Among the many major characters seen in the larger than life Star Wars universe, the force sensitive Jedi Grand Master Yoda is undoubtedly one who stands out. Although his acutely-pointed ears and green-colored complexion are obvious reasons which explain why Yoda is one of the more conspicuous characters, his superior intellect and wisdom are perhaps his most defining traits.
Because of this, it comes as no surprise that Yoda’s facial design was, in fact, modeled after another great, wise and brilliant man: none other than the celebrated astrophysicist Albert Einstein.
According to Mental Floss, the creator of Yoda — makeup supervisor and special effects artist Stuart Freeborn — was heavily influenced by a picture of Einstein which was hung on a wall in the office where Yoda’s physical appearance was being creatively molded. Consequently, he felt inspired to fashion the Jedi master’s facial features, specifically his eyes and wrinkles, after Einstein.
In an interview with CineSecrets, Nick Maley, the special effects make-up artist in Star Wars revealed:
“A picture of Einstein ended up on the wall behind the Yoda sculptures and the wrinkles around Einstein’s eyes somehow got worked into the Yoda design. Over the course of this evolutionary process, Yoda slowly changed from a comparatively spritely [sic], tall, skinny, grasshopper kind of character into the old wise spirited gnome that we all know today.”
Maley went on, “The final step in that transformation was Frank’s [Oz] insistence that the puppet should have no jaw fitted. That allowed him more freedom for expression as a puppeteer but it also meant that the skin hung loosely below the cheeks and that gave Yoda an older, rather chinless look that is quite different to the drawings Ralph [McQuarrie] did.”
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Albert Einstein’s achievement in physics are outstanding. The iconic astrophysicist flawlessly explained the relationship between energy and mass, a concept which led to his coining of the equation E = mc2.
It comes as no surprise that since Yoda was partially based on Albert Einstein, the Jedi master possesses wisdom which is leagues ahead of his colleagues. Throughout the entire series of movies, Yoda offers some of the wisest bits of advice seen yet, so much so that the moral of his statements may also be applied in real life.
In The Empire Strikes Back, he stated “A Jedi Must Have The Deepest Commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time I have watched. All his life has he looked away … to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.”
According to StarWars.com, Yoda’s description of Luke Skywalker’s “Wanderlust” is a gentle reminder that we should focus on living our best life today, as by focusing on the past or future, we will never discover the true essence of life.
In much the same way that Albert Einstein’s wisdom extends far beyond the area of physics, so too does Yoda’s. Clearly, the physicist influenced Stuart Freeborn’s creation of Yoda more than just physically. Sadly, in 2013, Freeborn’s life came to a close: he was 98 years old. He left behind an impressive catalog of work in motion pictures and a legacy to last a lifetime.
According to the BBC, George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, shared some kind words about the make-up artist, stating that “His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created.”