What Happened To Jake Lloyd: The Tragic Story Of Star Wars’ Young Anakin Skywalker

What Happened To Jake Lloyd: The Tragic Story Of Star Wars' Young Anakin Skywalker

What Happened To Jake Lloyd: The Tragic Story Of Star Wars' Young Anakin Skywalker

 

As "Star Wars" fans prepare for "The Phantom Menace" to return to theaters in celebration of its 25th anniversary, the cast of "Star Wars: Episode I" have been speaking out positively about their experiences with the prequel trilogy. Unfortunately, for reasons that some fans will already know, Jake Lloyd — the actor behind young Anakin Skywalker — hasn't been a part of the festivities.

After starring in "The Phantom Menace" and other films like "Madison" and "Jingle All the Way," Lloyd stepped away from acting. He continued to make headlines, however, due to a series of mental health struggles. In 2008, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia after struggling in his first year of college and eventually dropping out. Then, in 2015, he was arrested in South Carolina after fleeing from police during a traffic stop. He served 10 months in jail before being transferred to a psychiatric facility. In 2018, more tragedy struck when his sister Madison passed away.

In a March 2024 interview with Scripps News, Lloyd's mother, Lisa Riley, discussed the many challenges her son has faced but said that she's very hopeful for the future. After Lloyd experienced what Riley described as a full psychotic break in March 2023, he's been recuperating in an in-patient facility and receiving consistent treatment. His mother shared that he's been doing better than he has in years. "He is relating to people better and becoming a little bit more social, which is really nice," Riley said. "It's kind of like having more of the old Jake back."

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Jake Lloyd's relationship with Star Wars isn't what you think

What Happened To Jake Lloyd: The Tragic Story Of Star Wars' Young Anakin Skywalker

 

It's no secret that "The Phantom Menace" was eviscerated by both critics and a vocal contingent of "Star Wars" fans when it came out in 1999. For years, parts of the film, like Jar Jar Binks or the dense dialogue about galactic politics, drew ridicule, and actors like Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best were especially targeted. After Lloyd mentioned in interviews that he was bullied in school for his part in the movie, many drew a connection between this "Star Wars"-induced harassment and his later mental health struggles. However, his mother now claims that there really is no reason to relate the two.

Riley told Scripps News that there is a history of schizophrenia on Lloyd's father's side. "I believe that it was genetic," she said. "And his psychiatrist also agrees that Jake was going to become schizophrenic." She also explained that while there was vitriol in the press and online, Jake wasn't exposed to much of it. "I protected him from the backlash," she said. "He was just riding his bike outside, playing with his friends. He didn't know. He didn't care."

These days, Riley says that her son remains a big fan of the franchise and has kept up with the recent "Star Wars" streaming series on Disney+. A return to the franchise in the future still seems unlikely at this point, she said, but she hopes that one day Lloyd might be able to "do a little bit of something" if he chose to. "I'm sure he would maybe like to do that," Riley said.

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Jake Lloyd likely won't return to acting in any major way

What Happened To Jake Lloyd: The Tragic Story Of Star Wars' Young Anakin Skywalker

 

In her interview with Scripps News, Lisa Riley dispelled the idea that Jake Lloyd quit acting because of the response to "The Phantom Menace." She explained that his retirement was more due to major changes in their family situation and Lloyd generally losing interest in auditioning.

His last credited film role came in "Madison" in 2001, and his last credits as an actor were in various "Phantom Menace" tie-in video games released through 2002. In 2009, he worked in a production capacity on the short film "Peer Pressure," and he worked the convention circuit for a while prior to his legal issues.

While Lloyd will likely never return to acting in a full capacity, many fans would probably love to see him make an appearance at Star Wars Celebration at some point in the future. The prequels have entered a kind of renaissance in more recent years, with a much wider subset of fans praising them as underrated gems. Lloyd's "Phantom Menace" co-star Ahmed Best even made a small but triumphant return to "Star Wars" in "The Mandalorian" Season 3 after hosting the game show "Jedi Temple Challenge." A similar cameo could be in the cards for Lloyd one day, but that of course depends on his health. Fortunately, he seems to have a caring support system around him these days, anchored by his mother.

 

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