When #RonHoward was chosen to replace 21 Jump Street masterminds Phil Lord and Chris Miller as director of the untitled Han Solo spin-off movie, not many fans were aware of the director's history with Star Wars. In fact, the celebrated director of award-winning movies such as Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind made his mark on the franchise years ago, despite turning down the opportunity to helm The Phantom Menace in the late '90s.
Although he had no part in the prequel trilogy's creative process, Howard defended one of the most controversial aspects of the first Star Wars prequel movie - the performance from a young Jake Lloyd, who played a Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Ron Howard Steps Up To Defend The Chosen One
When audiences first saw The Phantom Menace, a torrent of excessive hate poured out because of how bad people found Lloyd's acting to be. Newsweek even compiled some of the harshest words thrown at Lloyd and the first Star Wars prequel, which (according to the website) were actual quotes from unnamed industry insiders.
Insiders call 9-year-old Jake Lloyd (who plays Anakin Skywalker) "Mannequin Skywalker". Word is he stinks. Counterbuzz: But he's so cute!
In response, Ron Howard wrote an open letter to Newsweek, chastising the outlet for publishing an insulting low-blow at a nine-year-old kid.
Howard entered the world of filmmaking by starring in The Andy Griffith Show at the age of six, giving him authority on the subject of children's acting. Howard also got to see the final cut of The Phantom Menace before it hit theaters, giving his counter-arguments against Newsweek more weight.
Howard's open letter was only recently discovered, but it has since made the rounds online and earned the director more respect in the eyes of fans and observers.
Howard is not the only high-profile personality to defend Lloyd. Earlier this year, Mark Hamill a.k.a Luke Skywalker himself lashed out at those who threw needless hate at the child actor. Even if he may not have liked the prequels that much, Hamill still found the vitriol inspired by The Phantom Menace unreasonable and just plain rude.
"I’m still angry about the way they treated Jake Lloyd. He was only ten years old, that boy, and he did exactly what George wanted him to do. Believe me, I understand clunky dialog."
Life For Jake After Star Wars
Lloyd's subsequent trauma from the relentless bullying that made his childhood a "living hell" scarred him for life. This even got to a point where he developed schizophrenia, a mental disease that is common among victims of childhood bullying. As recently as last year, Lloyd was unfortunately arrested for leading police on a high-speed chase before being transferred to a psychiatric institution to deal with his schizophrenia.
Just like any other movie, The Phantom Menace has its merits and its flaws. The overall quality can be put up for debate, but the prequel trilogy continues to inspire online communities in a way that most modern films never will.
The Phantom Menace is often considered the worst of the Star Wars movies, but Jake Lloyd deserved a lot better from those who seem to value a galaxy far, far away over common, human courtesy. Regardless of what fans thought of the film, the spiteful reactions towards Lloyd could never be justified. In light of such negativity, it's good to know that people like Howard and Hamill stood up for the young actor.
What do you think of Ron Howard's open letter? Share your thoughts in the comments below.