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Mark Hamill’s Love for The Muppets Is Why Yoda Seemed So Real in STAR WARS

Last week in New York two legends from the galaxy far, far away came together at the Kaufmann Concert Hall for 92Y’s event titled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Mark Hamill in Conversation with Frank Oz,” and then they hardly talked about the movie at all. And yet the legendary puppeteer said something that will not only change the way you watch their reunion on Ahch-To, it will change the way you watch every scene Luke Skywalker and Yoda ever had together. Because while fans have always celebrated Oz‘s amazing work bringing the Jedi Master to life, he says just as much credit should go to Hamill for making audiences believe Yoda was real. He’s long had a respect for puppets after all.

Frank Oz’s work with Yoda is so iconic and beloved that when the character made his surprise appearance in The Last Jedi half the excitement of the moment was realizing it was Oz’s puppet Yoda again, and not the much maligned CGI version of the character he voiced in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. But when the two discussed originally working together on The Empire Strikes Back, Oz said a huge reason Yoda feels so authentic is because of how Hamill interacted with his unlikely mentor. “About half of Yoda was him,” Oz said, “If he didn’t believe in Yoda it wouldn’t work.” That’s a dramatically different perspective than the way we usually watch their scenes together, thinking Oz made it possible for Hamill to treat him that way, instead of attributing Hamill’s sincere performance to Yoda’s impact

As you might expect Hamill tried to brush this praise aside, but his own comments about Yoda showed just how true Oz’s statement was. “Yoda was like a revelation to me. He was such a deep, cerebral character; he was spiritual. It was like taking Obi-Wan character and really moving those ideas forward,” Hamill said. “He was real to me from day one. He couldn’t have been any better than I imagined.”

His sincere belief in Yoda originates in his childhood love for The Muppets.  “I was so excited to be working with Frank because I idolized The Muppets all my life,” he said, “This was big for me, it was like, ‘Oh my god I’m working with Miss Piggy!’ She was as big a star as Meryl Streep to me.” That’s why he said he used to make sure he finished his homework as a kid so he could stay up an extra half hour past his bedtime to see The Muppets when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Yoda wasn’t hard for him to accept because Kermit and the gang had been real to him his entire life.

However, Hamill’s performances on Dagobah deserves more credit than that, because often he had to act without Oz’s Yoda. “The puppet was so sophisticated it would malfunction, and the eyes wouldn’t work right, or the ears, and they would rush the puppet up to the steward’s workshop to fix it, and they would say, ‘Okay let’s turn around on Mark,'” which meant often he was being filmed while talking to the “dead” Yoda puppet, or a stick in the ground to help him get the right eye line.

That’s why it was no surprise Hamill said it “was such a thrill” when director Rian Johnson tapped Oz to resurrect the practical effect Yoda for The Last Jedi. “There’s something about a physical presence- the depth, the weight,” Hamill said, “It’s just so much more real.” To Star Wars fans Yoda always has been, and we’ve always given credit to Frank Oz for that. But as he said, if Mark Hamill didn’t fully believe in Yoda we probably wouldn’t either.

We didn’t realized the galaxy far, far away owed so much to a kid loving Miss Piggy, but we’ll be thinking about that the next time we watch Luke sincerely tell his old Jedi Master he is ready, because Mark Hamill had been ready to meet Yoda his whole life.

What do you think about Frank Oz’s comments about the importance of Mark Hamill believing in Yoda? Tell us, you will, in the comments below.

Featured Image: Lucasfilm
92Y Images: Laura Massa/Michael Priest Photography

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