Liam Neeson, the most bad ass man on the planet, couldn’t stop laughing because of this person. Ewan McGregor had a blast on set most days because of this person. Natalie Portman thought this was everyone’s favorite person on set. George Lucas wanted to have dinner with him every night.
His name is Ahmed Best and he played Jar Jar Binks. In one of the latest issues of Entertainment Weekly (#1194), the magazine profiles the man that no one knows. The man who played one of the most hated characters in cinema history.
He wasn’t supposed to be in Star Wars. He was in the off Broadway production of Stomp, and one of his cast mates invited a Star Wars casting agent to the show. Best wasn’t having a great night. He was being forced into a role he didn’t know very well and was struggling. He was frustrated and was doing silly things, he admits. He threw his shirt into the crowd and wasn’t disciplined. He landed the role of Binks instantly.
Best grew up a Star Wars fan. A New Hope was the first movie he remembers seeing and Empire Strikes Back is one of his favorite films. This relatively young off Broadway performer was going to be involved in the reboot of his favorite film franchise. No, not only his favorite film franchise but one of the most iconic film franchises in the history of cinema.
His cast thought that he would be the break out star. The majority of them were convinced people would like Jar Jar, or at least his performance. He was doing something no one else had ever done in a film – he was motion capture performing. Yes, the same thing Andy Serkis gets credited with innovating.
But he was forgotten. When the film came out bloggers, critics and moviegoers were united in one thought: Jar Jar Binks was annoying. He talked weird, he wasn’t funny, he was made for kids.
His new friends lept to his aide. Neeson said Best was a gifted actor and that he shouldn’t blame himself. Neeson told Best that even he got criticized for a role in a big project. McGregor was a little more sharp in his defense, saying that he didn’t like any of it. “All of the character choices and the idea to have Jar Jar Binks there in the first place was George’s,” McGregor told EW.
Of course, this is the thing most fans of Star Wars will latch on to now. See, Jar Jar was designed for kids. Lucas says a lot of characters in Star Wars are designed for kids to like, like Ewoks and C-3PO. Both of those characters were offered as a sort of comic relief, relief that also appealed to kids.
Lucas went one step further with Binks, he fashioned the character (in fact, Binks’ entire race) after his son Jett. Lucas’ son liked to say “Me like.” The cadence, the syntax, it was all based on Jett Lucas. Then, they combined that with pidgin English from the Samoan Islands, the Pacific islands and the Caribbean.
Now the man who was tipped to break out has been relegated to the fringes of Hollywood. Even though he had a great performance and did what he was asked he played a toxic character. A toxic character he can’t get away from. He’s tried to stay away from reprising the role of Jar Jar in voice form on shows like The Clone Wars and Robot Chicken, but fans end up complaining and ask for him to re-voice the character – even though they hate Jar Jar Binks.
Not only that, but other than the voicing jobs and some guest spots on TV shows he’s had a hard time finding acting work. He can’t even get a job doing performance capture, something Andy Serkis rules the world at. Yet Best, who was one of the first actors to do it, and do it well, is shut out. Instead, he’s taking more acting classes and is pursuing music. He doesn’t regret a thing though, because he got a chance on the biggest stage. Unfortunately for him, it just didn’t bounce his way. [EW]