on the character and was himself responsible for creating the character's trademark syntax.[11] Oz reprised his vocal role as Yoda in Disney's Star Tours: The Adventures Continue attraction at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios.[12]

Directing[edit]

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.[13]

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.[14]

Oz in 1984

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[edit]

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.[15] 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,[16] 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'.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Film Director Actor Role Notes
1979 The Muppet Movie No Yes Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Marvin Suggs
Puppeteer/Voice
1980 The Blues Brothers No Yes Corrections officer
The Empire Strikes Back No Yes Yoda Puppeteer/Voice
1981 The Great Muppet Caper No Yes Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
Also producer
An American Werewolf in London No Yes Mr. Collins
1982 The Dark Crystal Yes Yes Aughra Co-directed with Jim Henson
1983 Superman III No Yes Surgeon Deleted scene
Return of the Jedi No Yes Yoda Puppeteer/Voice
Trading Places No Yes Booking cop
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Yes Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam Eagle
Animal
Bert
Cookie Monster
Ocean Breeze Board member
Additional characters
Also screenwriter
1985 Spies Like Us No Yes Test monitor
Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird No Yes Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Puppeteer/Voice
1986 Little Shop of Horrors Yes No
Labyrinth No Yes The Wiseman
1988 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Yes No
1991 Muppet*Vision 3D No Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam Eagle
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
Theme park attraction
What About Bob? Yes No
1992 Housesitter Yes No
Innocent Blood No Yes Pathologist
The Muppet Christmas Carol No Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
Also executive producer
1995 The Indian in the Cupboard Yes No
1996 Muppet Treasure Island No Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
Also executive producer
1997 In & Out Yes No
1998 Blues Brothers 2000 No Yes Warden
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace No Yes Yoda Puppeteer/Voice
Muppets from Space No Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
Voice
Bowfinger Yes No
The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland No Yes Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Voice
Chuck E. Cheese in the Galaxy 5000 No Yes Pasqually Voice
2001 The Score Yes No
Monsters, Inc. No Yes Jeff Fungus Voice
2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones No Yes Yoda
2004 The Stepford Wives Yes No
2005 Zathura No Yes Robot Voice
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith No Yes Yoda
2007 Death at a Funeral Yes No
2011 Star Tours—The Adventures Continue No Yes Yoda Voice
Theme park attraction
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey No Yes Himself Documentary

Television[edit]

Year Title Director Actor Role Notes
1969–present Sesame Street No Yes Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Lefty the Salesman
Harvey Kneeslapper
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
1976–1981 The Muppet Show No Yes Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Marvin Suggs
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
1977 Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas No No Alice Otter Puppeteer/Voice
Television film
1989–1990 The Jim Henson Hour No Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Puppeteer/Voice
1990 The Muppets at Walt Disney World No Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Animal
Puppeteer/Voice
1994 Jim Henson's Animal Show No Yes Sam Eagle Puppeteer/Voice
Episode: "Bald Eagle"
1996–1998 Muppets Tonight No Yes Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
1999 CinderElmo No Yes Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Voice
Television film
2002 The Funkhousers Yes No Television film
2011 Leverage Yes No Episode: The Carnival Job

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1996 Muppet Treasure Island Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Voice
The Muppet CDROM: Muppets Inside Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Animal
2000 Muppet Monster Adventure Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Muppet RaceMania Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam Eagle
Animal

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Program Result[17]
1974 News & Documentary Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming
Shared with Fran Brill, Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson & Caroll Spinney
Sesame Street Won
1976 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Children's Programming
Shared with Gerri Brioso, Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson & Caroll Spinney
Won
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
Won
1979 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming
Shared with Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson & Caroll Spinney
Won
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series
Shared with Jim Henson, David Lazer, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt & Dave Goelz
Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "A Conversation with Frank Oz at the Museum of the Moving Image". Jimhensonlegacy.org. 2011-10-25. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  2. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/artist/frank-oz-mn0000144002/credits
  3. ^ "Frank Oz Biography – Yahoo! Movies". Movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  4. ^ http://www.zwinstreek.eu/zs/images/publicaties/hle/hle198002p021-023.pdf
  5. ^ "Oz L.A. Times Score article- Edward Norton Information Page". Workprint.powweb.com. 2001-07-09. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  6. ^ "JewishJournal.com". JewishJournal.com. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  7. ^ 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. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  8. ^ "Children's Fairyland". The New York Times. February 5, 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "International Puppet Museum: Lettie Connell Schuburt". Puppetrymuseum.org. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  10. ^ Exclusive: A Chat with Frank Oz, comingsoon.net
  11. ^ Geoffrey K. Pullum (May 18, 2005). "Yoda's syntax the Tribune analyzes; supply more details I will!". Language Log. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  12. ^ "Countdown to an All-New Star Tours | Fans Insider | Disney". Disney.go.com. 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  13. ^ Rabin, Nathan. "The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Directors on Their Epiphanies in the Dark (9781556528255): Robert K. Elder: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Paquette, Danielle (12 July 2012). "Frank Oz speaks — but not as Yoda or Miss Piggy". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  16. ^ "Frank Oz". supermancinema.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  17. ^ "Frank Oz – Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 

External links[edit]