STAR WARS CONNECTION

STAR WARS - PHANTOM MENACE

STAR WARS – PHANTOM MENACE

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally out and predicted to bring in billions in ticket sales. I can’t claim to be a fanatic Star Wars fan, but I’ve got my own connection to Star Wars–I interviewed Jake Lloyd who played the nine-year-old  Anakin Starwalker in George Lucas’ Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999.

I interviewed Jake Lloyd, who is now 26, while he was making his first film, Jingle All the Way in 1996, with Arnold Schwarzenegger before he became Governor of California.  I have fond memories of the film  because I was invited to visit the 20th Century Fox set for this movie. I was writing a weekly column for the Los Angeles Daily News called “People and Places,” and I’d been asked to the set to interview Jake Lloyd, the then seven-year-old actor who was playing Swarzenegger’s son in the movie.

Original movie poster

Original movie poster

Jake Lloyd’s story is a mystical one of premonitions, believe it or not. He knew he wanted to make a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was two years old and living in Colorado. Here’s what the precocious youngster told me about seeing a drive-in movie: “When I was two my parents went to see Terminator. I was asleep in the back seat so they decided to stay for Terminator II. All of a sudden they look back, and my eyes were an inch wide.”

From then on, his mother Lisa related, Jake was entranced with Schwarzenegger. Although he couldn’t properly pronounce the superstar’s formidable surname, Jake would walk around their Colorado home declaring he would be in a movie with his hero. He would make up stories and try to imitate Schwarzenegger.

When the Lloyds planned to move to California so that Lisa could finish her college education, Jake asked his mother, “Isn’t Hollywood in California?”

Despite their skepticism, the Lloyds decided to give in to young Jake’s ambitions regarding moviemaking. They had photos taken and sent them to agents. An agent with her own talent agency near the Lloyd’s new home liked what she saw and took Jake on. In no time she’d booked him for three commercials.

It didn’t take long to acquire experience. Jake appeared in a Ford and a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial and starred in Unhook The Stars, a movie with Marisa Tomei and Gena Rowlands; he also got a reoccurring role in TV’s E.R.

Jake Lloyd

Jake Lloyd

Jake’s dream became a reality in 1996 when he auditioned and won the part of Schwarzenegger’s son. Jake said that he was speechless when he first met his hero. He remembered Schwarzenegger asking, “How you doing, Jake?” After working with the star for three months, Jake said, “Now we’re really good friends.”

It’s been years since I did that interview but little Jake was hard to forget. He was an unspoiled kid interested in everything about the movie business. While I was there, he took me into the living room set and up some stairs to the catwalk to look down on the set. It was the last day of filming. Since movies are seldom put together sequentially, they were just then filming the very first scene.

After his first film, Jake went on to play in The Phantom Menace. Apparently, Jake became discouraged with his film career and he moved to the Midwest. I wonder if he had any visions about what career he would pursue when he got older.

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