In a much beloved film franchise that has a fan base that spans decades and generations, one character from the Star Wars universe stands out like a very sore thumb. The hapless and clumsy Jar Jar Binks has been one of the most criticized aspects of the film series, and for many fans and critics alike, he is emblematic of the problems with the prequel trilogy films that began with the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999. Here are some interesting facts about the Gungan from the planet Naboo.
1. Jar Jar Binks Played by the King of Pop
At one point Michael Jackson was attached to play Jar Jar Binks. In an interview with VICE, Ahmed Best, who would go onto provide the voice and motion capture of Jar Jar, revealed that Jackson had envisioned portraying the character in prosthetics and makeup, while director George Lucas wanted CGI. According to Best, Lucas was also fearful that the character, as played by Jackson, would overshadow the entire film.
2. From Broadway to the Big Screen
Casting director Robin Gurland first spotted Best while he was a member of the Broadway cast of Stomp. Best displayed acrobatic and athletic movements that the production initially wanted for Jar Jar.
3. The Goofy Inspiration Behind Jar Jar Binks
After Lucasfilm—the production company behind Star Wars—had been purchased by Disney, George Lucas revealed that Jar Jar Binks was inspired by the canine Disney mainstay Goofy.
4. A CGI and Motion Capture Pioneer
While his antics may have been off-putting, the technology behind Jar Jar was truly groundbreaking. The use of CG and motion capture to depict Jar Jar on the big screen was the first for a main character (made entirely of CG) in a film.
5. Fan Theory to a Darker Binks
A Reddit user by the name of Lumpawarroo created quite a stir in the Star Wars fan community when he proposed a theory that suggested that Jar Jar Binks was slated to be an integral villain of the saga, which would unfold in Episodes II and III. He would eventually be revealed to be Darth Jar Jar and a collaborator of Emperor Palpatine. However, according to the Redditor, these plans were dropped due to the negative fan reaction surrounding the character. Although Ahmed Best seemed to confirm this theory, the producers at LucasFilm refuted them.
6. Name Origin
The name Jar Jar was inspired by the name of George Lucas’ son Jett Lucas. Like Jar Jar Binks, Jett Lucas had cameos in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
7. The Bard Does Jar Jar
Jar Jar makes an appearance in Ian Doescher’s book William Shakespeare’s The Phantom Menace: Star Wars Part the First —a Shakespearean retelling of Episode I written in verse. Straying from the films, Doescher repositions Jar Jar as a more nuanced character with a great deal of insight and wisdom.
8. Episode II: A Standalone Jar Jar Binks Film
Much to the surprise of Star Wars fans and film buffs, the original working title for Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones was Jar-Jar’s Big Adventure. However, this was simply a joke by director George Lucas, who was making a not-so subtle dig at the negative detractors of poor Jar Jar.
9. Box Office Success
Despite the largely negative fan reaction to Jar Jar Binks’ extended screen time, The Phantom Menace was the biggest box office hit in 1999. The movie made over $400 million at the domestic box office, and counting subsequent re-releases over the years, it has accumulated over $1 billion worldwide.
10. Worst Character…Ever?
Jar Jar Binks is widely considered to be one of the worst Star Wars characters of all time. But the authors of an ABCnews.com article took it even further and named Jar Jar Binks as the worst character from any film or television series. Ouch!
11. A Sans-Jar Jar Star Wars
Fan reaction to The Phantom Menace was mixed to say the least. Film editor Mike J. Nichols decided to take matters into his own hands, and distributed a highly edited version of the movie called The Phantom Edit. Nichols sought to rectify some of the glaring missteps of the original and make an overall better film. One of the most prominent changes was the re-editing of nearly all the scenes involving Jar Jar.
12. Silent Film Inspiration
One of Jar Jar’s most prominent characteristics is his clumsiness. Actor Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar, took some inspiration from silent film star Buster Keaton, who was renowned for his very physical brand of comedy.
13. While the Force Awakens, Jar Jar Remains Dormant
Ahead of the release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the first new live action feature length film of the series in years—many fans were speculating if Jar Jar Binks would be showing up to the party. J.J. Abrams even hinted that there might be a reference to the not-so lovable character—specifically, the film would allude to Jar Jar's end. Alas, The Force Awakens was devoid of the Gungan from Naboo.
