Capone With Frank Oz About DEATH AT A FUNERAL, What Went Wrong On STEPFORD, And (Of Course) Yoda!!
Published at: Aug. 7, 2007, 11:30 a.m. CST by merrick
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
When I consider some of the interviews I've done and some of the long-time heroes of mine that I've had the opportunity to meet over the last 10 years or so, I realize that many of the people I consider "childhood" heroes of mine are really people whose work I've admired since I was a teenager.
I'll admit, it has been a whole lot of years since I was a teen, but an interview I did recently with master puppeteer, voice actor, and director Frank Oz forced me to redefine my definition of childhood hero. I have literally loved Oz's in some capacity work my entire life. How many people can you say that about? And how many times can you say that about someone you then have to interview?
So the idea that I would be given 30 minutes (which blessedly turned into 45 minutes) to cover as much ground in the Oz-ian universe (perhaps I should refer to it as the "Land of Oz") seems an almost-impossible task. How do you boil down the career of a man who's given us everything from "Sesame Street" to "The Muppet Show" to DARK CRYSTAL to Yoda to LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS to DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS to IN & OUT to BOWFINGER to the remake of THE STEPFORD WIVES (yes, we talk about this one too) to his latest madcap UK-based farce DEATH AT A FUNERAL? I give it my best shot, and have one of the best times of my life meeting a real craftsman of entertainment.
I hope you enjoy this half as much as I enjoyed sitting face to face with one of my idols. DEATH AT A FUNERAL opens August 17, but I wanted to get this interview out now, since according to my records I conducted it back in late May (the film was originally scheduled to be released in June, I believe).
I should mention before I dive in that I work with a recently purchased tape recorder that uses full-size cassette tapes for my face-to-face interview, and I probably will until they stop making them. I have a digital recorder that I use for phone interview because I can monitor the recorder a little better on the phone. But when I have to push a tape recorder across a table where I can't see the digital display, for example, I want to see those tape reels spinning to know it's working.
The sound quality is great, and it makes me feel secure that I won't lose an interview to technical malfunction (I never have, by the way). The only interview subjects that seem to notice this slightly oversized recording device are directors, perhaps because they are more aware of equipment than actors. My conversation with Frank Oz begins with his observations about my recorder.
Frank Oz: Your tape recorder reminds me of these big clunky tape machines we used to have on "Sesame Street." It's so nice to see that.
Capone: Are you talking about machines to tape your voices as you shot the show?
FO: No, we had songs to do, and the tapes had the piano tracks on them so we could rehearse the songs.
C: Very few people have commented on my machine before, but I had a feeling for some reason that you might. You seem like a craftsman.
FO: Well, it's so solid. It's nice to see the thing turning; you don't know what the hell is happening with the digital recorders. It's more of a mensch. It's not slick; it's a nice mensch thing.
C: Well, thank you. Completely unconnected to interviewing you here today, I've been going through the first season DVDs of "Saturday Night Live."
FO: I've been told about that, but I haven't seen it.
C: I'm just a little too young to remember that season when it was new, and I probably only caught select sketches in later years, but it's been so much fun to see the routines that "Jim Henson's Muppets" did on that show.
FO: I did an interview yesterday, and someone mentioned that. We did all the shows during the first year except the first one.
C: Were the Muppets segments actually live?
FO: Oh yeah. All live. It was fun.
C: How did that come together?
FO: Bernie Brillstein was Jim's agent and manager. He was also Lorne Michael's manager and Danny's [Aykroyd] and John's [Belushi] and I think even Chevy's [Chase] at that time.
C: Okay. The other thing I'm noticing about that season is the very throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks attitude about each episode. To have tThe Muppets in the middle of that season, I wouldn't call it a natural fit…
FO: No it wasn't a natural fit. Part of the problem was that it wasn't a natural fit. It really stuck out like a sore thumb after a while, and they didn't know how to write for the Muppets. And as much as we were on very friendly terms with everybody--we were very friendly with John and Danny--professionally, it was very tense. And eventually, fortunately, they did great, and we got an offer to do "The Muppet Show," so it worked out great for both of us.
C: Strange that you should mention that, because "The Muppet Show" DVDs are also just now starting to come out on DVD.
FO: Is it?
C: The first season is out, and the second season is set to come out later this summer.
FO: I didn't know that.
C: It's got to be kind of exciting to consider that more than one generation of viewers are getting to discover some of this great early work.
