Many music icons have tried to make the jump into the world of cinema and some of them have fared very well, just like David Bowie who ended up working with pioneers such as Nicolas Roeg and Nagisa Ōshima among others. For Michael Jackson, things did not pan out the same way even though he achieved unprecedented stardom in the film industry.
Jackson had appeared in strange projects such as the bizarre 1996 short film Michael Jackson’s Ghosts which was actually co-written by none other than the modern master of horror Stephen King. However, Jackson had his eyes on a particular character in an upcoming film that would soon become one of the most infamous entities in the franchise’s universe.
According to the reports that have surfaced since then, Michael Jackson actually spoke to George Lucas about starring in The Phantom Menace. Not just that, Jackson had a specific role in mind that he wanted to play and that was none other than the most annoying Gungan in Star Wars history – Jar Jar Binks – who is now regarded as a popular culture icon.
Cited as the first completely CGI supporting character in a live-action project, Jar Jar Binks evokes visceral reactions from fans of the franchise and has even been looked at as a racist caricature by several cultural scholars and commentators. The role eventually went to Ahmed Best who has had to process the consequences of voicing the most hated Star Wars character in existence.
According to Best, he only found out about the fact that Jackson had initially wanted to play Jar Jar Binks in makeup because he was at Wembley Arena for a Michael Jackson concert with Natalie Portman and George Lucas. When Lucas introduced Best as Jar Jar Binks to Jackson, the music icon replied dejectedly: “Oh. OK.”
Best recalled: “After Michael had driven off, we all go back up to a big after-party. 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.”