In a Galaxy Far, Far Away, He Was Almost Anakin Skywalker


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In a Galaxy Far, Far Away, He Was Almost Anakin Skywalker

Sept. 28, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

By Ben Proudfoot

Mr. Proudfoot is an Emmy-winning filmmaker.

It was the late 1990s, and 3,000 young actors around the world were scouted for the role of a lifetime. On the ride home from school, Devon Michael’s mom told him he’d be auditioning for one of the most anticipated movies ever. “The Phantom Menace” — then the next installment of the “Star Wars” franchise — was in production, and they were searching for young Anakin Skywalker.

Growing up, Michael had small roles in commercials, television shows and movies. At 9 years old, he understood that an opportunity like “Star Wars” could change his life. From 3,000, the producers narrowed it down to three, and soon Michael was at Skywalker Ranch doing a test screen with George Lucas and Natalie Portman. The role ultimately went to Jake Lloyd, who experienced a level of criticism and bullying that would be alarming for even an adult actor. In the short documentary above, Michael shares his experience as a child actor and urges the public not to forget that they’re just kids.

Ben Proudfoot is a filmmaker and the founder and C.E.O. of Breakwater Studios. He co-directed the Oscar-nominated Op-Doc “A Concerto Is a Conversation.”

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Op-Docs is a forum for short, opinionated documentaries by independent filmmakers. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series. Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

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