In a moment that speaks volumes to the mind frame of Michael Jackson in the mid-90s, it seems that the King of Pop was interested in playing the role of the symbolic straw that broke the camel’s back of George Lucas’ creative integrity — otherwise known as Jar Jar Binks — in “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.”
According to Ahmed Best (who would end up with the unfortunate role) in an interview with Vice, it appears he was there when Lucas broke the news to Jackson:
“That’s what George told me. 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 seems like Jackson just might not have been as crazy as we thought with that whole prosthetics and makeup idea, since that CGI tactic used by Lucas ended up being kinda part of the problem with those prequel films in the first place — and why J.J. Abrams has gone to more practical special effects for the new “Star Wars” film coming out in December.
It also shows that George Lucas is kind of a dick for breaking the news to Jackson like that.
Best’s interview also had some nuggets in the fallout after fans aired their grievances about the first prequel — a vitriolic hatred that would ultimately turn young a Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side in real life.
“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.”
So, there you have it. Michael Jackson wanted to play the character that nearly destroyed a franchise, and George Lucas denied him that honor in front of the guy who would play the part.