Jar Jar Binks is widely considered one of the weakest characters in the entire “Star Wars” franchise, but George Lucas doesn’t seem to care. In a pre-taped video message that aired during Star Wars Celebration ahead of the 20th anniversary panel for “The Phantom Menace,” Lucas once again surprised fans by naming the polarizing Jar Jar as his favorite “Star Wars” character of all time. A source of comic relief in “The Phantom Menace,” Jar Jar was inspired by Disney’s Goofy and made history as the first fully CGI character in a live-action movie.
“Thank you for coming to the Celebration,” Lucas said his introduction video. “[‘The Phantom Menace’] is one of my favorite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favorite character. Ahmed [Best], you did a fantastic job. It was very, very hard.”
Lucas continued. “Also for John Knoll and all the guys at ILM, I made it impossible for them. We broke a lot of ground. We were using test equipment but it was the beginning of digital, even though we didn’t get to shoot the whole thing digitally, we got to shoot part of it so it was really one of the first digital features and I’m very proud of that. The fans are always such a big part of these films and obviously those of you who are here are the fans of Episode 1 and I love each and every one of you.”
Ahmed Best was starring in a production of Stomp when he auditioned for Jar Jar Binks. The character earned a lot backlash from fans and critics after his debut in “The Phantom Menace,” so much so that Best became the target of cyberbullying and death threats. In a social media post published last summer, Best revealed the blowback he received for playing the character led him to contemplate suicide.
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“Twenty years next year I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today,” Best wrote as the caption to a photo of himself and his son standing by a river. “This was the place I almost ended my life. It’s still hard to talk about. I survived and now this little guy is my gift for survival.”
Best went on to reprise Jar Jar in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith,” albeit in a smaller capacity and with much less screen time. “Phantom Menace” officially celebrates its 20th anniversary on May 19.