See The Letter Ron Howard Sent To A Journalist Defending Phantom Menace Actor Jake Lloyd

Jake Lloyd in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

It’s been nearly 25 years since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out. The movie has gone through multiple reevaluations over the years, but at various times, different parts of the film have been severely criticized by fans. Even major publications took shots at the movie back before its release, which once caused former child star and director Ron Howard to write a letter to Newsweek to slam them for going after child actor Jake Lloyd.

Lloyd, who played the young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, is back in the news after his mother spoke out about her son’s mental health struggles and the impact being Star Wars had, and did not have, on his mental health. Likely as a result of that, a Star Wars fan Twitter account @sw_tweets republished a letter that Ron Howard, who had once been asked to direct The Phantom Menace, wrote after Newsweek went after the kid…

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The letter is dated January 19, 1999, and Howard even mentions during the letter that the Newsweek story, which seemingly bashed Jake Lloyd for alleged bad acting, was basing what it was saying on rumors and anonymous sources. After all, nobody had seen the movie at this point. Howard strongly disagrees with the sentiment regarding Lloyd’s ability, but is mostly upset that Newsweek would say such terrible things about a kid before they had even seen the movie. Mark Hamill has also come to Lloyd's defense in the past.

Of course, Newsweek would be far from the only place where Jake Lloyd would be criticized. After The Phantom Menace was released, a lot of people were less than complementary about the child actor. He would not act again following the Star Wars movie, though his mother recently discounted any suggestion that the Star Wars backlash had anything to do with that.

Beyond that, Lloyd’s mental health, as he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, is also unrelated to Star Wars. His mother says the cause was likely genetic and would have happened regardless. Lloyd is reportedly 10 months into an 18-month stay at a mental health rehab facility following an incident last year. He is doing well, according to his mother.

While the negative response to the Phantom Menace may not have impacted Jake Lloyd’s mental health, we know that’s not always the case. Ahmed Best has spoken openly about how the hate focused on Jar Jar Binks took a toll on him mentally. Best has since admitted to suicidal thoughts at one point as a result of the constant negativity. 

While the hypercritical response to the actor's performance might not have had a significant influence on his choice of career or his mental health, it’s difficult not to agree with Ron Howard’s ultimate point, that bashing a child actor, whether or not you’ve seen the movie, is simply unnecessary. It doesn’t accomplish anything good. 

The Phantom Menace is largely seen as a bad movie, and that's fine. Some fans have even suggested a way of watching the Star Wars movies that eliminates The Phantom Menace. It's ok that it's a bad movie, but it can be bad without attacking children.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.