Veteran voice actor and director Frank Oz has revealed the origins of Jedi Master Yoda’s iconic speaking style in the Star Wars franchise. First appearing in The Empire Strikes Back, before going on to become a regular fixture of the franchise across both films and animated series, Yoda became known for his unusual cadence. He would often break up his syntax in an unusual manner – “use the Force, you must”, for example. Coupled with his short and charming demeanor, the character has since become a fan-favorite in the Star Wars mythos, something that has only exacerbated with arrival of Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, in The Mandalorian.
Oz has provided the voice of Yoda since the character’s first appearance in 1980, reprising his role in both the prequel and sequel trilogies, as well as on shows like Star Wars Rebels. Oz is also known for his work with Jim Henson, especially his puppeteering and voice work in The Muppet Show where he provided the voice of numerous characters including Grover, Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy. Oz has also had success as a director throughout the 80s and 90s, helming The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Muppets Take Manhattan. Another one of Oz’s contributions to the industry is pushing for Yoda’s now-famous speech pattern.
Speaking to The Guardian about his long and storied career, Oz recalled the origins for Yoda’s speech pattern. He claimed that the original script for Empire had “a bit of that odd syntax” as well as the character speaking in a colloquial manner. He apparently asked writer George Lucas if he could lean into the strange mannerisms for the entire performance, and the rest is history. You can read Oz’s full statement below:
“It’s funny you ask about [Yoda] 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 [Lucas]: ‘Can I do the whole thing like this?’ And he said: ‘Sure!’ It just felt so right.”
Naturally with playing an iconic character like Yoda, there comes a great deal of imitation from fans, and not all of them are going to be great. When asked if he found the constant imitations to be annoying after over 40 years of playing the character, Oz said “No I’m used to it.” He further explained the reason for not finding it annoying was that “anyone can do a voice. It’s not the voice – it’s the soul” that is key to character, which is a fair assessment.
Similar to how it was revealed a few years ago that Yoda’s design was almost based on a garden gnome, it’s hard to imagine Yoda’s voice being any different, especially with it being as ingrained in the cultural consciousness as it is now. Moreover, the idea of the character speaking with colloquialisms feels as though it bring something very different to the character. Oz’s blend of unusual syntax and formal tone brought a wisdom to Yoda that was a perfect fit for the role and would ultimately define him throughout the following decades. It’s good to hear that Lucas trusted Oz’s suggestion about Yoda’s voice, otherwise fans of Star Wars could be hearing a vastly different character to the one that they have grown to love.
Source: The Guardian