“We were taken backstage”, he said, “and we met Michael”.
For all that he was the King of Pop, Jackson’s acting career never really took off. He played the Scarecrow in The Wiz, the 1978 pop adaptation of The Wizard of Oz – starring a possibly-by-then-just-a-little-old-for-the-role Diana Ross as Dorothy, and took voice roles in some cartoons.
Jackson may not have gotten the role he wanted, but given how universally derided the character of Jar Jar Binks became, heesa probably lucky Lucas went with another actor.
That’s what George told me. There’s a spectrum of dislike for the Star Wars prequels (I can’t jump on the bandwagon as readily as many fans), but everyone can agree that George Lucas’ “key” to The Phantom Menace was an unmitigated disaster, a low-point in a saga that includes Hayden Christensen talking about sand and Bea Arthur singing while Wookie’s have untranslated grunting conversations. After the concert and Jackson left, the group went to an afterparty.
He continued: “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. When Best asked Lucas what the introduction was all about, George replied, “Well Michael wanted to do the part but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like Thriller“. As if Jar Jar isn’t distracting enough, how (ahem) jarring would it have been if all you could think of the entire time was that it’s Michael frakkin’ Jackson doing…whatever the hell it was that Jar Jar was supposed to be doing in that movie. I thought, What is going on? 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. Best assumed Michael Jackson would have been bigger than the movie, and Lucas didn’t want that to happen.