It all started with Harrison Ford. After the original Star Wars trilogy, the actor became a household name with a fame that continues to this day. Then it was Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman’s turn. Now it’s Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. Several famous faces have reached international stardom through this franchise. However, there are some exceptions. The biggest one is Jake Lloyd.
The young Anakin Skywalker, the boy who would become the most feared man in the galaxy, was one of the characters audiences never cared for. That disregard proved to be the actor’s downfall. Jake Lloyd was an emerging Hollywood child star who achieved the dream when he was cast for one of the most crucial roles in the saga. But that chance proved to be a nightmare from the moment The Phantom Menace premiered in 1999.
Before Episode One, Lloyd had been in films like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Christmas comedy, Jingle All the Way. The young actor could have followed the footsteps of other child stars, such as Ryan Gosling or Natalie Portman, but Star Wars made it impossible. Well, actually, it was the fans that ultimately destroyed him.
We all know the story of the unfortunate prequel created by George Lucas. What started as an attempt at rebooting a massive franchise, only half achieved its purpose. With plenty of plot holes (what happened to the Midi-chlorians?), a slow boring development, and the appearance of characters such as Jar Jar Binks (the only character that was more disliked than Anakin), plenty of movie-goers placed their anger on a ten-year-old boy.
The filming was tough, but after the premiere, the media response began to take a toll on Lloyd. In statements made years later, the actor claimed to have had up to 60 interviews per day, in addition to the critical response. Child performers are exposed to plenty of things when making commercial films, but because it was such a sacred thing as Star Wars, the critics had no mercy or restraint.
The complaints were not exactly directed at him, but there was plenty of emphasis on the lack of charisma from all the cast. Between the overload of press junkets and bullying he got at school, Jake Lloyd decided to walk away from the film industry. He no longer wanted any cameras pointed at him, so he chose to become anonymous. But the damage was already done.
According to an article from The Guardian, excessive mocking and bullying can lead to schizophrenia at a young age. Perhaps that’s what happened to the rising star, since in recent years his life has turned into a living hell.
In 2015 he was arrested following a police persecution that became a car chase where the former actor reached a speed of over 100 mph. After spending a few months in prison, he was then transferred to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. Before that, when he was under no medication, he had threatened his mother, blaming her for what had happened to him when she encouraged him to take up acting as a child. Today Lloyd is still undergoing medical assistance and is not expected to return to acting any time soon.
Star Wars may help some people reach stardom, but even they should be aware that fame has a way of meddling in their personal lives, whether in a positive or negative way. Jake Lloyd suffered the fate of plenty of child actors. Instead of turning into a reckless teenager who threw his career down the drain, he was denied a chance to prove his talent.
Despite Lloyd's case, there are plenty of stories of those who instead of trying to fit into the Hollywood mold actually chose their own paths and have achieved their own form of success because of it. One of them is the filmmaker who brought us the film, Kids. Charlie Kaufman is another name of someone who chose an alternative route.