Frank Oz

Active - 1970 - 2019  |   Born - May 25, 1944 in Hereford, Herefordshire, England  |   Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy, Fantasy

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Born in Hereford, England, Frank Oz (born Frank Oznowicz) graduated from California's Oakland City College during 1962 and joined the humans behind Jim Henson's fledgling Muppet group as a puppeteer the following year. He was part of the first-season cast of Saturday Night Live as the Mighty Favag and appeared in The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. After The Muppet Show went on the air in 1976, Oz became vice president of the Henson organization, and was responsible for the portrayals of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Animal, among other characters, earning three Emmy Awards for his work on the show. He later served as a producer for The Great Muppet Caper (1980), directed by Henson, with whom he co-directed The Dark Crystal a year later. He later directed The Muppets Take Manhattan in 1984. Two years later, with Henson in the director's chair, Oz was one of the voices in Labyrinth. Moving outside of Henson's orbit, Oz directed the screen version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), What About Bob? (1991), and the Kevin Kline vehicle In & Out (1997). He also served as the voice of Yoda in five Star Wars movies: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. He helmed the 1999 showbiz satire Bowfinger, and two years later directed Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando in the crime drama The Score. He continued to voice various Muppet characters in a number of projects, but also maintained his directorial career with the comedies The Stepford Wives, and the original Death at a Funeral.

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  • Parents were refugees from the Holocaust and were both puppeteers.
  • Met Muppets creator Jim Henson at age 17 at the Puppeteers of America convention. Oz's father was the president of the association at the time.
  • Began working with Henson at age 19.
  • Stage name "Oz" acquired on the Jimmy Dean Show. Dean apparently couldn't say his real name and uttered "Oz" during a live broadcast. The name stuck.
  • Worked on Saturday Night Live in its debut season with Henson and the rest of the Muppet staff. They were dropped after that inaugural season because the rest of the actors thought the puppets were taking time away from their sketches.
  • Developed the unusual backwards speech pattern made famous by his Star Wars character, Yoda.
  • Was described by Henson as "probably the person most responsible for the Muppets being funny."