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Ron Howard Once Defended THE PHANTOM MENACE’s Jake Lloyd

Turns out Ron Howard‘s relationship with Star Wars far predates his current involvement with Lucasfilm. Because long before he was tasked with taking over as director on the young Han Solo movie, he volunteered to defend young Jake Lloyd‘s performance in The Phantom Menace.


Seth Stevenson at Slate shared the story about how he came to hear from a worked up (and mostly correct) Howard after Stevenson published an article about the buzz surrounding the release of Episode I. In his very first piece for Newsweek back in January of 1999, he wrote about concerns fans had after seeing the first trailer and some of the negative reports surrounding the movie. That included rumors from the set that Jake Lloyd wasn’t everything people hoped for. Here’s what the brief section from his article said about Lloyd:

THE KID CAN’T ACT: Insiders call nine-year-old Jake Lloyd (who plays Anakin Skywalker) “Mannequin Skywalker—word is he stinks. Counterbuzz: But he’s so cute!”


Ouch. In fairness to Stevenson, he wasn’t giving his opinion, he was reporting what others were saying. The release of The Phantom Menace was a huge deal, making it prime for reporting, even if those reports were just rumors from the set. But it still seems a little harsh to say about a kid, something that Ron Howard was particularly sensitive to since he had been a child actor himself, most notably on The Andy Griffith Show. That’s why Opie opined on what he thought was beyond the pale criticism, in a letter he sent to Stevenson’s editor.

Tough to argue with most of what he said.

Lloyd was only a child, and any faults in his performance were the responsibility of the people who cast him, and of George Lucas for not doing a good enough job of directing him (or giving him good enough dialogue). Even if early reports about him were negative, there was probably a better way to report on those rumors without blaring “he stinks” in the piece.

But, uh, did Ron Howard really think Lloyd was “terrific” in the “truly amazing” Phantom Menace? Or was he just being a good friend to George Lucas, who had directed Howard in 1973’s American Graffiti?

Because most fans think Lloyd was “terrible” in the “truly awful” movie.


Only Howard knows the truth about what he thinks of the film, but at least most of his letter was still correct.

What do you think? Was that article too harsh on Jake Lloyd, or was it fair game? Write a letter (or brief comment) with your thoughts in the comments below.

Images: Lucasfilm

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