In the series premiere of The Mandalorian on Disney+, one character stands above all. Baby Yoda broke the internet and warmed our hearts. However, things could have been very different if not for one figure in the series, and it’s not co-executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni. No, if you want to thank one person for Baby Yoda fever, it’s Werner Herzog. Perhaps best known as a documentarian with a signature voice, Herzog plays an ex-Imperial figure known only as “The Client.” Even though Baby Yoda (for lack of a better name) is present throughout the series, the third episode finds him at the center of the action.
“The Sin,” directed by Deborah Chow is remarkable in a lot of ways. Foremost, it’s the first live-action Star Wars media ever directed by a woman. This is something that should have happened sooner, but at least Lucasfilm is course correcting. They announced that Chow will direct all six episodes of the Obi-Wan Kenobi solo series for Disney+. However, in a new interview, she reveals that Baby Yoda had a champion on set. No, it wasn’t Pedro Pascal’s titular character, but rather Werner Herzog who, reportedly, cried the first time he saw the Baby Yoda puppet. (Same, Werner, same.)
How Werner Herzog Helped The Mandalorian Have Faith in the Force of Baby Yoda
Image via screengrab
During a Hollywood screening of the first three episodes of the series, Filoni recounted a story. He talked about how he and Favreau remained wary about the puppet. Perhaps because Filoni remembers how poorly the puppet Yoda in The Phantom Menance was received? Either way, they took to filming scenes twice. Once with the puppet, and once without. Werner Herzog saw them removing the Baby Yoda puppet from a scene. He asked what they were doing, and when he found out he chastised them. “You are cowards,” he said, “leave it.” Gian Carano, whose Cara Dune debuts in Friday’s fourth episode, called the puppet their on-set “precious.”
Yet, Chow recounted a surreal experience that she called one of the strangest and most surreal moments in her directing career.
As she told Vanity Fair:
“I was directing Werner with the puppet, and Werner had just fallen in love with the baby. Werner, I think, had forgotten it wasn’t actually a live creature, and started sort of…directing the baby…. Werner is talking to the baby as if it was a real thing. And I’m trying to direct Werner… and I’m just like, ‘How did I get here? How did my life end up like this?’
“It was pretty magical … I worked with the puppeteers and the visual effects , and just worked with it like it was an actor. They’re the ones who gave it humanity, who gave it life. You have everybody from Werner Herzog to grips and gaffers getting moved by it. Every time we brought it on set, people would be melting.”
Chow goes on to say that, eventually, even she directed the puppet (er, the visual effects puppeteers controlling it) like she would a living actor. She would describe to them what she wanted it to do and how the character felt. The puppeteers then delivered a performance that conveyed that emotion. Since they are the Baby Yoda experts, she didn’t want to tell them how to do what she needed. She trusted them to deliver it. And deliver they did.
Still, things could have gone very differently. Baby Yoda might have been a fully digital creation if not for Werner Herzog challenging the producers to have faith. How very Star Wars.
What do you think of the burgeoning Werner Herzog and Baby Yoda bromance? Share your thoughts, reactions, and how far you’d go to protect Baby Yoda in the comments below.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.