The Star Wars prequels have gained a sort of infamy amongst fans of the franchise, and some fans even suggest they “destroyed” the series. Which is what 20th Century Fox executives feared would happen — though not for the reasons you may think. In Taschen’s upcoming book The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005, it’s revealed that Fox thought George Lucas would “destroy” the franchise if he made 10-year-old Anakin Skywalker the star of the prequel films.
There are a number of reasons that Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace has become a sort of black sheep of the franchise: a sluggish storyline involving tax disputes and trade federations, clunky world-building mythology like the midichlorians, and of course, Jar Jar Binks. And then there’s young Anakin Skywalker, played by Jake Lloyd. And it was the idea of a 10-year-old protagonist that really made Fox executives shake in their boots, warning Lucas that casting a young preteen Anakin would doom the franchise, as revealed in The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005 (via Polygon):
“When Lucas initially told 20th Century Fox that he was making the story of how Anakin became Darth Vader, they were as excited as anybody else. Then he told them that, in the first film, Anakin would be 10 years old. ‘You’re going to destroy the franchise; you’re going to destroy everything!’ Lucas explains that he told people at Lucasfilm he was ‘making a movie that nobody wants to see,’ but would rather do that than telling the same story over and over. And to be fair to George, it still made a billion dollars.”
Ironically, it would be Hayden Christensen’s performance as the teenage and young adult versions of Anakin that would really help tank the reputations of the other two prequel films, which is notable since 20th Century Fox probably would’ve liked to start the Star Wars prequel with a sexy young Anakin in the first place.
The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005 will be available to own in the U.S. starting December 13, 2020, but the book has already been released in the United Kingdom. Other fun tidbits from Lucas that have been revealed from the book are his original plans for the Star Wars sequel trilogy, which include making Leia the “chosen one” and resurrecting Darth Maul. You can pre-order the book at the Taschen homepage.
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