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Jar Jar Binks actor says his career 'began and ended' with Star Wars

Jar Jar Binks actor says his career 'began and ended' with Star Wars

The Star Wars character received a lot of backlash

In the Star Wars universe, Jar Jar Binks isn't often cited as a fan favorite among its cast of thousands.

When the clumsy Gungan made his movie debut in 1999's The Phantom Menace, the audience reception was rather hostile.

Although Jar Jar was a part of cinematic history - as the first character in a live-action film to be created through motion-capture technology - fans didn't warm to him.

This hit Jar Jar's voice actor, Ahmed Best, particularly hard.

In fact, the targeted harassment that followed the film's release stopped him from working for some time after.

Speaking to People, Best recalled: "Everybody came for me.

"I'm the first person to do this kind of work, but I was also the first Black person, Black man."

Even though The Phantom Menace was a smash hit making over $1 billion at the box office, Best says he was 'ostracized' in Hollywood.

Best, now aged 50, was touring with the Stomp Dance troupe in 1997 when he was offered an audition.

Once cast, he became the physical role and the voice.

Jar Jar Binks was voiced by Ahmed Best. (20th Century Studios)
Jar Jar Binks was voiced by Ahmed Best. (20th Century Studios)

For the physical part, Best modelled Jar Jar's movements on Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan.

When it came time to do the voice at a table read with co-stars Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, there was some trepidation for Best.

He recalled: "This was the first time I was going to do the Jar Jar voice in front of people.

"And to be honest, I didn't know if I was going to do it at that reading or not. I was like, 'I might do it, I might not'.

"And as I'm reading as the first few pages go by, I'm in my head, 'Do I do this voice? Do I not do this voice? What do I do?'"

Fortunately, it was well received.

Jar Jar Binks was a polarising character. (20th Century Studios)
Jar Jar Binks was a polarising character. (20th Century Studios)

"Liam has this wonderfully resonant Irish, Mid-Atlantic voice that will just melt you," Best said.

"You know what I'm saying? So I was just like, 'Everybody sounds so good. Am I going to do this voice or not?'

"And then I see the character name coming up and I was like, 'F*** it.' And I just do it.

"And everybody in the room goes crazy for it. So I was like, 'OK, all right. I got that one out. I'm supposed to be here now.'"

However, the backlash towards his character was intense, and Best considers it the 'first textbook case of cyber bullying'.

Ahmed Best has been open about his struggles. (YouTube/Participant)
Ahmed Best has been open about his struggles. (YouTube/Participant)

Looking back on the criticism, the actor said: "It really wasn't easy.

"I was very young. I was 26. And it's hard to have this idea that the thing you've been working all your life for, you finally get it and you're finally in the big leagues.

"And then all of a sudden people pull the rug out from under you. And I was just like, 'What is happening now?'

"My career began and ended. I didn't know what to do, and unfortunately there was really no one that could help me, because it was such a unique position; it had never happened before in history."

In the years following the film's release, Best struggled to get work in Hollywood and contemplated taking his own life.

Now, Best is in a better place and works as a lecturer at USC and is a dad to a 15-year-old son.

And last year, he even made a comeback to the Star Wars franchise, starring in Disney+'s series The Mandalorian.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in a mental health crisis, help is available through Mental Health America. Call or text 988 or chat You can also reach Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.

Featured Image Credit: 20th Century Studios/Ethan Miller/FilmMagic via Getty

Topics: Film and TV, Star Wars, Celebrity