FO: It is, it's really nice. That's one nice thing about the new technology is that shows are brought back.
C: Not to mention the first set of STAR WARS films finally made it to DVD fairly recently.
FO: It's odd how I'm all over the place. [laughs] As I look at it now, I realize I'm part of history in certain ways with "Sesame Street" and "Saturday Night Live" and STAR WARS and "The Muppet Show." It's odd, because for me, I was just doing gigs.
C: Does it really feel like your going from job to job has turned into a career?
FO: Of course I care passionately about each one. But essentially, I did a job and worked like hell and do the best we possibly can and move on the next one.
C: My wife's maiden name is Grover, I kid you not. So the fact that I'm sitting here right now with you is making her very happy.
FO: I adore Grover.
C: And she's got a collection of Grover memorabilia that would shock even you. I'm sure you've been asked this before, but what is Grover?
FO: That's interesting. I used to do a lot of characters. I haven't done them for about four or five years, and a lot of the characters you work on hard, and Grover just sort of evolved; he just kind of organically came into being. He wants to help; he wants to do everything right. That's why he doesn't use contractions, that's why he talks that way.
You always have to have a reason why a character does things, and there's a reason that Yoda talks the way he does, there's a reason Grover talks the way he does. And Grover does that because he is trying his very best to do the right thing, and the right thing is to use the proper words. And he will try and help people, but don't cross him because he's kind of wiry. He's not a wimp.
C: And where did the Super-Grover identity come from?
FO: That came from the writers' minds. One of the writers, Jon Stone, who's one of the fathers of "Sesame Street," or Jeff Moss wrote it, both of them are two great friends who have passed away.
C: I do want to talk about as much of your career as possible, but let's begin with your new film DEATH AT A FUNERAL. Had you always had a burning desire to do a British comedy?
FO: I don't consider anything British or American. I just do what I believe is best, what hits me right. I don't think about what's funny in Britain or what's funny in America. I wouldn't know, so I just do what my gut tells me to. No, I never had a desire to do British comedy. I've had a strong desire to do low-budget films, and compared to my last one [THE STEPFORD WIVES remake], my God, I usually make big ones, and this one cost only $9 million. It was a delight.
C: Since your brought up STEPFORD WIVES, I think it's fair to say it was not a kindly received. What do you think happened there?
FO: I fucked up.
C: You blame yourself?
FO: Absolutely. I played it safe. For the first time, I didn't follow my instincts. And what happened was, I had too much money, and I was too responsible and concerned for Paramount. I was too concerned for the producers. And I didn't follow my instincts, which I hold as sacred usually. I love being subversive and dangerous, and I wasn't. I was safe, and as a result my decisions were all over the place, and it was my fault totally. And by the way, I'm very proud of many aspects of the movie. The people were great. But when you sense that there's no governing thought, or that the governing thought is kind of "Gee, I'm not sure where to go," you can sense it.
C: You said you weren't following your instincts. What were your instincts telling you to do with that material?
FO: My instincts were saying, “Don't do a big movie”. I had a very strong viewpoint to do the movie, but I didn't expect such huge stars. When the stars came, everything kind of ballooned up. My original instincts were to make it more intimate.
C: Do you feel like the presence of stars made you lose control of it?
FO: Not control, I was always in control. That's not the problem; I've done huge movies before. The problem was that it got so big that my instincts to make a small movie didn't mesh with how big it was getting, and I was losing my way a little bit. So it was completely me. I should have brought it all down and said, I'm sorry, I know we have all these huge stars but I don't care, I want to do something intimate. But I didn't, I went with the bigness of it and I didn't feel right about it.
C: You're very good about accepting responsibility. I remember when you were doing interviews for THE SCORE, you talked very openly about the way that you and Marlon Brando got along, or didn't get along. And you said…
FO: I fucked up again there, absolutely. [laughs] My job was to nourish and support and actor, and I was more confrontational because I thought I had to be tough with him. And I pushed him the wrong way; it was my fault.
C: I have to imagine that Brando was a tough guy to read or know how hard to push or not push.
FO: Very tough. He's done a lot more work than I have, and it was very tough. But that's no reason…he was still looking to me for guidance, and I should have been more nurturing than I was confrontational.
C: Alright, back to the present. How did the Dean Craig's FUNERAL script find you?
