Lives Destroyed By Star Wars

The Star Wars franchise is unlike anything else in pop culture history. It's unfathomably big in terms of not just box office draw but cultural influence. What other movies could make people stand in line for days to await tickets? What other movies could pull in well over $9 billion in worldwide ticket sales while still going strong? And that doesn't even take into account the assorted merchandising and related materials which, by 2014, had produced more than $37 billion, according to Wired.

While you can't deny just how massive Star Wars has been, it's not all sunshine and Ewoks. The toll the franchise has taken in the real world has actually been pretty heavy for a handful of those involved. The legions of fans can be extremely passionate and some take things too far. Actors have been pushed to the brink by fan reactions and by the industry, often typecast and judged by their Star Wars performances. Sometimes this lasts the rest of their lives. While the series launched the careers of many and made people like Harrison Ford a household name, it also seems to be a curse for others whose lives have been tossed into a veritable Sarlacc pit.

Jake Lloyd says his life was a living hell

When Jake Lloyd was cast to play Anakin Skywalker, he was only 8 years old — 8 years old and set to play the younger version of a character who had become arguably one of the greatest, most popular villains in film history. Of course he couldn't have known what kind of shoes he had to fill at the time.

It's easy to forget the hype that surrounded the prequel trilogy. There was a 16-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, so the second trilogy was highly anticipated. When it failed to impress, it failed hard. And poor Jake Lloyd took a critical beating. Four months before the movie even premiered, Newsweek was labeling him "Mannequin Skywalker." Things didn't get better from there.

As the AV Club explained, Lloyd's life was hell after Star Wars. He talked about being hounded by up to 60 interviews a day and the kids at school bullying him incessantly. He grew to hate it so much he actually destroyed all his Star Wars memorabilia so he wouldn't have to be reminded of it, and retired from acting before he was even a teenager.

Ahmed Best was driven nearly to suicide

There have been literally hundreds and hundreds of characters on screen in the Star Wars films, from the central series to spinoffs like Solo and Rogue One to the weird fringe stuff like the Star Wars Christmas Special. But there is easily one character who was hated beyond all others: Jar Jar Binks. The backlash against Jar Jar was simply legendary.

While Jar Jar was a digital representation on screen, there was still an actor involved doing the voice and serving as the real-world basis for that character during filming. The actor was Ahmed Best, and the response to his role devastated him.

Best had never had a role in a major film before Star Wars, so this was a big deal for him. After the movie came out, people were literally sending him death threats and telling him on the streets that he'd ruined their childhood, according to Wired. The full scope of just how bad things got didn't come to light until July 2018, when Best tweeted that he contemplated ending his own life over the backlash. Thankfully that never happened.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Hayden Christensen retreated from acting feeling he didn't deserve the fame

As the Star Wars prequels chronicled the growth of Anakin Skywalker from fresh-faced kid into morbid emo-kid and finally into Noooooooooo-screaming cyborg in a cool costume, the acting role passed from little Jake Lloyd to Hayden Christensen. Christensen had been building up a reputation as an actor before the film. Consider him like an earlier version of John Boyega — an up-and-coming young actor with a few hits under his belt who got catapulted to a galaxy far, far away. Except it didn't seem to go well once he got there.

Christensen was raked over the coals for his performances in Episodes II and III. His emotionless line delivery and perplexing character growth hit a sour note in movies that were already full of sour notes in many people's eyes. Christensen himself felt his career was on the wrong path after the movies and actually quit Hollywood because of it.

As Cinema Blend noted, Christensen felt like his meteoric rise to the spotlight wasn't earned. He retreated from Hollywood because he didn't like that he was suddenly so big. He understood doing so would hurt his career and was okay with that, too, saying, "If I can come back afterward and claw my way back in, then maybe I'll feel like I earned it."

David Prowse says George Lucas left him penniless

Darth Vader is probably the most recognizable character in the Star Wars franchise and, even though he's a villain, he's just insanely popular. A character that cool needed to have an amazing actor bringing him to life. Or maybe no single actor could, which is why several actors had to do the job. Whenever you saw Vader's imposing form in the original trilogy, you saw David Prowse. But David Prowse played only the body, while James Earl Jones provided the voice and Sebastian Shaw was the face once he was unmasked. According to Prowse, he didn't know that's how things were going to go down.

Prowse has long maintained that George Lucas promised him actual screen time in the movies, that his face would be the face of Darth Vader. But that never happened, and then Prowse made the gaffe of his career by revealing the spoiler to end all spoilers — Vader was Luke's father. Lucas and Prowse had a falling-out over that, and Prowse says it got him blacklisted. He told Express in 2015 he was basically penniless, having been shut out of any profit from Return of the Jedi and banned from conventions. Though he could still do unofficial conventions, nothing with the Lucas name attached to it would have him, and he was forced to sell autographs to make ends meet.

Kelly Marie Tran was harassed off social media

Not a lot of people recognized Kelly Marie Tran when she was cast in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She'd had a decent amount of work in the years before, but nothing nearly so high profile as the role of maintenance worker Rose Tico. Unfortunately, what should have been a great cause for celebration for Tran became something of a nightmare in terms of the reaction from a certain section of Star Wars fandom.

