1. Long before Disney got their mouse-fingered hands on the Star Wars franchise and began work on the new sequel movies, George Lucas was already looking to them for inspiration in the creation of one the most beloved cinematic characters of all time (a-hem), as he told the crowd at the 2015 D23 Expo,
"I can't even begin to tell you how much of an influence Disney has had on me… I will say one secret that nobody knows; not many people realize that Goofy was the inspiration for Jar Jar Binks… I know that you will look at him differently now. It's pretty obvious, actually, but, um, I love Goofy and I love Jar Jar."So do we George, so do we.
2. Jar Jar's name came courtesy of Jett Lucas, son of George Lucas.
3. Ahmed Best was the man who would end of playing everyone's favourite Gungan. He was chosen based on his work in the stage production of Stomp as Lucas wanted someone athletic for the role. After making it through the first rounds of auditions, Best was called in for a final motion-capture screentest in front of George Lucas. During this audition he performed several Martial Arts moves and flips, which was a contrast to how Lucas pictured the character, which according to Best was more in line with comedic silent actors such as Buster Keaton. Best didn't think the audition went too well...
"I didn't meet George until my final callback, and it was like a motion-capture callback. This was before motion capture was a thing. They were still writing the software, and they didn't really know how it was going to work or if it was going to work. I was kind of the guinea pig for all of that. I met George at my motion-capture audition and he put me through a whole bunch of movements and paces, and then he just walked out the room [laughs]. I actually thought I fucked it up.
It was my first motion picture test. I thought if I was going to get it I would have got it on that day. He didn't say anything, I went back on the road [with Stomp] and then I got the call."
4. Best wasn't the first person considered for the role, someone much more famous than him lobbied hard to play Naboo's favourite son, as Best revealed...
"Me, Natalie Portman and George [Lucas]'s kids – we were at Wembley arena at Michael Jackson's concert. We were taken backstage, and we met Michael. There was Michael and Lisa Marie [Presley]. 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 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."
"hee hee meesa shamone"
5. During the filming of the prequel trilogy Best appeared on set in costume to provide a reference point for the other actors as the whole motion-capture technology was entirely new to all of them. Computer wizardry would remove the actor from shot in post-production, however the real costumed Best did appear partially on-screen in a few shots, such as in the hilarious moment featuring the close-up of Jar Jar's hand getting stuck in Skywalker's podracer.
6. Many fans and critics pinned their disappointments with The Phantom Menace on Jar Jar and his comedic antics. The negative reaction and strong backlash to the character came as something of a surprise to Best, as he explained,
"It didn't happen until the New York press junkets. The first person who kind of gave me an idea of where it was going was a writer from The New York Post.... I was really surprised that everyone picked up on that afterwards. It's a very American thing to take somebody down when they're at the top and a lot if it had to with that; people really wanted to see George crash and burn. Unfortunately, this character was so new, so experimental; he became a lightning rod for all that."Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair wrote that,
"Jar Jar has come to symbolize what many fans see as the faults of the prequel trilogy: characters no one much cares about; a sense of humor geared toward the youngest conceivable audience members; an over-reliance on computer graphics; and story lines devoted to the kinds of convoluted political machinations which wouldn’t have been out of place in adaptations of I, Claudius or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but which fit less snugly in films with characters like Jar Jar Binks."Best stated the criticism,
"hurt me emotionally and it was hard to take at the time, [although] it wasn't debilitating for me. I just put my shoes on and went back to work."
7. Jar Jar would also be at the centre of racial caricature allegations that were leveled against Lucas and The Phantom Menace. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal described the character as a "Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen." Patricia J. Williams suggested that many aspects of Jar Jar's character are highly reminiscent of the archetypes portrayed in blackface minstrelsy, while others have suggested the character is a "laid-back clown character" representing a black Caribbean stereotype.
George Lucas denied any racist implications, and Ahmed Best also rejected the allegations, saying that "Jar Jar has nothing to do with the Caribbean".
8. In response to the negativity, George Lucas jokingly titled the first draft of Star Wars: Episode II "Jar Jar's Great Adventure." Best revealed...
"That was the first script that we all got when we go to Sydney. It was [George's] joke because he knew it going to leak to the press. That was George's kind of middle finger to the whole, "everybody hates Jar Jar" thing."
9. In the Naboo celebration scene inserted into the end of the 2004 version of Return of the Jedi, several Gungans are seen taking part in the celebrations. One Gungan can be heard shouting "Wesa free!" and many people believed this to be Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks Binks, but the voice actually belongs to Skywalker Sound editor Matthew Wood. Wood says he inserted the unscripted line as a joke, and Lucas liked it enough to leave in the final cut.
10. In October 2015, a Reddit user by the name of "Lumpawarroo" published a theory that Jar Jar Binks was originally written as a major antagonist of the series, and a prominent collaborator with Palpatine, until the negative reception to the character saw his part drastically cut in Episode's II and III. There's a lot to back this claim up, especially when you remember Jar Jar's limited role in Attack of the Clones. He did have a pivotal part by 'inadvertently' helping Palpatine lay the foundations of the Galactic Empire.
The post quickly became viral and received significant media coverage internationally through major news, resulting in Ahmed Best responding to the theory with this tweet...
Follow Geek Dave on TwitterI will say this, it feels really good when the hidden meaning behind the work is seen. No matter how long it takes. #TPM— Ahmed BEst (@ahmedbest) November 2, 2015