FO: I have an old friend who used to be my development person at Disney, she brought it to me, and I laughed out loud and I was touched by it. And then Bill Horberg from SKE, who I've known for years, he read it and liked it, and he wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with him, and it just happened. It was one of those easy put-togethers.
C: Was the original script set in a British manor?
FO: Yep, it was more inside than outside, more of a stage play feel to it. But it was a terrific script. Dean Craig did a great job.
C: There are a lot of faces that are going to be unfamiliar to Americans, with the exception of some of the American actors…
FO: And maybe not even them. At least people in the middle of the country won't know who they are probably.
C: Actually, because of KNOCKED UP, people will probably know who Alan Tudyk is.
FO: All of these people are great. I was very fortunate, because I didn't want stars. We couldn't afford stars, and they turned us down. In fact, the Peter Dinklage character part was written for a normal-sized person. It wasn't written for a dwarf or for Peter, not at all. But understandably, what happens is the studios want to get stars to some degree, so they can sell the movie.
Well, a few stars turned us down, and I was thrilled because I didn't want stars. I wanted really wonderful actors who weren't there yet; I hope as a result of this movie, they'll get noticed. So I said, I know it's crazy but I've always loved Peter Dinklage as an actor; that's the reason that I wanted him. And I also wanted him because I thought it added more energy to the casting, and Bill went for it. And Peter said yes.
C: And it adds some degree of absurdity to the storyline.
FO: As I said to Peter when I talked to him, "Look, Peter, I know the audience for the first 15 minutes is going to think of this as a sexual dwarf joke." There's no question. After that, because he's such a good actor, you don't consider it as much anymore.
C: Still, I can't help but wonder what those blackmail photos he's got of himself and the dead man look like. The way the other characters react upon seeing them…
FO: And I could never show you that picture, because whatever I showed you would never be anywhere near as filthy as what your mind comes up with. Everyone has their own viewpoint about what those pictures are.
C: Are some of those British cast comedians? Some of them came across as perfect with their timing and delivery.
FO: All actors. As a matter of fact, I never asked them to be funny. I just asked them to be honest.
C: Did you approach the film in terms of structure any differently having it be set in Britain?
FO: No. It's a very traditional farce structure. So the first act is set up, and I had to rush through that and still make it entertaining. Second act is reveal, so in that sense it's pretty traditional. There's a tremendous amount of improv, but I did that with Bob [DeNiro] and Marlon [Brando in THE SCORE] also. But you can't do that without a good script.
C: Is a comedy a comedy to you?
FO: The things about comedy is that people think of comedy as only one thing. You can have high wit; you can have low buffoonery; you can have puns or physical comedy. There are so many different kinds of comedy, and people always lump them into "Comedy." So yeah, you have to approach each one a bit differently. The only thing that is a mainstay in my opinion--and again, I don't know comedy; I don't want to know; I don't want to know things; I want to discover them--is my being honest to the world in which we are creating. When I say honest, there are many movies like AIRPLANE that I believe are honest and very funny because they are honest to their own world. And I just want to be honest to the world in which we are creating. It's a deal I make with the audience.
C: Any time you can knock a coffin over and have the body roll across the floor, I'm there. There's nothing funnier than that.
C: Another one of your films came up in the last few months when Eddie Murphy received his Oscar nomination, a lot of people brought up the fact that he should have nominated for BOWFINGER. I still think it's the best film he's ever done.
FO: Sure, he's wonderful. He did a great job.
C: To me, that's the last time he really took a risk in a film.
FO: He did play a character, he really played a character, and he's so brilliant at playing characters, and maybe that's why he doesn't want to do it anymore. Who knows? But I know he was absolutely brilliant in my movie.
C: What do you remember about working with him. You hear stories about him on the DREAMGIRLS set, only communicating with the director…
FO: He's a very private person and there's not a lot going on between us socially, but if I give him a note, my God he's an amazing technician. He's translate it technically and then bring life to it. I pushed him, and you don't work with brilliant talents like Steve Martin or Eddie without asking them to improv too.
C: I don't watch the show regularly, but I did watch Eddie on "Inside the Actor's Studio," and I seem to remember him spending a great deal of time talking about BOWFINGER, whereas with some films, he tended to gloss over them.
FO: I don't know how he could do the "Actor's Studio." I could never go on, I would be laughing all the time. I find it absolutely hysterical, the sycophancy of it. I'd be insanely giggling all the time.