With the release of the third Star Wars trilogy came a vocal group of critics who decided the series was being ruined by Disney and the new writers and directors. Many of the criticisms claim that "social justice warriors" were influencing the movies and including characters, like Rose Tico, simply to force diversity. While most people understand this line of thought to be little more than veiled racism and online bullying, it didn't stop the campaign of harassment against Tran.

As the BBC details, people overwhelmed Tran's Instagram with hateful comments ranging from misogynistic to racist and beyond. People insulted her appearance, her weight, her ethnicity, and more. While others were quick to jump to her defense, Tran deleted her social media altogether. Tran will return in Episode IX.

The Star Wars kid

Who among us didn't, at one point or another in our youth, go full geek and pretend to be a character from one of our favorite movies? It's what kids do — they play pretend and have fun, and it's usually normal and cool and no big deal. But then if you put it on the internet, and maybe you're not just a little tyke but a teenager, and you do it at a time when the very concept of viral videos is barely a thing, well, that could be bad. That's the story of Ghyslain Raza, the Star Wars Kid.

Raza was just goofing off in his garage pretending to play with a lightsaber. He never intended the video to be seen, and especially not to be seen literally a billion times, according to The Telegraph. The onslaught he faced, becoming one of the internet's first unintentional viral stars, was brutal. After his name was revealed on a TV show, the bullying escalated into a frenzy. Raza said strangers would tell him to kill himself. Students at school would literally climb on tables to get a better platform from which to insult him. Arrested Development even parodied him. Imagine all that at 15.

Raza was forced to leave school and spent years trying to avoid the spotlight as a result. Fortunately, he went on to better things and now works as a lawyer and speaks out against cyberbullying.

Carrie Fisher's life took a dark turn thanks to Star Wars

Of the three main stars from the original Star Wars trilogy, only Harrison Ford really seemed to make an easy and successful transition into mainstream Hollywood. Mark Hamill spent a number of years out of the spotlight or doing voice work, and Carrie Fisher spent years wrestling with personal issues off screen, including alcoholism. Though she remained a great and beloved talent through all her years and reprised her role in later Star Wars movies, she never shied away from detailing some of the less than glamorous parts of that universe.

In a scathing, joke-filled tribute to George Lucas for the American Film Institute which presented Lucas with a lifetime achievement award, Fisher accused Lucas of ruining her life and driving her to drink. She also lays claims of him humiliating her with such acts as saying she couldn't wear underwear in the original trilogy because there was no underwear in space. While this is played for laughs, it clearly made her uncomfortable.

Less amusing are tales she told in her book The Princess Diarist, about how the Star Wars crew introduced her to drinking at age 19. Before the crew members could take advantage of her, Harrison Ford rescued her ... only to then take advantage of her himself. It's hard to read, and a sad story of a woman desperate to be accepted and respected who was treated very poorly.

Natalie Portman said no director wanted her after Star Wars

One of the biggest names to be attached to Star Wars after the first trilogy was Natalie Portman. She's a huge star these days, but it's easy to overlook what the Star Wars prequels almost did to her career. She was cast at a time when she'd had a handful of solid roles as a very young actor. Star Wars was essentially her big break as an adult. It seemed like a good, logical step in her career after roles in things like The Professional and Everyone Says I Love You.

Portman shared a story with New York Magazine about how, after Star Wars came out, no director wanted to work with her. She'd been in the highest-grossing movie of the decade, but everyone thought she was a terrible actress.

Luckily for Portman, she had a friend in director Mike Nichols. Nichols, director of The Graduate, had also directed Portman on stage in Seagull. He wrote a letter on her behalf to the director of Cold Mountain, effectively pulling her future out of the dumpster fire that swallowed so many others and giving her a second chance. Fortunately for audiences, Nichols made a great call and Portman has gone on to have an impressive career, but she was that close.

George Lucas dumped his franchise because he said it just wasn't fun

George Lucas famously sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney for $4 billion in 2012, and he made a lot more than that in the decades before. So how could anyone ever say Star Wars ruined Lucas' life? Well, it depends on how you want to define "ruined." Sure, he's got enough money to field a small space army, but is that everything in life?

George Lucas was an up-and-coming director in the late 1970s. His films THX 1138 and American Graffiti put him on the map. He directed Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977, and it exploded, but he didn't direct The Empire Strikes Back because he had been diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion. The stress took a toll on his health, so he moved behind the scenes.

Lucas focused so heavily on producing and marketing Star Wars that he didn't direct another movie until 1999's The Phantom Menace, 22 years later. Star Wars became an empire. He was the boss of everything and put himself in charge again, but he'd lost the magic. The trilogy was savaged, and Lucas would go on to tell Vanity Fair, "you go to make a movie and all you do is get criticized." The passion had been beaten out of him, and it was no longer fun to make Star Wars. How sad is that? At least he has his money to comfort him.