When it comes to the Star Wars franchise, even the high levels of adoration fans and general moviegoers have for the series often doesn’t extend to the prequels. While those films still have their fans, especially among younger viewers, there’s one part of the movies that almost everyone seems to agree was a colossal mistake: Jar Jar Binks.
Endlessly championed by George Lucas, Jar Jar was poised to play a crucial role in the Prequels and help to make Lucasfilm a lot of money through merchandise. Unfortunately for all involved, the character’s goofy nature, kid-centric focus, and racist undertones made him the butt of jokes and a beacon for hatred. As such, his role was diminished in the second and third films, preventing the character from every fully settling into the future Lucas had envisioned for him.
Even still, his various appearances over the years and crucial role in key aspects of the canon mean it’s hard to escape Jar Jar Binks. As the years have passed, many have softened their opinion on the jester-like character and begun to look at him in a different light. In the twenty years since Ahmed Best first began his work as Jar Jar, a number of interesting stories and theories have popped up around the actor and character.
Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Jar Jar Binks.
15. Michael Jackson Almost Played Jar Jar
There’s really no way to bury the lede here. One of the most fascinating bits of Star Wars trivia is that Michael Jackson almost played a part in the franchise. A well-known fan for years, Jackson and George Lucas eventually became good friends. When the time came for The Phantom Menace, Jackson had the inside scoop on the film and quickly campaigned to play the role of Jar Jar. Ironically, Lucas didn’t want Jar Jar to be a distracting presence and felt that Jackson’s star power would overshadow any element of the movie.
He graciously turned Jackson down, and the King of Pop didn’t bear Lucas any ill will. That said, he wasn’t too fond of eventual Jar Jar actor Ahmed Best. During one fateful evening, Lucas took Best and Natalie Portman to see Jackson perform. After the show, they met and got along amicably enough before Lucas mentioned Best was the man behind Jar Jar. Jackson immediately went cold towards the actor, confusing Best and leaving him with one of the more unusual encounters with Jackson.
14. Jar Jar Was Inspired by and Lucas’ Son and Goofy
Long before Disney purchased Lucasfilm, the influential studio had an effect on Lucas himself. In his attempts to make a more kid-friendly film, Jar Jar was born. It’s fitting then that Lucas actually based him on a character from the Mickey Mouse pantheon.
During D23 a few years back, Lucas finally revealed his main inspiration for Jar Jar: “I can’t even begin to tell you how much of an influence Disney has had on me… I will say one secret that nobody knows; not many people realize that Goofy was the inspiration for Jar Jar Binks… I know that you will look at him differently now. It’s pretty obvious, actually, but, um, I love Goofy and I love Jar Jar.”
Between the odd manner of speaking, the countenance, and the mannerisms, the similarities are pretty blatant when it comes to Goofy and Jar Jar. Meanwhile, Jar Jar’s name was partially inspired by Lucas’ son, Jett. Luckily for the kid, the character’s name wasn’t too similar– saving him years of shame and therapy.
13. There’s Been Some Weird Jar Jar Merchandise
While Lucas has never outright admitted as much, it’s fairly plain that at least part of the motivation to feature Jar Jar so heavily in The Phantom Menace was in an effort to sell toys and other merchandise. While Jedi figures always do well, Lucas was savvy enough to realize a more kid-friendly character with a wacky, comedic tone would appeal to young children who would be anxious to get their hands on lots of Jar Jar merch. Of course, some of the items were just as controversial as the character himself.
From slippers to soap dispensers, most of the Jar Jar merchandise was harmless enough, but one piece of candy was quickly pulled after being introduced. For people of a certain age, they’ll certainly remember the weird lollipop tongue that emerged from a Jar Jar head. Far from appetizing and more than a bit sexual, the item didn’t stay on shelves long. And everyone from Best to the film’s marketing department have admitted how foolish the candy was.
12. He Was the First Fully CG Main Character
The use of motion capture wasn’t unheard of when The Phantom Menace began production in 1997, but it was a rather new form of tech. It had been employed by a few filmmakers for certain shots, and CGI creations had been employed for background characters. Lucasfilm and ILM, however, used motion capture for the first time to create a wholly CGI character who had a main part in the plot of a film.
While the practice has now become common, Ahmed Best is one of the unsung heroes of the now highly praised world of mo-cap acting. Long before Andy Serkis, Best’s work on Jar Jar Binks helped shape the modern usage of mo-cap in big budget films. Jar Jar may be derided now, but it’s important to remember just how groundbreaking the character was at the time, at least from a technological standpoint.