C: You mentioned Steve Martin, when was the last time you two had a conversation about working together again [the two have made LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS; DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS; HOUSESITTER; and BOWFINGER together]?
FO: We stopped talking about working together; we know we both want to. I had breakfast with him a couple of months ago, and we touch base occasionally, but we're all waiting for a script; it's all about the script. I always want to work with Steve. We have a great working relationship, we trust each other, and he's a genius. There are so many people I want to work with again, but it's all about the script.
C: In having seen the first season of "The Muppet Show" recently, and looking at the host lineup for the second season, that must have been a really great time. The people that are hosting that show are show business elite, probably some of your heroes. I see that Peter Sellers is the host of one of the second-season shows. My God!
FO: Oh yeah, Peter was there. All those shows, it was the worst of times, it was the best of times. The only "worst" time there was is if you do 24 half-hour episodes every year, it's a tough grind. You don't have a lot of social time; anybody who does series TV knows that. But the other part, working with these talented people and Jim Henson, who was so brilliant, I always enjoyed working with.
We worked like hell, but we had a lot of fun. That part was absolutely amazing. And the people involved, Peter Sellers, Rudy Nureyev. In the first few months, we weren't on the air yet, so nobody knew who we were. We couldn't get any guests; once we were on, we got a lot of guests.
C: The second season is definitely…
FO: Yeah, that's when it hit hard. So many things. We had fun with Elton John. I remember we were singing "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," and he was wearing one of those wild feather outfits with the glasses. [laughs]
C: Was there a particular host you really remember being fun? Or really getting it?
FO: No. Well, Harry Belafonte's show. Harry really worked hard with Jim to put his signature on his show. So I have a lot of respect for Harry. But people like Johnny Cleese, Bob Hope's show is funny. Peter's show. Can't forget Rudy's show, that was pretty good. We had 120 guest stars, 120 shows in five years.
C: I remember around that same time that Muppet characters used to make appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.
FO: That's what we were known for at first. We were an act in the beginning. We'd go from the Perry Como show to the Bob Hope show to the Johnny Caron to Jack Parr to "The Today Show" to awards show. We did the Emmys and the Oscars, the Grammys, we did it all. Yeah, that's what we were in the beginning.
C: What was it about the relationship between Kermit and Ms. Piggy that people seemed to cling to and identify with?
FO: There's some sort of recognizable affectionate tension in any relationship. I think the complexity of the pushes and pulls in any relationship, in part, is what people saw. But the truth is, I don't know. People saw themselves in them.
C: Did you have much to do with the physical look of the Muppet characters?
FO: When they were made, I'd give my two cents, but basically Jim designed them and they were made by the workshop people. I just performed them.
C: It makes sense then that your first few films--THE DARK CRYSTAL, THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS--were puppet-based works.
FO: DARK CRYSTAL was not my film. Jim asked me to direct, but it was his vision. He just asked me to help him direct and help fill certain voids. Then I did MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and after that I started on DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS and moved away from the puppets.
C: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS was a successful musical at a time when musicals were essentially dead on screen.
FO: I know. And it did fine. David Geffen [the film's producer] was the guy there. And Howard Ashman [the musical's writer] is a genius. It was very unusual to put money in a movie like that, but David did it. It was quite an endeavor for everybody.
C: I'd probably be banned from writing if I didn't ask a couple of Yoda questions. Have you ever been to a STAR WARS convention?
FO: Never. I don't do them. I won't do them. That's not my job. I create a character. I don't like to exploit characters, I like to create them. I just tend to do that. I don't do personal appearances or any of that. I've been asked to so many times, and I always say no.
C: That doesn't surprise me. I know that when you've been asked to do a particular voice during an interview or on a talk show, especially Yoda, you always decline.
FO: There are a lot of reasons. Certainly when I'm promoting a movie like this or any R-rated movie, I won't do it because I don't want people to think it's a kids' movie. And I don't want to be a trained monkey. It's like talking to a plumber and saying, "Hey, while you're here can you fix my sink?" I love the characters, but also I don't want to treat them cavalierly and just kind of toss them off when anyone asks me.
C: I noticed that your name has been attached to the new "Clone Wars" animated TV series as Yoda's voice. Are you, in fact, a part of that, because I remember you weren't a part of the original series.
FO: I know nothing about that. I haven't seen George for about a year. I could call him and find out, but I know nothing about it. Don't believe the internet. [laughs]
C: Believe me, I don't. I know you've talked about this before and I promise not to dwell on it, but what was your initial reaction when George Lucas told you Yoda was going digital?
