MOVIES

The Tragic Story Of Star Wars’ Young Anakin Skywalker

It’s no secret that “The Phantom Menace” was eviscerated by both critics and a vocal contingent of “Star Wars” fans when it came out in 1999. For years, parts of the film, like Jar Jar Binks or the dense dialogue about galactic politics, drew ridicule, and actors like Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best were especially targeted. After Lloyd mentioned in interviews that he was bullied in school for his part in the movie, many drew a connection between this “Star Wars”-induced harassment and his later mental health struggles. However, his mother now claims that there really is no reason to relate the two.

Riley told Scripps News that there is a history of schizophrenia on Lloyd’s father’s side. “I believe that it was genetic,” she said. “And his psychiatrist also agrees that Jake was going to become schizophrenic.” She also explained that while there was vitriol in the press and online, Jake wasn’t exposed to much of it. “I protected him from the backlash,” she said. “He was just riding his bike outside, playing with his friends. He didn’t know. He didn’t care.”

These days, Riley says that her son remains a big fan of the franchise and has kept up with the recent “Star Wars” streaming series on Disney+. A return to the franchise in the future still seems unlikely at this point, she said, but she hopes that one day Lloyd might be able to “do a little bit of something” if he chose to. “I’m sure he would maybe like to do that,” Riley said.

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