LOS ANGELES - Ready to feel old? This month marks 20 years since “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” was first released in theaters.
During a recent celebration in Chicago, creator and director George Lucas expressed how much he loved Episode 1.
The event was held last month and while Lucas couldn’t be there in person, he left fans a video message that was aired during a cast and crew reunion panel.
“(The Phantom Menace is) one of my favorite movies, and of course, Jar Jar is my favorite character,” he said. “(Ahmed) Best, you did a fantastic job. It was very, very hard.”
You read that right: Not only was the movie one of Lucas’ favorites, but he loves Jar Jar Binks. Remember Jar Jar? Critics and fans alike largely panned the character. The widespread criticism actually led the actor, Ahmed Best, to contemplate suicide, according to one of his tweets from July 2018.
Best, who has overcome those thoughts thanks in part to the birth of his son, was one of the actors in the panel. Others included Ray Park, who played Darth Maul; Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO; and Ian McDiarmind, who played Senator Palpatine and Darth Sidious. The panel was hosted by Warwick Davis, known for playing various roles throughout the “Star Wars” franchise.
“The fans are always such a big part of these films, and obviously, those of you who are here are the fans of Episode 1, and I love each and every one of you,” Lucas said at the end of his video.
The movie, which premiered in the U.S. on May 19, 1999, marked a significant moment in visual effects history for its use of cutting-edge technology in combination with traditional movie crafts and techniques to create the futuristic world of “Star Wars.”
It was nominated that year for an Academy Award for best visual effects and a BAFTA for best achievement in visual effects.
Episode 1 focused on the backstory of how the original “Star Wars” trilogy from the 1970s started. It featured a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Ewan McGregor, and his Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, played by Liam Neeson.
Natalie Portman starred as Queen Amidala and Jake Lloyd was Anakin Skywalker, who goes on to become Darth Vader.
“The Phantom Menace” earned more than $924 million worldwide and became the highest-grossing movie of 1999, according to IMDb.