Michael Jackson as Jar Jar Binks, the most reviled character in the history of Star Wars? It could have happened, according to Ahmed Best, the man who played Jar Jar in the Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
“That’s what George told me,” Best recalled in an interview with Vice. “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?'”
Later, at an afterparty, Best found out: Lucas told the actor that Jackson had wanted to play Jar Jar, but via prosthetics in a vein similar to “Thriller.” Lucas, however, wanted to us CGI for the character.
“My guess is ultimately Michael Jackson would have been bigger than the movie, and I don’t think he wanted that,” Best said of Lucas.
If that story sounds familiar, it is: Best mentioned the Jackson near-miss during a Reddit AMA last year, and first told the story to Rolling Stone in an interview before the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999.
“Backstage, George introduced me. He goes, ‘This is Ahmed, also known as Jar Jar Binks,'” Best said to Rolling Stone. “I thought, ‘I wonder why he said that.’ Come to find out, Michael was campaigning for the part. George said to cast him would compromise the movie because he’s such a big star.”