It’s tough being a child actor – even more so when you are catapulted to stardom quickly thanks to a well-established franchise with a rabid fan base. It’s as true today as when Wil Wheaton had to endure the whole alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die hatred in the ’80s and ’90s. Wheaton managed to work through it and become an influential figure in nerd and internet culture, but unfortunately, not all child actors can grow up to be Wil Wheaton. Sometimes child stardom just ruins everything, which is exactly what Jake Lloyd claims happened when he starred as young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
It’s hard to believe Lloyd would have understood what kind of a change his life would undergo when he was cast as Anakin at the age of eight. In a recent interview with The Daily Mail, he says that his rapid rise to fame basically destroyed his childhood. Children taunted Lloyd by making lightsaber noises every time they saw him and made school life “a living hell.” Not that he got to spend a great deal of time at school, anyway, as he was doing up to 60 interviews a day at one point.
The Phantom Menace was considered a disappointment by many Star Wars fans – and young Anakin (along with Jar Jar Binks) became a focus point for much of fandom’s anger and frustration. While Lloyd doesn’t mention this hatred specifically (perhaps he was too young to be fully aware of it), he does acknowledge that it was difficult to be part of something so ill-received by the fanbase: “When you have something like that there’s a lot of expectations for it to meet the standards of the public and I don’t think George did that.”
The entire experience affected Lloyd so greatly that he destroyed all of his Star Wars memorabilia, re-appeared as Anakin only in five video games, and can’t watch Episode I anymore. He says it “would be kind of creepy.” It also ruined him on the acting game as a whole and he decided to never act again. So, if you’re wondering why you never saw “that Anakin kid” in anything after Episode I, it looks like we can chalk it up to the crazy, potentially traumatizing effects of rapid child stardom and George Lucas.