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While 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace brought the Star Wars franchise back to the big screen after over a decade away and was a box office success, it still ranks as one of the most polarizing movies in the saga set in a galaxy far, far away. Among The Phantom Menace’s most critiqued elements was goofball Gungan Jar Jar Binks, who was played by Ahmed Best.
In the years following The Phantom Menace’s release, Ahmed Best struggled with the hate that was thrown his way, to the point that he once considered ending his life. Costar Liam Neeson, who played Qui-Gon Jinn, recently came to Best’s defense by fondly recalling his time with the actor on the set of the Star Wars prequel. In Neeson’s words:
It really hurt his career. And I have to say when I was making that film… he was probably one of the funniest guys and talented guys I had ever worked with. I remember calling my old ex-agent at ICM and said, 'I think I just worked with the new Eddie Murphy.' I still believe that. Truly, he had all of his in stitches — including George Lucas. But I liked the movie.
Liam Neeson brought up Ahmed Best while discussing Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace during his recent appearance on Radio Andy, with the actor saying how he was consistently impressed by him during the making of the first Star Wars prequel. Neeson also noted that he heard that Best was met with a standing ovation during an appearance at a Star Wars Celebration within the last couple years.
It’s unfortunate that Ahmed Best received so much hostility because of his Jar Jar Binks performance in the immediate years after The Phantom Menace’s release, but in recent years, it appears it’s been quite the opposite. Along with the ovation Liam Neeson, a lot of people came to Best’s support when he shared his struggle with suicide. That’s not to say there aren’t still Jar Jar Binks haters out there, but that doesn’t mean Best ever needed to take the brunt of their dissatisfaction.
As far as his overall feelings on Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace go, Liam Neeson said despite “a lot of fans and critics” not liking the movie, he’s “proud” of it. While The Phantom Menace saw Qui-Gon Jinn being fatally stabbed by Darth Maul, Neeson went on to vocally cameo as the character in Attack of the Clones and The Rise of Skywalker, as well as prominently voice him in three episodes of The Clone Wars.
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