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Frank Oz Interview

Discussion in 'Henson People' started by Brooklyn, Aug 30, 2007.

  1. Brooklyn New Member

    I've been to Muppet Central before but haven't checked out the forums until now. Looks like a lot of great stuff, look forward to digging through it all. My contribution is this interview that Frank Oz just did w/ the NY POST. Very telling stuff...

    HOT SEAT
    By SARA STEWART

    August 12, 2007 -- THE white-bearded gentleman sitting opposite me looks fairly unassuming, but he is nothing less than the pre-eminent voice of my childhood. And millions of other childhoods. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone you know who isn't familiar with at least one Frank Oz creation: Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert of "Sesame Street." Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal and Sam the Eagle from "The Muppet Show." And, of course, the fuzzy Jedi who needs no introduction: Yoda.
    When not busy establishing himself as an indelible Muppet icon, Oz found time to direct some top-notch comedies: 1988's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," 1991's "What About Bob?" and 1999's "Bowfinger." Not to mention "The Muppets Take Manhattan" (1984) and "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986).
    His new movie, "Death at a Funeral," is a comedy about what happens when you mix uptight British mourners, potent hallucinogens and blackmail. The film happily marks a return to form for Oz, who flew under the radar for a couple of years after his ill-fated 2004 remake of "The Stepford Wives."

    Q: OK. CGI Yoda: pro or con?
    A: It had to happen. Because, first of all, it's a different time. But also George [Lucas] had to do action sequences, and there's no other way. I was totally supportive of it. If he didn't do that, he couldn't be true to his story. The actual character, in the first three movies, was very tough to do, very hellish. He can't go out and jump and fight.

    Q: So how do you feel about those first three old movies, when you go back and watch them now? Do they feel hokey?
    A: What people don't understand is that George fashioned those movies on an old series called "Flash Gordon." And I used to see those, and the acting was not great, the effects were not great. But people always talk about the acting not being great in "Star Wars." If you had fabulous actors, you wouldn't have the fun. That's not what it's about. You can't have a blast, a fun big movie, if you're bogged down with the deep emotion of acting.

    Q: Do the actors in your movies always bug you to do Muppet voices for them?
    A: Yeah. But if people ask me to do voices on set, I say no - I won't do them until the very last day. I'm not an easy lay! I'm not a cheap date. If I do the voices, they'll take it easy. I want them to work hard. And so they know they're not gonna hear the voices until the very last day.

    Q: How do you feel about the direction "Sesame Street" has gone in, from the early days when you and Jim Henson worked on it?
    A: It's just become a kids show, instead of a hip show. I've told them that, so many times - there's nothing I can do. I've given a master class in that stuff, but they don't get it. They're very nice people, and there are some really gifted people there. But the show was begun by people who were actually performers and actors.
    The business now, it's mainly about people who are more executive, and people who come from television, and there's a difference, I think. I don't often watch the show, but I did a little bit, to see how it's going, and it's become a little kiddie show, and it's very sad. It was never like that with Jim and I, and everyone else back then. We always f - - - ed around, and did it for ourselves, and that's changed. I probably should be politic and diplomatic - but I'm not.

    Q: I'm going to guess you're not a fan of their decision to make Snuffleupagus non-imaginary, so he'd be less confusing for children.
    A: That's bulls - - t, if that's true. When that happens, the curriculum and the teaching aspect have taken over the imagination aspect, and it's a shame. Everyone's so f - - - ing politically correct, it's ridiculous. People are much more discerning than other people think.

    Q: Even kids.
    A: More so!

    Q: Do you think there's some kind of unifying comedy principle that links fairly disparate movies like "What About Bob," "Bowfinger" and "Death at a Funeral"?
    A: I know this sounds reeeeeeally hifalutin, and really didactic, and come on, Frank, get off your f - - - ing high horse - but: honesty. And I don't mean honesty in this world, I mean honesty in the world in which the characters live. I mean, "Airplane," which is hysterical, I think is honest within its world. I try to be honest within the world I create.

    Q: You sometimes go years without making a movie. Why?
    A: Why do something I don't believe in? I'm very blessed. If I had a mortgage and had to put my kids through college, I'd be the first one to prostitute myself. I'm very blessed, and I don't have to.

    Q: "Death at a Funeral" was a relatively short, and low-budget, shoot. Was there a lot of pressure involved there?
    A: I love pressure. The shoot itself was a frigging delight. But there are other shoots that were not a delight. "What About Bob?" was tremendous tension. I like pressure, I don't like tension. There were problems between the producer and me, and also Bill [Murray] and Richard [Dreyfuss] didn't get along. But for me, as a director, that worked well for the characters. Behind the scenes, it was tough, but I was thrilled it worked on-screen.

    Q: "Death at a Funeral" is kind of a new genre for you - the British comedy of manners. Are you going to explore some other niches now?
    A: I'm looking forward to doing some tough action stuff, or horror stuff. I've been successful in comedy, so people give me the best comedy scripts, but they don't give me the best thriller scripts, because they think I can't do that, or God knows what. I did "The Score" just to show I'm not a one-trick pony. I love horror. I'm trying to get a script, but it's so hard.

    Q: This might be a touchy subject, but - what happened with "The Stepford Wives"?
    A: I f - - - ed up. It was the first time I said yes to a movie that had no script. I saw the movie as a smaller relationship movie. And as it got more and more expensive, I thought, "Geez, maybe I should listen to [the producers] more." And I didn't do what I wanted, for the first time in all my movies. That's where I screwed up.

    Q: What did you do to recover after that?
    A: I had lost my confidence, and I wanted to do something really small. I went back to my acting coach and audited three classes, to get back to the purity of what I was doing. And then I found this script [for "Death at a Funeral"] and I said, "Absolutely." So I went back to what I love doing.