FO: I thought it was great, because I'd done two, three movies with him as a puppet character, which is very hellish and very tough to do, for me and three other people. But George wanted the big fight with Dooku, and there is no way you could do that with a puppet. There's just no way; it's impossible, too many limitations. So George had no choice. And they were very respectful, Rob [Coleman, animation director at ILM] and all those guys.
There are actually a couple dozen people that work on Yoda now as CGI, and I'm the one that gets all the credit. Before, the voice was nothing compared to all the hard work I used to do; now I get the credit but don't do the hard work. They do the hard work. Yoda had to change. George wanted to do more things with the character, so he had to change.
C: Was there ever time when there would just be CGI for the fight scenes and everything else would be puppet work?
FO: No, never. But at the same time, George and Rob were very respectful, as I said. And whenever they did Yoda as CGI, they always referenced my performance in EMPIRE. They used that as the touchstone.
C: I think a lot of the fans who were appalled by the decision when they first heard it changed their tune once they saw that fight scene.
FO: Yeah, you can't stay still in one place; you've got to change. And it would just limit George's storytelling doing it the old way. He just couldn't do all the stuff he wanted to do.
C: He doesn't seem to cling to nostalgia in terms of technology.
FO: He just wants it to work.
C: This may seem like a completely bizarre question…
FO: And the others haven't been? [laughs]
C: Not compared to this one. Are you aware of the style of hardcore rock singing that is called "Cookie Monster"?
FO: I've heard about it! Somebody told me about it about six months ago, and I just cracked up. I haven't heard it, but those people must hurt their voice as much as I hurt mine.
C: Well, I'm glad that someone is keeping you up to date on these major world issues. In terms of the entire Jim Henson company, going from "Sesame Street" to "The Muppet Show" to THE DARK CRYSTAL, it seems as if the organization was growing up with his original audience.
FO: But don't forget, he also did--and I had nothing to do with it--five years of "Fraggle Rock." We never saw it as, you do this, then you do that. With Jim, you never stopped working. Whenever you did something, you did something else at the same time. I don't know if the progression was something that was planned by Jim. I just know that when Jim got excited about something, that was what mattered. I never got a sense of planning, except that Jim always tried to do the impossible and push the envelope. Always. DARK CRYSTAL may have had its problems, but it's an amazing vision. He wanted to make it like the old real Grimm's fairy tales that kids were actually frightened of.
C: I have this beautiful old coffee table book with all the sketches and drawings from that film.
FO: That's right, of the drawings. Those are beautiful.
C: The first movie I ever saw being shot--I think it was in 1990 or 1991--was when I lived in New York City for a couple years. And I looked out my office window at 40th Street and 3rd Avenue, and saw Bill Murray standing at a payphone, a fake payphone that wasn't usually on that corner, shooting what I later found out was WHAT ABOUT BOB? This was clearly at a time when you actually had to wait for the movie to come out before you knew what movie you'd seen shot months earlier.
FO: [laughs] I'll be darned. I remember for some reason Bill was really frightened about shooting in the city. I think that's the scene where he's calling his psychiatrist.
C: Now this was another film that I've heard was a tense set, but once again the results were pretty strong. That was a very well-received movie.
FO: It was incredibly difficult, incredibly full of tension.
C: And this is an example of a film whose problems you don't take all the blame for.
FO: No, I don't. I'll take the blame when I deserve the blame. That was a very difficult time. And as much as I don't like to take blame when I don't deserve it, I also don't like to portion blame out. Nevertheless, it was a tense and tough shoot for a million reasons. I was really scared to death that we had a piece of shit, because it was so impossible to judge it. I felt I knew what I was doing, but there was this huge sigh of relief when the movie worked.
C: You hear about reshoots and new endings as a sign that a film is in trouble, but sometimes it does improve the final product.
FO: I mentioned to this radio program I did this morning, the old studios used to budget in reshoots. It's nothing new. Woody Allen does it all the time, so it's perfectly natural. You're giving a director three months, two months, a month, six months, whatever it is to shoot a movie, and you have no choice but to shoot and run. If you have a writing job, you can go back and rewrite. If you paint, you can go back and repaint. But a movie director, why can't he realize he'd made a mistake and go back, or have another idea and go back. It just costs more money, that's why. It seems fine.
