Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was one of the most anticipated movies ever made. The film featured performances by major actors like Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson. At one point, the film was going to feature performances by two of the most famous musicians of all time: Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur. Here are the reasons why they didn’t appear in the film.
Michael Jackson could have played Jar Jar Binks
Many Star Wars fans hate Jar Jar Binks and feel that he is incredibly annoying. The character might have been completely different if he was played by the King of Pop himself. Rolling Stone reported Jackson wanted to play the role. Jackson had experience in the science fiction genre, having starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s film Captain EO, which was produced by Star Wars‘ creator, George Lucas. He also played a sidekick with a role similar to Jar Jar in The Wiz, a musical based on The Wizard of Oz.
Jackson wasn’t cast in the film because of his artistic disagreements with Lucas. Jackson wanted to bring Jar Jar to life through makeup and prosthetics, similar to the way he played a zombie in the music video for “Thriller.” Lucas, on the other hand, wanted to bring Jar Jar to life via CGI. Lucas also worried Jackson’s celebrity would overshadow the rest of the movie, an understandable concern given Jackson was one of the most famous people alive in the 1990s.
Jar Jar was ultimately played by an unknown actor named Ahmed Best through motion-capture technology. Variety reported Best is still shocked Lucas chose him to play the character over the King of Pop. Best played Jar Jar again in two more Star Wars films as well as the television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Robot Chicken.
Tupac Shakur could have played Mace Windu
Tupac Shakur was another famous musician who tried to earn a part in the film. Specifically, Shakur read for the role of Jedi Master Mace Windu. The part would ultimately go to Samuel L. Jackson, who starred alongside Shakur in the drama Juice.
Shakur’s casting would have proven problematic for the filmmakers. Shooting for The Phantom Menace began in 1997, the year after Shakur’s untimely death. If Shakur was cast as Windu, his death would have necessitated a quick re-casting of the role. Fans can only speculate what the Star Wars prequels would have been like with Shakur as Windu. It would have been interesting to see how Shakur’s role in a family-friendly adventure franchise would have affected his image as a musician.
The Phantom Menace is generally regarded by fans as one of the weaker films in the Star Wars saga. The world will never know if Jackson or Shakur could have made it any better. At the very least, their proposed castings in the film are two of the most interesting behind-the-scenes stories in all of Star Wars.