While Avengers: Endgame dominated the pop culture landscape for the first several months of 2019, the star of the back half of the year has undoubtedly been The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda. Sure, the impossibly cute puppet creature is officially called “The Child” on The Mandalorian, and can’t actually be a younger Yoda because of when the show is set in the Star Wars timeline, but the name has stuck, and the entire internet is obsessed.
Despite all of this, the physical puppet that ended up being on the show wasn’t always a certainty, as showrunner Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni reportedly tried to shoot a scene without it. But, as Filoni revealed during the Hollywood premiere of the show (via Vanity Fair), filmmaker turned intergalactic villain Werner Herzog (who plays The Client in The Mandalorian) was having none of it:
They were preparing to shoot a blank slate of the sequence as a backup in case they decided during postproduction that the puppet wasn’t convincing enough and a digital version had to be substituted.
Herzog, known for films about pushing the limits of human ability and endurance, could not hide his contempt.
“You are cowards,” he declared. “Leave it.”
And that’s how the director of Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man, and Meeting Gorbachev helped ensure the cutest inanimate object in recent memory would make the final cut. But it didn’t end there, as Deborah Chow, director of episode three, who saw Herzog’s affection for Baby Yoda firsthand, explains to Vanity Fair:
“I had a day with one of the weirdest moments I’ve ever had directing,” 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.”
It’s as charming, but no less surreal. “Werner is talking to the baby as if it was a real thing. And I’m trying to direct Werner,” Chow said. “And I’m just like, How did I get here? How did my life end up like this?”
Then…she also found herself directing the puppet as if it were alive. “It was pretty magical,” Chow said. “I worked with the puppeteers and the visual effects [artists], and just worked with it like it was an actor. They’re the ones who gave it humanity, who gave it life.”
Baby Yoda is simultaneously among the sweetest and the strangest stories to come out of Hollywood this year. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. And if, for whatever reason, you simply can’t bring yourself to believe that Werner Herzog actually loves this tiny, green, alien puppet, hear it from the man himself: