Lucas, 74, created the character for his 1999 film Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace
The 74-year-old director surprised fans by naming Jar Jar Binks as his favorite Star Wars character of all time in a pre-taped video message that was shown on Monday at the Star Wars Celebration event in Chicago ahead of the 20th anniversary for Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.
“Thank you for coming to the Celebration. [The Phantom Menace] is one of my favorite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favorite character,” Lucas said in the video via IndieWire.
He also thanked actor Ahmed Best for portraying the character while also overcoming strong fan backlash due to their dislike of the character.
“Ahmed, you did a fantastic job,” Lucas said. “It was very, very hard.”
He also thanked Industrial Light & Magic CCO John Knoll who worked on the film. ILM was founded by Lucas and was bought by Disney as part of its purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012.
“Also for John Knoll and all the guys at ILM, I made it impossible for them,” Lucas said. “We broke a lot of ground. We were using test equipment but it was the beginning of digital, even though we didn’t get to shoot the whole thing digitally, we got to shoot part of it so it was really one of the first digital features and I’m very proud of that.”
He continued, “The fans are always such a big part of these films and obviously those of you who are here are the fans of Episode 1 and I love each and every one of you.”
The character of Jar Jar was based on Disney’s Goofy and made history as the first fully created CGI character in a live-action film.
Best, 45, has been open in the past about the intense backlash he faced by Star Wars fans for his portrayal of Jar Jar.
In July 2018, Best admitted he had considered taking his own life in an emotional tweet he shared that included a photo of himself with his son.
“20 years next year I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today,” Best tweeted, captioning a picture of himself and his son looking out on a bridge.
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“This was the place I almost ended my life,” he continued. “It’s still hard to talk about. I survived and now this little guy is my gift for survival.”
Many had criticized the character for being too cartoony, slamming Lucas for inserting him in the story just to sell toys. Sites like JarJarMustDie.com were launched, while fan forums spent years mocking the character.
At the time, Best was just 25. “I had death threats through the internet,” he told Wired in 2017. “I had people come to me and say, ‘You destroyed my childhood.’ That’s difficult for a 25-year-old to hear.”
“There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of pain, there was a lot of s— I had to deal with,” Best added. “Everybody else went on. Everybody else worked. Everybody else was accepted by the zeitgeist.”
At Star Wars Celebration, Best received a standing ovation when he appeared at the anniversary panel for The Phantom Menace.
As the crowd chanted his name, he said, “You guys are going to make me tear up and I’m an unattractive crier.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).