It seems hard to believe now given that fans haven’t softened their stance on how they feel about the movie over the last two decades, but Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was arguably the most anticipated blockbuster in history when it first hit theaters in the summer of 1999, which is completely understandable when it marked the comeback of the most popular and beloved franchise on the planet.
Despite smashing countless box office records, though, the long-awaited return to a galaxy far, far away left a lot of people feeling bitterly disappointed as the sense of wonder and imagination that defined the Original Trilogy had been discarded in favor of tedious subplots, awful dialogue, wooden acting, long-winded discussions about Senate machinations and, of course, Jar Jar Binks.
Actor Ahmed Best must have thought he’d secured the role of a lifetime by playing a major part in a new Star Wars movie that doubled as a technological milestone, with Jar Jar the first fully computer generated character in a live-action film. Unfortunately, however, it had the exact opposite effect on his career, as the Gungan became one of the most hated figures in popular culture, which had a massive impact on him personally as well.
In a new interview, Liam Neeson defended The Phantom Menace and revealed that he’d even told his agent that Best had the potential to be the next Eddie Murphy, admitting he had a great time working with the young actor on set.
“Ahmed Best truly is one of the funniest guys. He had all of us in stitches of laughter, including George Lucas. He came into a lot of criticism, I mean to the point where 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 have ever worked with.”
Eddie Murphy’s big screen debut in 48 Hrs. saw him win a Golden Globe and launch straight towards the top of the Hollywood A-list, but Ahmed Best’s intended breakout role in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace would only result in an unwanted level of infamy and a reputation as one of the worst Star Wars characters ever created.