Well, here’s a weird piece of trivia. Those of you more knowledgeable “Star Wars” heads may already know this anecdote/factoid, but for those of you who thought the prequels could’ve have much been worse—you were right!
Ahmed Best has been the voice of much maligned character Jar Jar Binks from the prequels and beyond, more recently playing the character in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out.” However, as he tells Vice, things could’ve gone quite differently — the role could’ve been played by Michael Jackson.
“That’s what George [Lucas] told me,” Best said. “Me, Natalie Portman, and George’s kids—we were at Wembley arena at Michael Jackson’s concert. We were taken backstage and we met Michael. There was Michael and Lisa Marie [Presley]. George introduced me as Jar Jar and I was like, ‘That’s kind of weird.’ Michael was like, ‘Oh. OK.’ I thought, What is going on? After Michael had driven off, we all go back up to a big after-party. I’m having a drink with George and I said, ‘Why did you introduce me as Jar Jar?’ He said, ‘Well, Michael wanted to do the part but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like ‘Thriller.’ ‘ George wanted to do it in CGI. My guess is ultimately Michael Jackson would have been bigger than the movie, and I don’t think he wanted that.”
Best’s guess as to why Jackson didn’t get the role is probably pretty spot on, though it still does leave the imagination reeling. Inevitably, the role was something of a curse, as it became of the main target points for those dissatisfied with “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” However, Best believes that Jake Lloyd, who played Anakin Skywalker, got the worst of it.
“It’s a very American thing to take somebody down when they’re at the top and a lot if it had to with that; people really wanted to see George crash and burn,” he said. “Unfortunately, this character was so new, so experimental; he became a lightning rod for all that. It was me, and it was [original Anakin Skywalker] Jake Lloyd who took a lot of the heat for the movie. Fortunately, I was in my 20s. I wasn’t eight years-old like Jake, who I think took it worse. Jake had it far worse than me….Although it hurt me emotionally and it was hard to take at the time, it wasn’t debilitating for me. I just put my shoes on and went back to work. But Jake had a difficult time.”
“Say what you want to say, but leave the kid alone, let him grow up. The amount of vitriol he took as an eight-year-old was just wrong, and it affected him,” he added.