11. Ahmed Best Wrote and Helped Choreograph Yoda’s Infamous Fight Scene
While there are a number of things about the Star Wars prequels that irk fans, Jar Jar is high on the list along with one other moment: Yoda’s fight scene in Attack of the Clones. While many fans were more than excited to see the Jedi master finally put his considerable skills to work, others thought the fully CG fight was hokey and took away from Yoda’s majesty. Oddly, two of the prequel’s most controversial moments are tied together by Ahmed Best.
While speaking recently on the podcast I Was There Too, Best revealed that when he got his hands on the script for the Yoda fight scene, he noticed it seemed mostly like a placeholder. Thanks to his excitement for the sequence and his background in martial arts and dance, he reached out to effects supervisor Rob Coleman. When he learned that the scene hadn’t been fleshed out, he offered his expertise and insight. After showing Coleman Jet Li movies and anime like Ninja Scroll and Akira, the two began crafting the scene, with Best writing much of the action and choreography that eventually ended up on screen.
The one major change from Best’s input was that he envisioned Yoda fighting separately with his body and using the Force to control his lightsaber in battle. While he doesn’t publicly get credit for the work, it’s just one more example of the innovation Best brought to the film.
10. Best Stood in For Yoda and Other CGI characters
Though Jar Jar had a reduced role following The Phantom Menace, Best continued to help out around the set. Aside from his punch up on the Yoda fight, Best actually stood in for the Jedi master. Thanks to his role as a CG character and his background in voice work, Best often found himself subbing in for other CG characters. Even those roles that had on-set actors often fell to Best when the performers couldn’t make it to set.
In one instance, during a scene where Palpatine is speaking to Yoda, Jar Jar, and several senators and Jedi, Best was forced to jump between his marks for Jar Jar when taking over for Yoda while Frank Oz was indisposed. He also stood in for a few other characters in the scene, once again proving himself the unsung hero of the prequels.
9. Jar Jar Helped Stop a Viral Outbreak on Naboo During The Clone Wars
Though the divisive nature of Jar Jar meant less screentime for Best, his character has lived on in a number of other forms. Despite not factoring into Attack of the Clones very much, both Jar Jar and Best returned for The Clone Wars and featured in a number of stories. Often, Binks would work alongside Senator Amidala and go on various diplomatic missions. On many occasions, their work brought them back to their homeworld of Naboo.
On one such trip, they were sent to help stop an invasion of Separatist droids. While on the mission, they discovered a scientist using a nearby factory to engineer and spread the deadly Blue Shadow Virus. Thanks to the arrival of Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka, Jar Jar and Amidala were able to stop threat and once again save Naboo.
8. Jar Jar Helped Turn the Tide of War on Mon Cala
Another heroic moment for Jar Jar during the Clone Wars came during a civil war on Mon Cala. Following the assassination of the king, strife erupted between the Mon Calamari and the Quareen. In the midst of the conflict, the Separatists began stoking the hostilities, leading to the intervention of the Republic. Senator Amidala, along with Anakin and Kit Fisto, were dispatched to help thwart the threat and calm tensions. The heavily ocean-covered planet, however, put them at a disadvantage.
Upon Obi-Wan’s insistence, Jar Jar was dispatched to Naboo to once again plead for his people’s help. Eventually, he was able to sway the Gungans to the cause, using them to help turn the tide of the conflict on the watery world. It was a small moment, but a crucial one for Jar Jar’s place in Star Wars history.
7. Best Didn’t Know What He Was Auditioning For
In the mid-90s, Best was working on a production of Stomp, putting his skills in martial arts and dance to good use. One fateful night, a fellow cast member had invited Robin Gurland to the show. She was so impressed by Best that she met with him and asked if he’d like to audition for the upcoming Star Wars film she was casting. Throughout the process, Best was asked to do a number of unusual things, from crawling on all fours to putting on platform shoes and jumping around. Eventually, he was offered the role of Jar Jar Binks and sent to London for a costume fitting.
It was only later, however, that he auditioned for the voice. Once he revealed that he had spent years doing voice work as well, he joined the list of people trying out for Jar Jar. Luckily, he was able to land that gig as well, in one of the longest auditioning processes ever.
6. Best Improvised a Lot On Set
Thanks to Best’s background, he regularly proved a source of levity on the set. From trying to get Liam Neeson to laugh to picking up tips from the veteran actor, Best began asserting himself more and more. Thanks to Neeson’s encouragement, Best even offered up insight of his own for Jar Jar. One of the character’s bigger moments of physical comedy came in The Phantom Menace, when Jar Jar jumps up into the air before diving to the ground to avoid danger, was something Best improvised on set and eventually persuaded Lucas to include.
