Can it be true? Yes indeed, according to the real Jar Jar, Ahmed Best. For an interview with Vice magazine this month, writer Gavin Godfrey did his research and discovered that in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session last year, Best revealed that Michael Jackson had been up for the part.
Godfrey asked Best if that was a joke, and here’s Best’s response:
That’s what George told me. 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? After Michael had driven off, we all go back up to a big afterparty. I’m having a drink with George and I said, “Why did you introduce me as Jar Jar?” He said, “Well, Michael wanted to do the part but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like ‘Thriller.'” George wanted to do it in CGI. My guess is ultimately Michael Jackson would have been bigger than the movie, and I don’t think he wanted that.
Wow… just, woooooow.
And in the process of reading the interview and reading the questions and answers and discussion in the Reddit AMA, I came away with a new appreciation for Best. He was in a groundbreaking role, in terms of the emergence of motion capture for CGI – the kind of stuff that Andy Serkis gets all the glory for. But Best is just as physical (it so happens he’s been a martial artist since a very young age), and studied Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films for movement inspiration.
What can you say? He made the character believable enough that people are still having an emotional reaction to him, 16 years later. And I was pleased to see that in the Reddit AMA, commenters were making a distinction between his work and the complaints about his work – namely, there was a lot of respect handed out to him, and a lot of framing the issue as a problem to be laid down at George Lucas’ feet.
What do YOU think? Are you able to appreciate what Ahmed Best did in groundbreaking CGI work, or were you unable to get past your annoyance with Jar Jar as a character? Have your say in the comments!
Trivia Time!Test your knowledge of the Star Wars universe!
Yesterday’s answer: An escape pod
Today’s question: Whose first line in Return of the Jedi is, “Of course I’m worried”?