Along with the breathing style of Darth Vader and the gargling call of Chewbacca, if you ask anyone to impersonate a Star Wars character, chances are they will start by saying out of order words, they will. That is because, along with his iconic appearance debut in The Empire Strikes Back, short though it was, Yoda is a character that is as distinctive in his speech as he is in his look, and that was all down to puppeteer and Muppet Show legend Frank Oz. While talking in a recent interview, Oz spoke about how the original plan for Yoda didn’t involve any of the word trickery he has become known for, but instead was just scripted as a normal speaking voice.
“It’s funny you ask about that because I was just looking at the original script of The Empire Strikes Back the other day and there was a bit of that odd syntax in it, but also it had Yoda speaking very colloquially. So I said to George, ‘Can I do the whole thing like this?’ And he said: ‘Sure!’ It just felt so right.”
Frank Oz has never been someone to suffer fools, and when he has a point to make about something, he will certainly make it. He is also often protective of many of the works he has been involved with over the years, whether it be his own directorial efforts such as the 1986 musical version of Little Shop of Horrors, which was years was denied its full ending due to budget restraints and the need for the hero to save the day, or the memory of his good friend and Muppet mastermind Jim Henson and the characters that they worked on together for decades, and he has been one of the most outspoken participants of Star Wars: The Last Jedi when it comes to showing love for the movie that divided many fans.
When The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson was trolled by a Star Wars fan last year, Oz was quick to jump to his defence. “It’s sad to me that you’ve harbored this internal darkness for so long about a movie. Rian is a great director, writer, & human being. Please try to understand that writers & directors are not there to fulfill the audience’s expectations. Good work breaks expectations.”
It is not the first time Oz has spoken up for the Star Wars movie. Back in 2019, during a panel at South by Southwest, Oz made his love of the movie clear, saying, “I love [The Last Jedi]. All the people who don’t like this Jedi thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as filmmakers, we’re not here to fulfill people’s expectations.”
There is a chance that The Last Jedi will also mark the last appearance by Oz in the franchise, with Grogu, or Baby Yoda, taking over the little green man position in the Star Wars world with his appearance in The Mandalorian, and Yoda himself having his story pretty much covered across the Star Wars movies to date. But that is not to say that fans wouldn’t be happy to see him one more time if the chance did arise.