Throughout his time playing the character, Best has had a sense of humor about Jar Jar and his place in pop culture. He’s regularly appeared on Robot Chicken as Binks, poking fun at himself and the character. He’s also made his way into Star Wars lore outside of Jar Jar, appearing out of costume during Attack of the Clones as a character named Achk-med Beq.
5. Jar Jar Frozen In Carbonite
Like with The Clone Wars, Best and Jar Jar have regularly shown up in various other animated projects and Star Wars video games. They can be found in Disney Infinity 3.0, LEGO Star Wars, and even a series of short animated episodes for LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales. Even when Best isn’t voicing the character, Jar Jar is still peppered throughout Star Wars stories.
While non-canon, like Droid Tales, The Force Unleashed is one of the most revered pieces of Expanded Universe content. And while many fans are hoping elements from the story will eventually make their way into canon, it still stands on its own as a great game. It also features a fun nod to Jar Jar, as the character can be seen frozen in carbonite at one point in the game.
4. He’s a Cunning Political Dissident in a Shakespearean Version of the Prequels.
A few years back, author Ian Doescher had a novel idea: to retell the story of Star Wars as if it were written by William Shakespeare. Titled William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First, the book is equal parts Elizabethan verse and comedy — and completely nerdy. Still, it highlights a recurring aspect of Jar Jar’s personality that has long been hinted at by various fans.
In the tale, Jar Jar merely plays the clown, but is actually a political dissident who was kicked out of Gungan society for his views regarding the acceptance of the humanoids of Naboo. A progressive figure, Binks masks his philosophical and social leanings with buffoonery, highlighting that there may be more to the version of Binks we’re shown in the Prequels.
Like Spider-Man, could Jar Jar be using humor to throw off his enemies and force them to underestimate him?
3. Jar Jar Had a Deleted Scene with Palpatine That Hints at the Dark Side
While Jar Jar is mostly absent from Attack of the Clones and all but erased in Revenge of the Sith, his efforts to help Senator Palpatine gain power have a major impact on the entire rest of the Star Wars story. Binks’ helping to elevate Palpatine to Supreme Chancellor sets off the series of events that lead to the rise of the Empire and the death of the Jedi. According to Best, there was initially a deeper thread running between Binks and Palpatine.
Speaking with EW back in 2015, Best laid out an intriguing deleted scene: “In Revenge of the Sith, there was a scene that was cut where I’m walking down a long pathway with Ian McDiarmid before he is turned into the Emperor,” Best explains. “Palpatine kind of thanks Jar Jar for putting him in power. It’s a really interesting scene, and it shows the evolution of Jar Jar from this fun-loving kid’s character into this manipulated politician. And it was an interesting arc for the character that I thought could have been explored, because the scene is really dark. But it just didn’t fit in the movie, which I understand.”
2. Darth Jar Jar
If you’ve read this far into a Jar Jar Binks trivia list, you’ve likely heard of Darth Jar Jar. In case you haven’t however, the gist of the theory is that Jar Jar was originally meant to be revealed as a mighty Sith lord in the prequels, before the character’s negative reception forced Lucas to remove Jar Jar from much of the plot.
While it seems silly at first blush, Best has stated many times that he feels there’s merit to it and that shades of the theory were at one time present in the script. There’s even talk that Binks was originally meant to be a double-agent mercenary character during an early draft of the script for The Phantom Menace.
When you factor in the deleted scene with Palpatine and Jar Jar, and the way the character helped to bring the Emperor into power, the evidence really starts to add up. Until we hear from Lucas, we may never know whether any of this holds water, but Best’s support certainly lends the theory credence.
1. Jar Jar’s Tragic Legacy
The one potential nail in the coffin for the Darth Jar Jar theory has come up only recently. As part of Lucasfilm’s new canon, Chuck Wendig has been writing a trilogy of novels called Aftermath that follow-up on the events after the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi.
In the final book, Empire’s End, we learn that Jar Jar is now a clown and street performer. Thanks to his part in the rise of the Empire, both the Gungans and people of Naboo have shunned him; orphan children as his only friends.
The story not only follows up on Jar Jar’s legacy, but provides some satire as he’s been shunned by adults but embraced by children. It also provides a bittersweet ending for the character and seems to indicate he had no grand Sith past. Of course, there are plenty of gaps in the story of Jar Jar Binks, and fans will likely be more than willing to fill it in with theory-crafting.
Which piece of Jar Jar Binks trivia is your favorite? Do you think he’ll reappear as Snoke in Star Wars? Let us know in the comments.
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