The actor who played Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels has revealed that the extreme backlash to the character left him feeling suicidal.
Ahmed Best, who provided the voice and motion capture for the CGI alien, uploaded a photo of himself and his young son standing on Brooklyn Bridge in New York, which he describes as “the place I almost ended my life”.
He added that it was “still hard to talk about” the barrage of vitriol aimed at Jar Jar, his first major acting role.
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Best, now 44, was applauded by Twitter users - including The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson - for going public with his experience.
Some fans who had lambasted the divisive character in the past saw their behaviour in a new light, offering their apologies to Best.
Introduced in 1999’s The Phantom Menace, the first of the prequel trilogy, ditzy alien Jar Jar “was loved by children, but for the most part was despised by fans of the original trilogy who felt the character was too out of place”, says The Hollywood Reporter.
Some critics also identified an uncomfortable racial element to the character, whose accent and “pidgin” English reminded many of dialects spoken in the West Indies.
Jar Jar’s exaggerated features and clownish behaviour - which drew comparisons to the caricatured portrayals of black people in minstrel shows and other racist media - added fuel to the fire.
At the time of the film’s release, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw blasted Jar Jar as “an old-fashioned token black, a real eye-rolling yessuh-massa character to boot, with everything but the actual pigment”.
Those involved in the creation of the character, including franchise creator George Lucas, have emphatically denied any racial undertones.
Nevertheless, the goofy Gungan “quickly became the most hated character in the Star Wars universe”, says the BBC, as well as a focal point of fans’ wider dissatisfaction with the prequels.
“I had death threats through the internet,” Best told Wired last year. “I had people come to me and say, ‘You destroyed my childhood.’ That’s difficult for a 25-year-old to hear.”
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