- Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson, who starred in
Star Wars: Episode I
as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, were hurt by the critical reaction to Ahmed Best’s performance as Jar Jar Binks.
- Jar Jar Binks, known for his clumsy antics and unique manner of speaking, remains a polarizing character in the
franchise, dividing fans and critics.
- Ahmed Best, the actor who played Jar Jar Binks, experienced a dark time in his life after facing online hate and criticism, but found redemption through his role in
In 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace ushered in the dawn of a new era for the Star Wars saga, introducing audiences to the early days of the Galactic Republic, the Jedi Order, and a mix of new characters and younger versions of old ones. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the cast of the prequel trilogy have been looking back at the legacy of the movies, and picking out certain moments that stand out for them.
Among those reminiscing about George Lucas’ first expansion of the Star Wars Universe, were Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson, who made their Star Wars debuts as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, respectively, in The Phantom Menace. While their performances became instant fan favorites, the debut of Ahmed Best as the voice of Jar Jar Binks became the subject of death threats, online hate and much criticism. This is something that never sat well with the two Jedi actors, as Neeson explained to Empire magazine. He said:
Ahmed was so funny and inventive. Myself and Ewan were personally hurt and offended by the critical reaction to the character.
Jar Jar Binks remains perhaps the most polarizing character ever introduced to the Star Wars franchise. Designed by Lucas to be a source of comic relief in the movie, Jar Jar’s clumsy antics and unique manner of speaking divided audiences and critics in a way that has continued to rumble on for quarter of a century. Young viewers found him endearing and humorous, but long-time fans of the franchise, who had waited almost two decades to see the galaxy far, far away back on cinema screens, criticized his inclusion as pandering and distracting from the film’s more serious themes. As much as Neeson and McGregor were impacted by the reaction to the character, it was nothing compared to what Best was feeling.
Ahmed Best’s Star Wars Journey Has Finally Been Redeemed
Playing Jar Jar Binks almost led to Ahmed Best not only abandoning his career as an actor, but taking his own life. Last year, the actor opened up about the darkest time in his life on an episode of The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks podcast, recalling:
I’m on the edge [of the Brooklyn Bridge], and I see the Statue of Liberty. And I see the East River. And the only thought in my head is, ‘I’ll show all of you. I’ll show you, I’ll show you what you are doing to me. And when I’m gone, then you’ll feel it.’
Thankfully, Best was able to pull himself back from the brink, and in 2023 he made peace with the Star Wars franchise when he appeared in the role of Kelleran Beq — the Jedi who bravely saved Grogu (Baby Yoda) from Order 66 during Season 3 of The Mandalorian. While it has not been confirmed whether Best will make any further appearances in the future, his new role did enough to provide him with the redemption he had sought since his time working on the prequel movies.
franchise can be streamed in its entirety on Disney+.
The Good (and Not-So-Good) of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
The Star Wars prequels get a lot of hate, but they still deserve their place in the hearts of Star Wars fans.