C: Do you pay much attention to test screening results?
FO: I pay a lot of attention to the test screenings themselves, I don't pay as much attention to the results. I'd glad when the scores are up, but it doesn't convince me that they're necessarily right.
C: Do you sit in to hear when audiences laugh and when they don't?
FO: I record all my movies. I record all the laughter in all my movies.
C: That's when test screenings make the most sense to me, with comedies, to see when people laugh.
FO: I transfer the tape digitally and I have it in the editing room, so when I play it, I can hear the laughter so I can see what works and what doesn't work. It's an odd situation. I'm very analytical, yet at the same time, I'm very loose and casual when I'm performing or working with other actors. It doesn't happen casually by itself.
C: With you being in the city of Chicago today, I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about your pivotal role in THE BLUES BROTHERS. Did that come out of knowing the "Saturday Night Live" guys, or did you know John Landis.
FO: I knew John. He was a fan, and when we did THE MUPPET MOVIE, I didn't know John, but he invited Jim and I to dinner. And John was always a fan, and as a matter of fact, there's that big scene at the end of THE MUPPET MOVIE where there are about 250 puppets, and John is actually handling Grover. And there's another director holding a puppet that I didn't even know about until later: Tim Burton. He was more of a fan, and we got to know John, and whenever he needed a prick in a movie, he's say, "Get Frank Oz."
C: That's right. In TRADING PLACES, you're playing essentially the same character.
FO: The bitchy clerk. [laughs]
C: But you actually got to handle Belushi's used condom.
FO: Yep, that's my claim to fame.
C: The one film I'm glad we have time to talk about because in my mind it struck me as groundbreaking work is IN & OUT.
FO: It was.
C: For a mainstream Hollywood movie at the time to deal with gay issues--which is not to say it's an "issue" film--but by not treating homosexuality as an issue, you made it a very powerful movie.
FO: Both the producer [Scott Rudin] and the writer, the brilliant Paul Rudnick, are gay. And it was very important to them to make it right. And Leslie Converse, who's my producer, reminded me that we had 17 previews, because Scott Rudin wanted to make it right. It was really the first time the subject had come out like this; it was a very new thing, and people were concerned and scared. As a matter of fact, I remember one card--and I don't normally read the response cards [from test screenings]--had scrawled on it "Do not put this movie out. It will be the ruin of you." So it was bit ahead of its time.
C: Maybe that person was just offended by the "Fuck Barbra Streisand" line.
FO: [laughs] What was interesting is that it wasn't a gay movie appealing to gays; it was a gay movie appealing to rednecks and everybody else for that matter. It was just a screwball comedy, and it was showing gay and straight, and as long as you were a human being that's all that matters.
C: The origins of where the idea for that movie came from are so great.
FO: It was Scott's idea, and he gave it to Paul. Because the origin comes from Tom Hanks [when Hanks thanked a gay teacher during his acceptance speech for his Best Actor Oscar for PHILADELPHIA]. and Paul's a brilliant writer. And Kevin Kline has such range.
C: He embodies someone who some people would look at and think he could be gay.
FO: The guy is completely and totally heterosexual, but he's such a classicist in his performances and a theatre person, that he could come off as gay.
C: Did you ever hear from Barbra Streisand?
FO: No, never did. [laughs]
C: When you decided that it was time to take a break and distance yourself from the Muppet world, was that simply because you were so busy doing other things, or was it just time?
FO: There were a lot of reasons. One was that I was a dad, I have four kids. The reason was that I was constantly asked to do stuff. And also, I'd done this for 30 years, and I'd never wanted to be a puppeteer in the first place. I wanted to be a journalist, and really what I wanted to do was direct theatre and direct movies.
So it was more a slow progression, working with Jim, but I felt limited. As an actor and a performer, you always feel limited because you're not the source of the creation, and I wanted to be the source. I wanted to be the guy and give my view of the world. And if I screw it up, I screw it up, but at least I tried.
And as a director, what you're really showing is you're showing the audience your view of the world. I don't know why, but I thought I say things a certain way, and I wanted to express myself. I've always enjoyed, more than anything else in the world, bringing things to life, whether its characters or actors in a scene or moments in movies. I've done so much with the puppets, that I'd always wanted to work with actors.
C: And you've done a hell of a job. Thanks you so much. I really do love going through your career; it's a lot of fun.
FO: Thank you so much. It's been my pleasure. And don't let go of your good old machine.