20th Century Fox executives told Star Wars creator George Lucas he would "destroy the franchise" if he proceeded with plans to center his first prequel film on a 10-year-old Anakin Skywalker, the future Darth Vader. Lucas ultimately cast Jake Lloyd to portray a young Anakin, a Force-born slave on the desert planet of Tatooine, in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace opposite Jedi teachers Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). In the comprehensive second volume of The Star Wars Archives (1999–2005), out December 13 and spanning the making of Lucas' Prequel Trilogy, the writer-director recalls distributor Fox fretting over the child Anakin:
"You're going to destroy the franchise; you're going to destroy everything!" Lucas recounts, adding that he told others at Lucasfilm that he was "making a movie that nobody wants to see."
In a 1999 issue of Empire Magazine, published weeks after the record-breaking box office success of The Phantom Menace, Lucas admitted the movie would have been "more marketable" with a teenaged Anakin and an 18-year-old Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), but said that "isn't the story."
"I kept it as it was originally intended. You can't play too much to the marketplace. It's the same thing with the fans," Lucas said. "The fans' expectations had gotten way high and they wanted a film that was going to change their lives and be the Second Coming. You know, I can't do that, it's just a movie. And I can't say, now I gotta market it to a whole different audience. I tell the story."
Lucas explained, "I knew if I'd made Anakin 15 instead of nine, then it would have been more marketable. If I'd made the Queen 18 instead of 14, then it would have been more marketable. But that isn't the story. It is important that he be young, that he be at an age where leaving his mother is more of a drama than it would have been at 15. So you just have to do what's right for the movie, not what's right for the market."
In that same interview, Lucas described what would become Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones as a "love story" and the eventual Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith as a tragedy and "very, very dark."
"The next film is a love story and I don't know how that is going to be taken by the fans. They think of Star Wars as one kind of movie," he said at the time. "And it's drifting a little more - by the nature of it being a love story, it's less of a kids' movie because they don't like to sit through all that yucky stuff. But it's still aimed at the same age level, so it's going to be a real challenge for me to get through that part. And then the third film is very, very, very dark. It's not a happy movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's a tragedy. People think of the Star Wars movies as happy movies. What they're going to do about a tragedy, I don't know. It will probably be the least successful of all the Star Wars movies - but I know that."
Hayden Christensen would take over as a ten-years-older Anakin in Episode II and become Darth Vader in Episode III.
The complete Star Wars Saga is now streaming on Disney+.