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Saturn Awards: Frank Oz talks “Star Wars,” George Lucas and the possibility of a Yoda spinoff

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Frank Oz has worn many different hats in Hollywood. He’s a staple of the Jim Henson Company, voicing many memorable characters from “The Muppets,” directing “Dark Crystal” and even playing the Wiseman in “Labyrinth.” He’s directed “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Death at a Funeral.” Heck, he even voiced three of “Sessame Street’s” main characters — Bert, Grover and the Cookie Monster — for almost four decades.

But Oz’s work as the voice of Yoda will always be what we love him most for. The little green Jedi has become a staple of George Lucas’s “Star Wars” universe, and was one of the main reasons that Oz received a Life Career Award from the Saturn Awards on Thursday. IFC had the chance to speak with Oz on the red carpet for the event and asked him about the impact that “Star Wars” has had on his life.

“I’ve been blessed that George gave me the opportunity to do Yoda and to work with him. George and Lucasfilms, they’re like a second family, a professional family. You know, it’s not a day job. You do it every fifteen years,” he said with a laugh that had a hint of Yoda in it. “But every time you do it, George just wants to make it better and it’s just a joy to bring that character to life. I know that character inside out. I know that character. And working with George is always a pleasure. He’s very specific. He knows what he wants. And it’s a joy.”

When asked why he thinks that “Star Wars” has remained so relevant over the decades since its release, he said, “I think it’s the mythology. I think the underground current of that larger mythology, that touches us all. ”

Yoda is a character who has appeared in five of the six main “Star Wars” movies, but whose origins were never explained. Of course, fans got to understand more about the Jedi master thanks to “Star Wars” novels, comic books and games, but Oz admitted that he created his own backstory for the character.

“When I was creating the character of Yoda, I got everything in the script and I really marked everything down from the script — what people knew about Yoda, what Yoda knew about people, what others didn’t, etc. — and I created a biography for him. So I have it in my head, but there hasn’t been an opportunity to work on it if there was [a spinoff],” he said.

When we asked if he’d ever want to work on something that explored more of Yoda as a character, he said, “Oh sure, sure, but it’s not one of those things that you want to [force]. It’s one of those things that you want to sit down with somebody at a bar and talk about.”

Oh how we would love to be sitting opposite him in that bar.

Would you ever want to see a “Star Wars” project explore more of Yoda’s backstory? What is your favorite thing that Oz has worked on? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

Saturn Awards: Producer Dean Devlin teases two more “Independence Day” films

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We’ve been hearing rumors of an “Independence Day 2″ for years now, and finally we’re closer than ever to it happening.

Producer Dean Devlin recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he and Roland Emmerich are working together on a great idea for the sequel to the 1996 hit. IFC had the chance to catch up with Devlin on the Saturn Awards red carpet where he was representing his award-winning show “Leverage,” and he said that “Independence Day 2″ doesn’t feel contrived.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to pull this off but, if we can, what was important to Roland and I is we make a sequel that doesn’t feel like, ‘Hey, we had a movie that was a hit, let’s go make another one,'” he said. “We resisted it for years and it was really only about a year and a half ago where we cracked a story where we both went, ‘Oh my god, that’s worth doing.'”

Would he give us any tease about what that script entails? Of course not. But he did say that they’re in the process of talking to the original cast, which included Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell and Bill Pullman.

“We went off, we wrote a script, and the people who’ve read it, they’ve all said, ‘This feels like you always planned it this way.’ And that’s what we wanted, because we owe a lot to that movie,” Devlin said. “It gave us careers, fans really liked it, and we never wanted to just go whip out some crap-o sequel just because it would make us money. We believe in this one. We think we’ve got the right one to tell.”

A lot of time has passed since July 4, 1996, but Devlin said there’s no guarantee that the sequel will jump forward the decade and a half that has passed since “Independence Day” hit theaters. And even if it does, the post-alien attack Earth in the sequel will be very different than the world we live in now.

“You have to remember it’s a parallel world. Al Qaeda didn’t knock down the World Trade Center — it was already knocked down. It calls for different storytelling techniques, so it was a lot of fun to work on in that regard,” he said.

We’ve been hearing for a while that the plan is actually to do two more “Independence Day” films, and not just one. Devlin confirmed that during our red carpet chat.

“If we get our way, then yeah, we would do two more,” he said with a smile.

Do you want two more “Independence Day” movies? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturn Awards: James Remar says there’s a “message” in “Django Unchained”

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To borrow James Remar‘s words, we’re all going to be getting a great big present from Quentin Tarantino come the holiday season this year.

IFC had the chance to catch up with the “Dexter” star on the red carpet for the Saturn Awards Thursday where he received the Life Career Award alongside Frank Oz. Though Remar has plenty other exciting projects on his plate this year, he was happy to go on about his working relationship with Tarantino on the set of “Django Unchained.”

“I was in tears when I left [the set of ‘Django’]. I love Quentin,” Remar said. When we asked him if he’d work with Tarantino again, he said, “God willing. Nothing would make me happier. Obviously there’s world peace and the well-being of my children, of course, but working with Quentin again on another awesome movie, I’d feel like a De Niro/Scorsese.”

Remar will play two characters in “Django Unchained”: the slave trader who first acquires Django (Jamie Foxx) and the right-hand man to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The actor said that the fact he’s working with Tarantino at such a late stage in his career is as much a sign that he’s doing something right as the Life Career Award is.

“To play with Quentin Tarantino as a grown man, as an older man, is great. And I’m playing a couple of bad guys that are men, and it’s a departure. I don’t have to play just slime balls. It’s kind of boring,” he said. “They’re interesting characters. They’re characters that are men and they’re men in their time that are shaped by their time, shaped by their history. So that’s been extremely exciting.”

Unlike “Inglourious Basterds” before it, Remar said that “Django Unchained” won’t be “revisionist history.”

“There’s a lot of tremendous accuracy in this, and it’s very honest insofar as it’s showing and demonstrating a period of time where there was incredible brutality from one human being to another, which still exists very pervasively throughout out entire race,” he explained. “It’s a rough subject and it’s a really good subject. I don’t know that it’s a touchy subject, but he’s such an honest guy that he’s not going to look at it and flinch. He gives tremendous human dignity to all the people involved.”

All the people, including the film’s villains. “Villains are people too, and anyone can be on the other side at any time. All races have been enslaved,” Remar said.

The topic of enslavement and the inclusion of the n-word in “Django” will likely be a touchy subject for some, but Remar thinks it shouldn’t be.

“Enslavement is a horrible thing to do to other people. Quentin has got such a depth of sensitivity and his view on the world that it’s almost like each piece that he makes is a movement in a very significant symphony. And all of the films are going to tie together. ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Jackie Brown,’ ‘Kill Bill, ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ ‘Django': they all are going to stream together in a very profound way because his view is very interesting and very sensitive,” Remar said. “And the violence that he portrays, it’s stylized. You feel the brutality of it when you’re supposed to. It gets your attention because it’s something that’s exciting to watch. And in that moment, you get the message. It’s not just stuff splattering all over the place for the sake of that. There’s a message there, and it’s profound and it’s gentle and it’s very filled with love. He’s one of the most loving people that’s just leaking all over the place.”

“Django Unchained” is due in theaters on Christmas Day.

What are you most looking forward to about “Django Unchained”? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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