14. Video Game Appearances
Jar Jar Binks has made many appearances in the various Star Wars video games that have been released over the years. He has a prominent role in the video game released in conjunction with the release of The Phantom Menace, has been featured in the popular LEGO Star Wars series, and in a Star Wars-themed edition of Angry Birds.
15. Frozen in Carbonite
Perhaps the most interesting Jar Jar Binks video game appearance is the one in the 2008 game The Force Unleashed, where Jar Jar appears to be encased in carbonite, the same fate that briefly befell Han Solo in the original trilogy of films. A real-life statue of Jar Jar Binks frozen in carbonite is on display in the LucasFilm offices.
16. Deadpool Is Apparently Not a Fan of the Prequel Trilogy
Jar Jar Binks is referenced in a 2009 issue of the Deadpool comic book and, as is often the case, the reference was not positive. Deadpool takes exception to one character’s admiration for the prequel trilogy films and shoots him in the head as a result. He subsequently forces another character to say “Jar Jar Binks is an abomination!”
17. Simpsons Did It!
Chances are if you’ve been a pop culture phenomenon in the last 30 years or so, you have been lampooned on The Simpsons. It’s no different for Jar Jar Binks and The Phantom Menace, which were both parodied in a 2004 episode of the long-running series. In the episode, Bart and Lisa express dissatisfaction with the latest Cosmic Wars release, and were particularly annoyed by the presence of a character named Jim-Jam Bonks, who bears a striking resemblance to Jar Jar Binks.
18. Stop Motion Jar Jar
Jar Jar was also featured in the special Star Wars tribute episodes of the stop motion series Robot Chicken. In all his appearances on the show, Jar Jar Binks is voiced by Ahmed Best, who also voiced the character in the films.
19. Jar Jar’s First Parody
One of the first parodies of Jar Jar Binks in a television series came in a 1999 episode of the animated series South Park, which aired only a month after The Phantom Menace hit theatres. In the episode, a species of rather clumsy creatures called Jakovasaurs wreak annoying havoc on the townspeople of South Park, Colorado. One of them is even called Joon-Joon. This wasn’t the first time creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone attempted to parody Jar Jar Binks. They had tried a few weeks earlier to make a sketch poking fun at the Star Wars character at the MTV Movie Awards, but MTV refused to air the piece.
20. Re-Animated in Animation
Jar Jar Binks has a rather sizeable role in the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In the show, he is once again voiced by Ahmed Best.
21. The Fate of Jar Jar
The 2017 novel Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig reveals the fate of Jar Jar Binks. The novel states that Jar Jar has become a lowly street performer. Although he is found amusing by children, adults are easily annoyed by his presence and blame him for the ascendancy of the Empire. Chris Taylor wrote that this turn for Jar Jar Binks is a nod to the real-life reception of the character following the release of The Phantom Menace.
22. Prejudiced Stereotypes
Although a lot of the criticism directed at Jar Jar is fuelled by his clumsiness and overall unfunny qualities, many people were put off by him because he seems to share qualities of minstrel shows that perpetuated negative stereotypes of African Americans. His accent and dreadlock-inspired hair seem to also suggest black Caribbean stereotypes. Both George Lucas and Ahmed Best, the creator and voice of Jar Jar Binks respectively, have refuted all allegations of cultural stereotypes associated with the character.
23. Love from Queen Amidala
Jar Jar finally received some much needed love in the form of a shout out in a 2018 Saturday Night Live sketch written by comedy musical group The Lonely Island. In “Natalie’s Rap 2.0”—a sequel to 2006’s “Natalie’s Rap”— actress Natalie Portman, resumes her character Queen Padme Amidala from the prequels. She staunchly defends the Star Wars prequel trilogy films, intimidating a person with a firearm and insisting, “Speak positively about Jar Jar Binks".
24. Return of the Jar Jar?
With the Star Wars film universe ever expanding, it raises the question if Jar Jar Binks will ever grace the big screen once again. Director Rian Johnson, who recently helmed Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and will be directing a brand new trilogy of Star Wars films, has expressed interest in reviving many old characters, including Jar Jar Binks.