It’s been 19 years since George Lucas introduced Jar Jar Binks to Star Wars fans with the release of 1999’s The Phantom Menace and its two tepidly received successors, and the intervening years have proven the flop-eared Gungan one of the most durable of muses for meme makers across the internet. But Ahmed Best, the actor who gamely brought the character to life, says the brutal criticism he took for stepping into the role almost drove him to suicide.
While never referencing the Star Wars franchise or fanbase by name, Best said in a tweet Tuesday that he’s grateful to have endured the “media backlash” nearly two decades ago that led him to contemplate ending his own life.
As today’s ongoing culture-war-fueled debates which still rage around movies like The Last Jedi demonstrate, the most unhinged fans on either side of an argument can be downright nasty, neglecting that the people involved in bringing these pieces of entertainment to life are necessarily invested in the roles they play, whether in front of or behind a camera.
In a sprawling feature for Wired last year, Best admitted that being cast in a cultural touchstone like Star Wars — only to have his role become the focus of all the rage disgruntled fans aimed at George Lucas’ prequel series — left him disoriented. “You feel like a success and a failure at the exact same time. I was staring at the end of my career before it started,” he said, adding that he’d even received death threats for playing the bumbling, garrulous character.
In the present day, though, Best appears to be in a much better place with his lifelong connection to Jar Jar, and is even gauging fan interest on social media on whether to stage “a TPM 20th anniversary solo show,” possibly at a fan convention, college, or other venue. If it happens, Best’s post-Jar Jar personal journey may even end up playing a leading role: “Would this be a good story for my solo show?” he tweeted.