Frank Oz Yoda The Last Jedi

Whether you loved ‘The Last Jedi‘ or hated it, I would like to think most people welcomed the return of Jedi Master Yoda in the film, especially as he was brought to life once again as a puppet and voiced by the great Frank Oz. Oz told the story about being asked to come back as Yoda for ‘The Last Jedi’ in a recent interview with IGN, talking about his surprise that they were not going the CGI route:

“Several years ago I had lunch with Rian [Johnson], and Rian asked if I could do Yoda in the next Star Wars, and I said ‘Sure,’ because I thought it was just CGI. And then [Lucasfilm president] Kathy Kennedy, who I’ve known for quite a while, who’s fantastic, she called me about it and then I realized that it wasn’t CGI, that it was actually the character. I said, ‘Kathy, do you have any idea what’s going to happen here? This is tough!’ and she said ‘That’s okay, let’s do it.’ So, you know, the workshop made him and everything, and did a fantastic job.”

Of course, Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm wanted Yoda’s return to be a major surprise for the movie, so they worked hard to make sure Oz kept it all secret. As Oz told IGN:

“I was told that that was going to be the surprise of the movie, so when I went to Pinewood I had to be a secret there. Although if people saw me… people DID see me, but if they questioned me it would have been fine because I shot Little Shop of Horrors … there, and could have just said I had some meetings for movies…But the idea was to keep me off the credits…I was asked, ‘Could you have your name off the poster?’ and I said ‘Sure.’ So the idea was that that would be the surprise.”

Oz went on to speak about getting into the character of Yoda, how it is easier nowadays than when he first approached the task for ‘The Empire Strikes Back:’

“If a character is transcendent and lives and breathes then he’s inside me. It takes a long time to get there, but I’ve done him a long time…Yoda was fully formed as a written character and he was fully formed as a designed character, but the internal part of him was not created. He was a wise person, and a powerful person, but that’s kind of all that was given to me. So I had to create a whole backstory for him inside me to make him come alive and be transcendent…Yeah, I have it [Yoda’s detailed backstory he wrote] somewhere, a couple pages in my storage. Just talking about when [Yoda] was younger, even the food he ate.”

Apparently, Oz got so into the character that during ‘Empire’ he even told George Lucas that he needed the entire script (at the time the actors were only being given their individual scenes to maintain plot secrets) as Oz felt Yoda would know/sense EVERYTHING that was going on. In Oz’s words:

 “But it had to do also with so much knowledge he had. What I mean by that is, when George gave the script to people, he didn’t give the script. He gave certain scenes. On the first Empire movie I said, ‘George, I need the whole script because Yoda needs to know what’s going on.’ So if there’s any kind of internal life it’s that he senses everything that’s going on and that kind of is what makes him have a feel of a bit more depth to him.”

When asked about the future of Yoda, and those ever-present ‘Yoda’ standalone film rumors, Oz did not have much to say, besides his opinion on how they would bring Yoda to life:

“You know what, I keep hearing that and I know nothing about it…It won’t be a puppet. Believe me. That’s way too difficult for me. I rehearse a long time just to do one line of dialogue [as a puppeteer],” Oz explains. “It would have to be [CGI], yeah. It would have to be. It’s far, far too difficult because I’m doing it with three other people. So it’s four people and you can’t just wing it. You’ve got to study every single word with four people.”

What would you think about a ‘Yoda’ standalone movie done entirely in CGI? Did you know the vaunted Jedi Master would be making a cameo in ‘The Last Jedi’ before he popped up on screen, or were you as surprised as the rest of us? Share your stories and opinions with us in the comments below!