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Hayden Christensen on Star Wars and the dare to return as Darth Vader

Hayden Christensen has a confession to make. “I have a seven-year-old daughter; I have not taught him starwars“says the actor, as if he has just admitted an embarrassing secret. “I know! I know! I feel like I’m probably holding it back a little bit right now, because all of his friends have already seen the movies. And, of course, she is aware of my involvement in them.”

Christensen’s hesitation is perhaps to be expected. When he took on the roles of Anakin Skywalker and Skywalker’s later incarnation, Darth Vader, in the prequels to Star Wars Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), fans of the franchise had a quarter of a century to form their ideas about the characters. Y many of them couldn’t bear to see Darth Vader depicted as a grumpy, whining brat. Although George Lucas directed and co-wrote the films, Christensen became the lightning rod for fan resentment. “Poor Hayden. His performance is great. They just don’t like the character,” Lucas said when it premiered. Revenge of the Sith. “I think it’s just the kind of ownership that people feel toward these characters,” Christensen now suggests. “It’s almost like a public domain. These characters really belong to everyone.”

That doesn’t mean I accept criticism. “I guess the impression George Lucas gave me was that if they don’t like it, then they don’t ‘get it’And that was enough for me.” It’s evident that he hasn’t been scared of playing Darth Vader, as he is set to reprise the role in two television miniseries, Obi-Wan Kenobi Y Ahshoka. “It just seemed like a very exciting opportunity to me,” she says. “It was something obvious. In a blink of an eye. When I got the call, I immediately felt elated… I was very excited to be able to return after all these years.” Are you really not afraid of exposing yourself to another attack of toxicity? “Noooo, never! Do you think it’s possible?” he asks, deadpan. “I mean, it’s all on the table, but you know, that doesn’t come into consideration in these kinds of decisions for me.”

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Christensen with Ewan McGregor in Attack of the Clones, 2002. Photo: Lucasfilm/Allstar

Christensen, 41, was born in Vancouver, four years after the first Star Wars movie was released, and grew up in suburban Toronto. It was “a pretty normal childhood”, in which his attention was dominated by sports, mainly tennis and hockey, both at competitive levels. He was the second youngest of four children and recalls that his older brother had a great reverence for Star Wars, sheets and toys scattered around the house, all declared off-limits to younger siblings. It was his older sister, also a child actress, who inadvertently introduced him to the world of acting. Accompanying her to a meeting with an agent, seven-year-old Christensen was spotted by a talent scout and began making ads, as did his sister.

His original plan was to go to college on a tennis scholarship, but that soon changed. “I was maybe 16 or so and I thought, ‘Hey, I want to be an actor.’ And that was it for me. He had a narrow vision. And I dropped out of high school early to pursue my acting ambitions.”
His parents “were not very excited at the time,” recalls Christensen. “My father above all”. However, his work on the television series Higher Ground, in which he played a teenager who was bullied by his stepmother, caused him to be noticed, and he was called to Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch to audition for Star Wars. .

“I was a huge fan of George Lucas,” says Christensen. “Even apart from his work on Star Wars.” When he was a teenager, his parents had bought him The Creative Impulse, a book about Lucas and his cultural influence. “I just fell in love with it all. I was excited to be able to go and meet George Lucas. I think that probably worked in my favor, at the time, because I wasn’t really taking it too seriously.”

In May 2000, Christensen was cast as Anakin Skywalker, reportedly winning the role from Leonardo DiCaprio and becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest young properties. He embraced the Star Wars fandom as much as he could, but it was overwhelming at times. “We were shooting a scene in Spain and somehow the local paper knew the location we were going to be at and they published it,” he says. “When we got to the set there were thousands of people and they had to call the military guard to keep them away.”

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Christensen with Natalie Portman and George Lucas at Cannes in 2005 for the premiere of Revenge of the Sith. Photo: Toni Anne Barson Archive/WireImage

It was especially difficult for Christensen, who, unlike her co-stars Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, hadn’t experienced anything close to the attention that comes with Star Wars. “It was very difficult to adjust,” she says. “Normally people have a more gradual ascent into that world and mine was very abrupt. But I was able to distance myself or separate myself from that experience because I knew that this was what I was now a part of. I didn’t really think of it as something that was mine.” Seeing her face plastered on everything from potato chip packets to beverage cans took a toll on him. “For a while, I avoided going to the store because it was a bit overwhelming. But the action figures, that was cool, I liked it.” She still has quite a collection in store.

Being labeled a teenage heartthrob didn’t help either. “I never really connected with that identity,” he explains. “I always wanted to be considered a serious actor. I guess that was a bit overwhelming for me too. But my focus has always been the work and everything else is secondary to me.”

One of the common opinions about the prequel trilogy is that the actors just did the best they could with the limited and crude dialogue. As Harrison Ford infamously yelled at George Lucas while he was on the set of one of the movies: “You can write this crap, but you sure can’t say it!” Christensen isn’t sure that’s fair. “George Lucas creates such a unique world where everything is so specific, from the way these characters look to the way they talk, and I feel like sometimes people lose sight of that and expect them to talk the same way we do, and That’s not what we were looking for.”

He still has great respect for Lucas. “He was like a mentor to me and was very kind to his time. I became very close to his family, and my family became close to his.” Lucas’s son, she says, is like a brother to him.

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Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith2005. Photo: Lucasfilm/Allstar

Christensen’s first works after starwars they were promising. Guardian noted that the actor had a “terrifying conviction” in the role of disgraced journalist Stephen Glass in the 2003 film “Shattered Glass.” And while his 2008 sci-fi flick Jumper didn’t get rave reviews, grossed over $225 million at the box office. The past decade has been surprisingly quiet, however, as Christensen moved away from Hollywood to spend more time on her 200-acre farm north of Toronto. “I’ve always loved acting,” she says.

“I’ve also always loved the process of making movies. I just had other interests and other things that I wanted to explore as well.”

“It wasn’t like a conscious decision,” he adds, “but I found that I really enjoyed my time on my farm, and it became a hard place to want to leave.” This had an impact on his career, but “it was something I was aware of and was okay with.“.

This has allowed him to spend more time with his daughter, Briar Rose (her mother is Christensen’s ex-wife, Rachel Bilson, his co-star in Jumper), as well as the opportunity to pursue his interests in architecture and construction machinery, building barns and renovating old farms. “All the kids get attached to their Tonka toys,” she says. “I just took it to the next level and got, you know, a full-size excavator, and a bulldozer.” Regardless, Christensen found it difficult to leave Star Wars in 2005, she didn’t want it to end. It wasn’t until a few years ago that he felt comfortable attending Star Wars fan conventions.. “It just wasn’t something that interested me,” she explains. “It wasn’t something I would have thought I wanted to do. It just wasn’t the time I was in my life. But now I love being able to connect with these fans who express how much these movies mean to them, and specifically this character. And seeing little kids dressed up as Anakin and connecting with them. For me, this has a lot of value, and I hope it is mutual.”

Now when Christensen remembers his films of star WarsHe only has good memories. “I had been in high school less than a year, and I found myself in this big movie production with George Lucas and Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman and all these incredibly talented people… really, I couldn’t have dreamed it better. I feel very grateful to have been able to be a part of it.”

With his return as Vader – the character that defines his career – comes the opportunity to reshape his legacy and, like Vader himself, accept redemption. “I think it’s a very powerful concept,” he says. “And one that really resonates within the Star Wars storytelling as well.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres on Disney+ on May 27.

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