Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best reveals he became suicidal after receiving intense criticism for his role in the Star Wars prequels. When developing The Phantom Menace, director George Lucas envisioned Jar Jar as a comic relief character, but the results were hardly what he had in mind. After Episode I was released, Jar Jar became one of the most derided elements of the film. The tremendous technological achievement of the CGI character (which paved the way for Gollum) was rendered moot as moviegoers - especially those who grew up on the original trilogy - outright hated the character, feeling he was included solely to appeal to the youngest possible demographic.
Even with the prequel trilogy's reputation improving over the years, Jar Jar remains arguably the lowest point in Star Wars history for several. He's gone down in history as a pop culture punchline, with Best suffering the effects of the negative response. As it turns out, the reception to the Gungan impacted his life far beyond his acting career. There was a period of time when Best contemplated ending his own life.
Best took to Twitter to post a picture of himself with his young son, where he admitted the hardships took a serious toll on him. While he doesn't name Star Wars or The Phantom Menace, the caption makes it clear what he's talking about. Episode I sees its 20th anniversary in 2019. You can see Best's post in the space below:
Without question, it is within an individual viewer's right to dislike the prequels and/or Jar Jar. That being said, it is highly upsetting that the vitriol was so severe it drew Best to this point. What's even sadder is this is far from the only instance Star Wars backlash has hurt an actor involved with the films. Best's Episode I co-star Jake Lloyd retired from the profession in 2001 after being bullied at school and gave up all of his Star Wars merchandise. Hayden Christensen, who portrayed Anakin in the final two prequels, has largely stepped back from the public eye. Most recently, an anti-Disney group claimed responsibility for harassing The Last Jedi's Kelly Marie Tran off social media. The passionate Star Wars fan base has contributed to the franchise remaining incredibly popular for 40 years, but they're also causing the property (and those associated with it) a lot of harm. It's troubling there are so many recurring instances of this behavior. Again, audiences have the freedom to like what they want, but there's no need for things to be taken this far.
Fortunately, Best not only overcame his suicidal thoughts, he's embraced Jar Jar and is proud of the work he put into realizing the character. After Episode III, Best even returned to voice Jar Jar in several projects; he collaborated with Lucasfilm on the Clone Wars animated series, and decided to poke fun at himself in numerous Robot Chicken appearances. Regardless of how one feels about the Gungan, it's very nice to see Best has rebounded and is living a full life, raising a family. Hopefully, he decides to tell his story in full on the show he mentions. It will of course be very painful for him to discuss, but it could go a long way in helping others get through trying times.
Source: Ahmed Best
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019