The latest film in the Star Wars saga brought Luke Skywalker back in a major way, but audiences were also surprised by the return of another Jedi Master.
Legendary director and puppeteer Frank Oz brought Yoda to life in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, offering his former student one last piece of advice that shifted the tide in the struggle between the light and dark sides.
Oz spoke with IGN about his return and how it came to be, revealing that he was taken off guard when he found out Lucasfilm wanted him to use the puppet after the character's previous appearances were CGI.
"Several years ago I had lunch with Rian [Johnson], and Rian asked if I could do Yoda in the next Star Wars, and I said 'Sure,' because I thought it was just CGI," said Oz. "And then [Lucasfilm president] Kathy Kennedy, who I've known for quite a while, who's fantastic, she called me about it and then I realized that it wasn't CGI, that it was actually the character.
"I said, 'Kathy, do you have any idea what's going to happen here? This is tough!' and she said 'That's okay, let's do it.' So, you know, the workshop made him and everything, and did a fantastic job."
Because Yoda was going to be a major surprise in the movie, Oz had to keep his role a secret. That was difficult when he would appear at Pinewood Studios to rehearse and film, but he had a cover story in saying he was taking meetings for movies. They kept his name out of the credits and off of the posters, and his appearance shocked audiences when he was finally appeared.
Oz revealed his process for bringing Yoda to life, going back to his copious notes about the character's back story that inform his voice and movements. Given the character's vast wealth of knowledge, it was a difficult nut to crack.
"If a character is transcendent and lives and breathes then he's inside me. It takes a long time to get there, but I've done him a long time," Oz said. "Yoda was fully formed as a written character and he was fully formed as a designed character, but the internal part of him was not created. He was a wise person, and a powerful person, but that's kind of all that was given to me. So I had to create a whole backstory for him inside me to make him come alive and be transcendent."
Oz's latest portrayal of Yoda can be seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, now available on Digital HD. The movie will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on March 27th.