Frank Oz

Frank Oz

Birth name: Frank Richard Oznowicz
Born: May 25, 1944
Age: 73
Birthplace: Hereford, England, U.K.
Popularity:
Please login to contact Frank Oz...
Email:
Password:
Don't have an account yet?  Join FanPal.com Today!
Biography

Frank Oz (born Frank Richard Oznowicz; May 25, 1944) is an English-born American puppeteer, filmmaker and actor. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed 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, in which he has performed and provided the voice for the character in several films and television series.

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) and Death at a Funeral (2007).

Read more...

Early life

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. Oz 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.

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 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 retired completely from the Muppets in 2000. In 2001, his characters were taken over primarily by Eric Jacobson (with David Rudman as Cookie Monster).

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 suggested Oz to be assigned as chief puppeteer and as 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 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 Disney's Star Tours-The Adventures Continue attractions and in the Star Wars Rebels episodes, "Path of the Jedi" and "Shroud of Darkness."

Directing

Inspiration as a film-maker came to Oz upon a viewing of the Orson Welles film Touch of Evil (1958), the director told 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, 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 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, 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).

Oz has frequently experienced on-set tension while directing his films, notably during the productions of What About Bob?, In & Out, The Score and The Stepford Wives. Oz was also considered to direct other films such as Mermaids (1990) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

Acting

As an actor, Oz appeared in one scene as 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 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.

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'.

Personal life

Oz was previously married to Robin Garsen. He is now married to Victoria Labalme. Oz is the father of four sons. He maintained a residence in England for nine years and currently resides in Manhattan (as of 2012).

Filmography

Film

Year Film Director Actor Role Notes
1979 The Muppet Movie No Yes Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Marvin Suggs
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
Also creative consultant
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 Puppeteer
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 Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
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 Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
Also executive producer
1995 The Indian in the Cupboard Yes No
1996 Muppet Treasure Island No Yes Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
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 Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Additional characters
Voice
Bowfinger Yes No
The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland No Yes Bert
Grover
Cookie Monster
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
2014 I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story No Yes Himself Documentary
2015 Inside Out No Yes Subconscious Guard Dave Voice
Star Wars: The Force Awakens No Yes Yoda Voice (archive recording)
2017 Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched Yes Yes Himself Documentary
Also producer
Star Wars: The Last Jedi No Yes Yoda Puppeteer/Voice

Television

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; semi-retired from the show in 2001, now performs his characters a few episodes per year
1975-1976 Saturday Night Live No Yes The Mighty Favog Puppeteer/Voice The Land of Gorch segments
1976-1981 The Muppet Show No Yes Fozzie Bear
Miss Piggy
Sam Eagle
Animal
Marvin Suggs
George the Janitor
Additional characters
Puppeteer/Voice
1977 Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas No Yes Alice Otter (puppetry)
Chuck Stoat (puppetry and voice)
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"
2015-2016 Star Wars Rebels No Yes Yoda Voice
2 episodes

Video games

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

Year Award Category Program Result
1974 News & Documentary Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming
Sesame Street Won
1976 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Children's Programming
Won
1977 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series
The Muppet Show Nominated
1978 Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series
Won
1979 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming
Won
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Series
Nominated

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

Report a problem
Write to Frank Oz at FanPal 2018