    The score
    Age: 63
    Born: Hereford, England
    Unsung role: He played the Swedish Chef's human hands on "The Muppet Show"
    Misconception: He's not Fozzie Bear's namesake. Fozzie was named for Faz Fazakis, who invented a device enabling Fozzie to wiggle his ears
    Cameo: Appears as a corrections officer in "The Blues Brothers"
    On-set clash: While directing 2001's "The Score," Oz tangled with Marlon Brando, who reportedly told him, "I bet you wish I was a puppet so you could stick your hand up my a - - and make me do what you want."
  2. BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    Wow, Frank really swears as much as an episode of "South Park". :concern: Still a great interview nonetheless. I'm not seeing "Death at a Funeral" in theaters but it's still more than great to see Frank coming back into the spotlight.
  3. BeakerSqueedom Active Member

    O_O OH WOW!

    Franky ain't no pansy!

    WOW!

    :O He even disagreed with Jim!

    Wow, he has guts.

    You could tell he is a strict fellow on set.

    Thanks for posting it!
  4. rexcrk Active Member

    I'll be honest, it made me grin like the good doctor here: :D when he was talking about how Sesame Street is now.
  5. heralde Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Frank, finally!

    Yes, it is frustrating when people don't listen to you.
  6. Brooklyn New Member

    I had the opposite reaction rexcrk, it made me sad. Obviously, it is great to hear someone agree that SS isn't what it was originally, or doesn't have the same heart but it is sad too. I remember going into a Sesame Store a la Disney Store, and it was a mess. It didn't have th quality products that Disney and WB had in their store, wasn't focused and was missing the boat. Again, very sad.
  7. Java Active Member

    Thanks for posting this, I really enjoyed reading it.
  8. Fragglemuppet Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I knew about this article for a while, but had nevver read the whole thing. Revealing is right! Oz does have some mouth on him! But at least he's down to earth...
    Man, that Brando comment was so cold!

    Heehee Claudia, I like that line. "Frankie ain't no panzy!" And yes, he does seem to be quite strict.
  9. minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Good interview. Though I couldn't actually tell whether Frank was saying that he didn't like the fact that Mr. Snuffleupagus is no longer thought of as Big Bird's imaginary friend.
  10. Brooklyn New Member

    he was disgusted that they changed the Snuffleupagus character. Can you imagine if she told him that Cookie Monster has been eating less cookies and more veggies to help kids eat better.....
  11. heralde Well-Known Member

    Well I think what he was upset about was the idea that you can't do something because "it might confuse the children." He thinks people should realize children are much sharper than they are given credit for.

    It sounds like it wasn't the Snuffy thing that bothered him necessarily, but the potential reason why it was done (i.e. fear of confusing children).
  12. MWoO Active Member

    I'm confused on his answer to the snuffy question. That was done in 86 wasn't it? So he was still on the show and Jim was still alive. And he worked on the show into the 90's and still shows up. So...I'm confused as to why he was acting like it was recent. I think Snuffy has been non-imaginary longer than he has been imaginary.
  13. heralde Well-Known Member

    Actually I think the problem was with the interviewer bringing it up at all. She didn't seem to realize it was out of date. Frank was just reacting to the question that was asked. And like I said, I think Frank was complaining more about the fear of "confusing" kids than the Snuffy thing.
  14. Erine81981 Active Member

    I really liked what Frank said about that Sesame Street. He is right and i kind of wished that he could come back and try his best to turn it around back to the way it used to be. But i know that it won't happen.
  15. TheJimHensonHour New Member

    loved this and franks right I agree with him 100% about Sesame Street...
    He's making a movie with Bill in it I'm there!
  16. Beauregard Well-Known Member

    Frank, you are amazing.

    I love his honesty and up-frontness. I'll be seeing Death at a Funeral in the cinema if it comes out near me.
  17. Drtooth Well-Known Member


    I thought that Sesame Street Unpaved covered it. That kids would be afraid to tell their parents about certain things, and that the writers were running out of gags in which they just missed him.

    That said, YES, I agree it's become a kid's show, but then again, considering the state of TV in the late 70's and 80's it was inevitable. of course they started messing around the first decade or so, and by the time they started relying on millions of conflicting reports they'd tone everything down. Still better than half the other Kiddy shows.

    But I'm glad he said it.
  18. Brooklyn New Member

    Let Me Propose a Question

    If you were to get a call from the folks at Sesame Street about what you think could be done to keep the essence of the educational value intact but enchance for the entertainment value. What would you suggest doing? If you post, let's keep it down to two specific things...
  19. heralde Well-Known Member

    Right, again the interviewer wasn't correct.

    The main thing for me is occasionally introducing adult topics to kids, instead of thinking, "they won't understand." You're right, they won't understand if they're never introduced to it.

    These days, as a lot of kids get older, they start ignoring things they've never heard of. And they've grown up not knowing and not caring about basic cultural and historical references. I think in a misguided attempt to help kids by make things easy and "kid friendly", we are actually hurting them.

    Other kids shows still try to introduce adult topics, very successfully. I wish SS would start to do that again. (and to be fair, it's looks like they are trying this season.)
  20. minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I don't think Snuffy "became real" to avoid confusing kids. And it did sound like Frank Oz was surprised to hear Snuffy being real, but he has performed in many productions where Snuffy was real to everybody else, and I think his characters have been in scenes with Snuffy. But now that I think about it, I don't think Frank has ever performed his characters interacting with Snuffy (the only time I can think of was in Cinder Elmo, when Grover has Snuffy try out a glass slipper, though I'm not too sure if they spoke to each other there).

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