Ron Howard Defended 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace' in 1999

The director of the Han Solo Star Wars movie lashed out at Anakin Skywalker haters back in 1999. In a recently re-discovered letter to Newsweek, Ron Howard demonstrates his Star Wars fandom and love of the franchise. And just like Mark Hamill, Howard also stuck up for Jake Lloyd’s performance as Anakin in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.

On Monday, a Reddit user called StarWarsJunk uploaded a letter written by Ron Howard to the editor of Newsweek in 1999. Basically, Howard was pissed about their coverage of The Phantom Menace, not only because of its “insipid” tone, but also because he felt that Newsweek was practicing irresponsible journalism by using “unnamed insiders” who mocked Jake Lloyd’s performance as Anakin. Howard called this move “irresponsible,” and went further, writing:

Movies are subject to public scrutiny, yes, but not for Newsweek to attack a child’s performance based on rumor and without even having seen the movie is shameful.

Howard also mentioned his own struggles with being a child actor, and pointed out that Lloyd would probably feel “humiliated” by the coverage. Obviously, Star Wars fans are divided about The Phantom Menace and Lloyd’s performance in specific, but Howard’s warning here was prescient. Lloyd’s life was seriously impacted by the negative media coverage of The Phantom Menace, and because of bullying, Lloyd eventually suffered from numerous mental health issues.

This sensitive fact of the public attacks on Jake Lloyd haven’t stopped contemporary news outlets from criticizing Howard for his defense of Lloyd and the Phantom Menace. Geek news website Bleeding Cool has already called Howard’s 1999 letter “bad news for Star Wars fans.” But, Howard defending The Phantom Menace and attacks on Lloyd in specific should be good news for Star Wars fans. It proves Howard is a sensitive guy. It also proves he loves all aspects of the franchise, even if it’s not popular.

The Han Solo movie, now directed by Ron Howard, is still scheduled to hit theaters on May 25, 2018.