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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
Director Oz about 'more than Muppets'
Frank Oz
Oz is himself English - born in Hereford to French parents
Director Frank Oz and the cast of his latest movie, British film Death at a Funeral, have spoken about his continuing efforts to escape the Muppet Show and Yoda - characters on which Oz made his name.

Despite not making a puppet-centred film since The Dark Crystal in 1982, Oz is still often thought of as "the man behind the Muppets", having voiced and performed characters such as Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear.

But actor Kris Marshall - who stars in Death at a Funeral - told BBC World Service's On Screen programme that Oz does not receive enough credit for the films he has made since then.

"It's great to hear him talk about directing movies - he's done some fantastic films, people tend to forget that he's a brilliant director in his own right," he said.

"But then when he starts doing his impression of Cookie Monster - that's when you look around the rest of the cast, and they are salivating."

Humans, not puppets

As well as the Muppets, Oz also gave life to a number of the most famous puppets from Sesame Street - such as Bert, Grover and Cookie Monster.

However, perhaps his most famous character was another puppet, Yoda from the Star Wars films.

The Stepford Wives
Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
The Indian In The Cupboard (1995)
In And Out (1997)
Bowfinger (1999)
The Score (2001)
The Stepford Wives (2004) (pictured)
Oz not only performed Yoda's movements as puppeteer, but also created his distinctive backwards way of speaking.

But he has directed a large number of Hollywood's biggest stars in a string of blockbusters since the 1980s - including Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger and Nicole Kidman in the much-derided Stepford Wives remake.

Meanwhile, Oz has also cropped up as an actor with brief parts in films as diverse as Trading Places, The Blues Brothers and Monsters Inc.

Oz created Yoda's distinctive way of speaking

He told On Screen that he considers it "odd" that people still ask him "what is it like to work with humans?" - as if the Muppets were in fact live creatures.

"I do work with humans, I don't work with the puppets," he said.

"I used to work with people who were wonderfully talented and very professional - and those are the people I dealt with, the ones who performed the Muppets."

Oz in fact directed three of Hollywood's very biggest names in one movie - 2001's The Score, which starred Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton.

However, it was not a successful project. Oz and Brando fell out during filming, with De Niro having to act as a messenger between the two.

The film itself fared dismally, being panned by critics and flopping at the box office.

"When I do a movie, I just put one foot in front of the other and do what my instincts say - and hope for the best," Oz said.

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