Trivia: Michael Jackson Wanted to Play Jar Jar Binks in Full Prosthetic Make-Up In ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’
Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2015 by Ethan Anderton
You won’t find many people to argue against the claim that Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is one of the most annoying characters to ever hit the big screen. He’s a bumbling cartoon of a character who has no place in the Star Wars universe, and that’s a nice way of putting it.
Thankfully, the man who played Jar Jar Binks, actor Ahmed Best, hasn’t taken the criticism personally according to a new interview. But the more fascinating stuff in the interview is some of the trivia that Best revealed, including the fact that international pop superstar Michael Jackson originally wanted to play Jar Jar Binks, insight into the audition process and how he tried to protect Jake Lloyd from the harsh reviews of the movie and his performance.
Read more about the Michael Jackson Jar Jar Binks connection after the jump!
Before we get into the weird trivia, we’ll let Ahmed Best explain (via Vice) how he found out that he was playing Jar Jar Binks, and why he thought that he completely botched the audition, which was his first for a major feature film:
“Well, George is a very quiet person; he doesn’t say much. I was doing all of these moves and George had a very specific idea in mind of how the character was supposed to go. He very much wanted him to be more of a Buster Keaton than anything else. I gave him a lot of stuff. I was really—still am—into martial arts and acrobatics, so in my mocap audition, I was doing backflips and high kicks. It was more like athletics and he kept trying to pull me back from being so athletic and being a lot more lanky and long and silly. I eventually picked it up at the end of the mocap audition and he was like, ‘OK,’ and walked out of the room [laughs]. It was my first motion picture audition, first motion picture test. I thought if I was going to get it I would have got it on that day. He didn’t say anything, I went back on the road and then I got the call.”
It’s gotta be pretty daunting to have your first audition for a major film production be for Star Wars: Episode I. It’s just a shame that his character went on to be one of the worst parts of a prequel that was already pretty awful (though even moreso in retrospect). But even with that outcome, the experience of being part of a global phenomenon like Star Wars still has to be worth it.
But the role could have gone to someone much more familiar with being in the spotlight and having shade thrown on him. Best reveals that George Lucas once told him that Michael Jackson originally wanted to play Jar Jar Binks, and there’s a chance it could have been a little better, because it wouldn’t have involved creating an entirely digital alien:
“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 afterparty. 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.”
It’s true that the profile of Michael Jackson would likely have transcended whatever character George Lucas wanted Jar Jar Binks to be. But if this casting had actually become a reality, I can’t even imagine what that would have been like. How different would the life of Michael Jackson and the world of Star Wars be? It’s mind-boggling to think about. At the very least, Michael Jackson probably could’ve handled the hate better than a new actor on the scene.
Speaking of which, Best says that he and Jake Lloyd, the child actor who played Anakin Skywalker, took a lot of heat for how bad Star Wars: The Phantom Menace turned out to be, and the young star had a hard time dealing with it. Best explains:
“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. 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. I’m a 20-year-old from from the Bronx; I’ve seen and I’ve done things that were a lot harder than criticism in that newspaper. 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.”
I guess that explains why Lloyd fell away from the spotlight and recently found himself in a spot of trouble with authorities. It has to be hard to live a normal life when a majority of the population holds you responsible for ruining something that billions of people love.
But George Lucas still had some fun with fans after all the hate that was thrown at him and Jar Jar Binks. In case you didn’t know, the working title for Star Wars: Episode II was a big prank to get fans all worked up. Best posted this picture of the real script given to actors when they arrived for production in Sydney, Australia:
That’s right, the original title for the second prequel was Star Wars: Jar Jar’s Great Adventure. Fans didn’t buy that this was a real title, but it was refreshing to see that George Lucas had a sense of humor about how the character was received. Though Star Wars fans still feel the pain that Jar Jar Binks brought to the saga, one can’t help but wonder if the character would have been a little more bombad with Michael Jackson in the role. I guess we’ll never know.
For even more from Ahmed Best, check out the full interview at Vice.Cool Posts From Around the Web: