It must have been hard for George Lucas to say no to Michael Jackson. The two were old friends after working on the iconic Disneyland 3D attraction Captain EO way back in 1986, at the height of the pop star's popularity. But when George set out to return to his galaxy far, far away with 1999's Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, he made the mistake of letting Michael read the script early. There was one character the singer gravitated to. But George Lucas simply felt he was wrong for the role.
As it turns out, Michael Jackson really wanted to play Jar Jar Binks. A character that would go onto become possibly the most hated in the series of old and new films alike. Mostly known for his singing, Michael Jackson was also an actor. He took the lead in the short film Captain EO, playing a starship captain who brings peace to the galaxy. He introduced the long form music video, which saw his musical performances bookended by a narrative. And he was the Scarecrow in the big screen version of The Wiz. Why couldn't he play Jar Jar Binks?
Because George Lucas had already decided on actor Ahmed Best. Best is most remembered for the role, and while speaking with Vice, he clarified earlier comments that Michael Jackson wanted to play the mumble mouthed Gungan. Was it a joke? Or was it true? Turns out, Michael Jackson may have never wanted a film role more.
Ahmed Best recalled a moment where he found himself backstage at a Michael Jackson concert with George Lucas and his kids. Natalie Portman, who played Ahmed Best's co-star in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace was there too. It was a very strange encounter to say the least. About meeting the King of Pop, the man behind Jar Jar said this.
"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."
His last statement is the most interesting. Jar Jar was one of the first CGI mo-cap characters every created for a movie. And he existed for that sole purpose, so that George Lucas could play with this new technology and perfect it for future filmmakers. But you have to wonder, what would a practical Jar Jar have been like? Especially one played by Michael Jackson? Would he be as hated as he is today? It should be noted that Ahmed Best was on set in a Jar Jar costume for the duration of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace's production. And some of what we see in the movie is a practical actor in a costume.
Jar Jar Binks has become infamous. This past year, J.J. Abrams said he very seriously thought of killing the Gungan off in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not directly on screen, but as an Easter egg. Maybe hiding his bones in the desert sands of Jakku. Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales goes one better. It actually blows the character to bits, blasting him with a laser beam as he hurtles through the deep recesses of space. While you contemplate what Michael Jackson may have been like as Jar Jar, check out the Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales trailer. This is a Lucasfilm and Disney sanction TV show that finally gives fans what they want in seeing the character murdered.