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What Happened to Jake Lloyd? The Child Star Was Bullied & Faced Mental Health Challenges after 'Star Wars'

Edduin Carvajal
Jul 20, 2022
07:10 P.M.
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"Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace" might have been a box-office success, but it is considered one of the worst films of the franchise, and it ruined Jake Lloyd's life.

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Retired actor Jake Lloyd played Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" – the first film of the prequel trilogy. Working with George Lucas on such an important project should have been a blessing, but it was a curse.

Lloyd's life was a "living hell." He faced backlash and bullying from toxic fandoms throughout his school and college years and developed mental illness as an adult. Here's what happened to Lloyd after "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace."

Jake Lloyd, who played Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," in Trafalgar Square, London, on July 14, 1999 | Source: Getty Images

Jake Lloyd, who played Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," in Trafalgar Square, London, on July 14, 1999 | Source: Getty Images

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WHO IS JAKE LLOYD?

Born in Colorado on March 5, 1989, Lloyd began working in the entertainment industry when he was only a child, taking acting gigs in TV commercials.

One of the most memorable years in Lloyd's career is probably 1996, as he appeared in four episodes of "ER," made his film debut in "Unhook the Stars," and worked next to Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Jingle All the Way."

Jake Lloyd playing Anakin Skywalker in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" | Source: YouTube/Star Wars

Jake Lloyd playing Anakin Skywalker in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" | Source: YouTube/Star Wars

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In the late 1990s, Lloyd was cast as Anakin Skywalker, beating over 3000 child actors who also auditioned for the role in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace."

Everyone expected the part to change Lloyd's life, and it certainly did, but not in the way he would have wanted, as he quit acting a few years later.

Jake Lloyd playing Anakin Skywalker in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" | Source: YouTube/Star Wars

Jake Lloyd playing Anakin Skywalker in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" | Source: YouTube/Star Wars

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WHAT HAPPENED TO JAKE LLOYD AFTER "STAR WARS"? WHY DID HE QUIT ACTING?

Although "The Phantom Menace" broke box office records and became the second-highest-grossing film (only behind "Titanic"), most fans and critics hated it. To some followers of the film franchise, the entire prequel trilogy was a disaster.

Unfortunately, Lloyd and Ahmed Best – who voiced Jar Jar Binks – received most of the backlash. Best was already in his mid-20s when the film came out in 1999, so he had more emotional tools to deal with criticism. However, Lloyd was only ten.

Lloyd's backlash impacted him so much that he even destroyed his "Star Wars" memorabilia.

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Jake Lloyd playing Anakin Skywalker in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" | Source: YouTube/Star Wars

Jake Lloyd playing Anakin Skywalker in 1999's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" | Source: YouTube/Star Wars

If facing criticism from fans wasn't challenging enough, Jake Lloyd also got two Golden Raspberry Award nominations for Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Screen Couple (shared with Natalie Portman, who portrayed Queen Padmé Amidala).

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Still, he had to do "up to 60 interviews a day," so moving on from the backlash wasn't easy. Lloyd's school life was not more manageable, as he labeled his school and college years a "living hell."

School bullies were "really mean" to him: they would make lightsaber sounds whenever they saw him. College was similar, with Lloyd joking that you could never find more intelligent and charming people than "drunk students" in the college world.

Jake Lloyd and Samuel L. Jackson in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 1999 | Source: Getty Images

Jake Lloyd and Samuel L. Jackson in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 1999 | Source: Getty Images

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Lloyd considered that "The Phantom Menace" was for children, young adults, and "Star Wars" fans open to enjoying it. However, he added:

"When you have something like that, there's a lot of expectations for it to meet the standards of an older public, and I don't think [director George Lucas] did that."

George Lucas, Amanda Lucas, Jett Lucas and Jake Lloyd on May 12, 2005, in San Francisco, California | Source: Getty Images

George Lucas, Amanda Lucas, Jett Lucas and Jake Lloyd on May 12, 2005, in San Francisco, California | Source: Getty Images

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Lloyd's backlash impacted him so much that he even destroyed his "Star Wars" memorabilia. Although he reprised his role in five of the franchise's video games, he retired from acting due to the fallout.

Jake Lloyd's final acting gig was in 2001's "Madison." After that, he would only attend occasional sci-fi conventions for the money.

Jake Lloyd on May 27, 2007, in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Jake Lloyd on May 27, 2007, in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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Lloyd probably expected his life to improving after retiring from acting, but things only worsened. In June 2015, he made headlines after being arrested in South Carolina for reckless driving.

Authorities reported that they tried to pull Lloyd's vehicle over after he didn't stop for a red light. He then increased the speed, passed cars on a double yellow line, and kept driving in "a reckless manner," endangering other vehicles.

Jake Lloyd was not the only actor who left Hollywood after his painful "Star Wars" experience.

Jake Lloyd on August 20, 2010, in Chicago, Illinois | Source: Getty Images

Jake Lloyd on August 20, 2010, in Chicago, Illinois | Source: Getty Images

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The police chased Lloyd even after he drove through a fence and down a wooded area. A group of small trees stopped his vehicle, and authorities arrested him for reckless driving, failing to stop, and driving without a driver's license.

Lloyd was behind bars for ten months before being sent to a psychiatric facility. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and anosognosia, meaning that he could not understand or perceive his illness. Lisa, his mom, added:

"This only adds to the struggle he faces, which has been very difficult after the tragic loss of his younger sister, Madison. He has moved closer to his family, and we are all working hard to help."

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Jake Lloyd on June 17, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Source: Getty Images

Jake Lloyd on June 17, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Source: Getty Images

Madison sadly passed away in her sleep on July 16, 2018. She was only 26. Lloyd's mother said her son began showing signs of schizophrenia at 19. She pointed out that he was still a kind and caring person and hoped he could return to his fun and entertaining self soon.

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Lloyd received so much backlash that Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill defended him in 2017. He called out the unfair treatment Lloyd received by the media as some of the things they wrote went "beyond, 'I didn't like it.'"

Hamill admitted to being angry at Lloyd's naysayers, mainly because he was only ten years old and did what George Lucas told him to do. Unfortunately, Jake Lloyd was not the only actor who left Hollywood after his painful "Star Wars" experience.

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WHAT HAPPENED TO DEVON MICHAEL?

Before Lloyd got the part of young Anakin Skywalker, he had to compete against Devon Michael and Michael Angarano – the other actors picked out of more than 3000 kids.

Even though Devon had a great screen test with Natalie Portman that made everyone in the room cry, he didn't get the role. He felt like a loser and couldn't stop thinking about it because of the film's many trailers and massive popularity.

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Things worsened when "Star Wars" released a documentary about the film's creation that included the casting process. Devon understood it was not malicious, but it felt like "being kicked" when he was down because the world knew he was "the loser."

His schoolmates kept asking him about it, which didn't help him to move on. Eventually, he quit acting and became a writer for children's and fantasy books. We can only imagine how different Jake Lloyd's life would have been if Devon Michael had gotten Anakin's role.

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