Ron Howard came to the defense of Jake Lloyd after the Phantom Menace backlash

Howard was well into his directing career at that point, but he still remembered being under the microscope as a child star.

CBS Television Distribution

Being a child star is a real double-edged sword. Sure, you can make the big bucks at a young age, become a nationally recognized name, and even use that acting career as a springboard to another job, as Ron Howard did. However, childhood can already be pretty tough without having the entire world watching and commenting on you, especially when those comments aren't always kind.

Jake Lloyd, the kid who played young Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, got an especially nasty moment in the spotlight. The anticipation for a new Star Wars movie after the mega-success of the original trilogy was off the charts, and the fan reaction to the newest installment was... mixed. Jake Lloyd, who was nine years old when he portrayed Anakin Skywalker, was a popular target for fans who didn't like the film. The responses got downright cruel sometimes.

In recent years, the movie has been critically revisited and is gaining more and more defenders. One person who was ahead of the curve was Ron Howard, who wrote a letter to Newsweek following what he felt was an unfair dig at Lloyd.

Howard, who by that time had mainly shifted his career focus to directing, already had Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13, and Willow under his belt when he wrote the letter in 1999. Yet he clearly still remembered what it was like as a child in the national eye.

In the letter, Howard already called the piece about The Phantom Menace "generally snide and insipid", but his biggest issue was that "the pot shot at nine year old Jake Lloyd was down right irresponsible."

Specifically, he had problems with the article tearing down Lloyd when the writer hadn't even seen the film. "The piece cites, unnamed 'insiders' who are critical of this nine year olds [sic] performance. I have no way of knowing how accomplished or professional he may have appeared during the principal filming, but I seriously doubt these 'insiders' are inside enough to have seen an edited version of the new Star Wars, because I have and in my opinion, Jake Lloyd is terrific in the film."

"Movies are subject to public scrutiny, yes," Howard continued, "but for Newsweek to attack a child's performance based on rumor and without even having seen the movie is shameful."

Howard finished by reminding the publication that he was speaking from experience. "As someone who was acting professionally from an early age, I can assure you that nine year old Jake is quite capable of reading, understanding and feeling the full humiliation of a piece like that."

Howard himself would later direct the 2018 film Solo: A Star Wars Story, and his daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, has directed episodes of the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Star Wars: Skeleton Crew.

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16 Comments

MichaelVegas 2 months ago
He is right. I see things ALL THE TIME, written by people who never seen a thing, never had a person in their life with the disease, or never been poor among other things. Yet they feel the need to tell THOSE people how to act, feel and more. I think that people should only be allowed to write, comment, speak about things that happened to them that are what they want to talk about
DZee 2 months ago
"Howard, who by that time had mainly shifted his career focus to directing, already had Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13, and Willow UNDER HIS BEST when he wrote the letter in 1999."

Whatever happened to proofreading before publishing?
cinamac 2 months ago
I thought Jake Lloyd gave an impressive performance in “Unhook the Stars”, with Marisa Tomei and Gena Rolands!
Avie 2 months ago
Specifically, [Howard] had problems with the article tearing down Lloyd when the writer hadn't even seen the film."

The ultimate blame for a performance that an observer may find substandard -- with any actor, especially a child performer -- lies with the director. It's the director who cast him or her (or, in the case of minor supporting players, signed off on their casting) and WHOSE JOB IT IS to elicit a good or, at least, serviceable performance from him or her.

Criticizing George Lucas for failing to to cast properly or guide his actors to the standards of performance the observer might think was lacking is warrnted, even if Lucas and others might disagree; there is no creative endeavor ever undertaken that is, or should be, immune to second-gussing the creative choices made by the artists.
heygrandpa Avie 2 months ago
Sorry, I picked the unlike button by accident.
fyi. There is not an unlike button, 'unlike" , just removes the "like" you pressed.
MeTV does not allow negative voting only negative comments, then it is subject to removal.
tootsieg oneofthesedays1 2 months ago
Thanks for the info. For years I never “liked” any comments because I did not want to “unlike” a comment.
MichaelPowers 2 months ago
Ron Howard shows an intelligence and fairness that Newsweek clearly doesn't.
Runeshaper 2 months ago
Props to Ron Howard for stepping up to defend Jake Lloyd.
McGillahooala 2 months ago
Ron was able to both defend Jake and get his own mug more attention. Win win.
KawiVulc 2 months ago
Only seen the first 3 & only the 3rd in a theater... really PO'd the geeks when Vader's helmet came off... "It's Uncle Fester!!!" Nope, not received well.
cperrynaples 2 months ago
At least Jake wasn't as hated as Jar Jar Binks...LOL! I think the issues came when he did interviews clearly unaware that his character grew up to be Darth Vader! Maybe he should have watched the original trilogy!
AH76 cperrynaples 2 months ago
Or maybe Jake Lloyd should have been told the backstory of Darth Vader or at least the basic stuff of Anakin becoming Darth Vader.That way he could have been prepared when he did interviews or whatever.
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