Frank Oz


Frank Oz Biography

Frank Oz (born Frank Richard Oznowicz; born May 25, 1944) is an English-born American voice actor, film director and puppeteer who created and performed the 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. 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 (voice only in Episodes II and III) in the Star Wars film series.

Early life

Oz was born in Hereford, England, the son of Frances (née Ghevaert) and Isidore Oznowicz, both of whom were puppeteers. 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. 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.

Career

Puppeteering

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.

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." Oz had a great deal of creative input on the character and was himself responsible for creating the character's trademark syntax. Oz reprised his vocal role as Yoda in Disney's Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.

Directing

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.

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 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

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. 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.

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

Year Film Director Puppeteer Actor Role Notes
1979 The Muppet Movie Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Additional voices
Voice
1980 The Blues Brothers Corrections officer
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Yoda Voice
1981 The Great Muppet Caper Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Additional voices
Voice
Also producer
An American Werewolf in London Mr. Collins
1982 The Dark Crystal Aughra Co-directed with Jim Henson
1983 Superman III Surgeon Deleted scene
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Yoda Voice
Trading Places Booking cop
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Bert
Cookie Monster
Ocean Breeze Board member
Additional voices
Also screenwriter
1985 Spies Like Us Test monitor
Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Voice
1986 Little Shop Of Horrors
Labyrinth The Wiseman
1988 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
1991 Muppet*Vision 3D Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Additional voices
Voice
Theme park attraction
What About Bob?
1992 Housesitter
Innocent Blood Pathologist
The Muppet Christmas Carol Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Additional voices
Voice
Also executive producer
1995 The Indian in the Cupboard
1996 Muppet Treasure Island Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Additional voices
Voice
Also executive producer
1997 In & Out
1998 Blues Brothers 2000 Warden
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Yoda Voice
Muppets from Space Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Additional voices
Bowfinger
The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Voice
2001 The Score
Monsters, Inc. Jeff Fungus Voice role
2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Yoda
2004 The Stepford Wives
2005 Zathura Robot Voice role
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Yoda
2007 Death at a Funeral
2011 Star Tours: The Adventures Continue Yoda Voice role
Theme park attraction
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey Himself Documentary

Television

Year Title Director Puppeteer Actor Role Notes
1969"present Sesame Street Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Lefty the Salesman
Harvey Kneeslapper
Additional voices
Voice
Still performs the characters on occasion
1976-1981 The Muppet Show Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Marvin Suggs
Additional voices
Voice
1977 Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas Alice Otter TV movie
1990 The Muppets at Walt Disney World Miss Piggy Episode: "Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Celebration"
1996-1998 Muppets Tonight Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Sam the Eagle
Animal
Additional voices
Voice
1999 CinderElmo Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
Voice
TV movie
2002 The Funkhousers TV movie
2011 Leverage Episode: The Carnival Job

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
1996 Muppet Treasure Island Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Voice role
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 the Eagle
Animal

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
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
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
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



This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Frank_Oz" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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