A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITHUntil recently, 19-year-old Canadian actor Hayden Christensen was hardly a household name. But in the next two months, expect the young actor's image to be pasted on every major magazine cover in the world. He is, after all, the new Anakin Skywalker in Episode II and Episode III of the huge Star Wars franchise. And he's preparing for what's to come, writes PAUL FISCHER.
Shortly, the buzz around Canadian actor Hayden Christensen will increase when the 20-year-old bursts onto our screens as Anakin Skywalker, the man who fathers Luke Skywalker and becomes Darth Vader, in the next installment of George Lucas' "Star Wars" series. Though Christensen has been forbidden to say anything specific about the plot or characters of 'Attack of the Clones', he DOES talk about how specific George Lucas can be.
For instance, Christensen wanted to meet Jake Lloyd who played Anakin in 'The Phantom Menace' but "George didn't want anything to interfere with how I was playing Anakin at this stage of his life."
Though he reveals that "there are hints of the dark forces invading Anakin's life in Episode II, Anakin is still essentially good in this next movie."
The young actor went through quite the audition process to land the role and almost passed up the chance to audition, but Fate intervened, he recalls. He was starring in "Higher Ground," a TV network series with Joe Lando, when he got the call to audition for 'Star Wars'. "They told me I'd been accepted in the auditioning process and to come meet the casting director," said Christensen. "I said, 'I'm in Vancouver and can't make it out to Los Angeles guys, sorry.' I didn't go to the first one actually."
On the second round of auditions, Christensen once again heard from the casting director. "This time my agent insisted I go," he said. But even when he made the final dozen and was asked to travel to Los Angeles to meet Lucas, Christensen reveals duty prevailed. "I had to work on my show," he said. "So I stayed in Vancouver and passed it up again, against my will this time. They called a month later and said, 'If Hayden would pay his way, he could meet George at the Skywalker Ranch.' I met with him and that was an experience all in itself. It was really, really cool and the ranch is an amazing place. Very conductive to the creative flow."
As for meeting the man who created the movies' most popular serial, "It was just a meeting about my experiences with acting and not so much about 'Star Wars' at all," he said.
The confident and affable young actor is clearly miles apart from this celebrated role of Anakin Skywalker, but the actor has learned to deal with the spotlight and the kind of success he has reluctantly found himself a part of. "I think you can give it the credence it deserves, which isn't too much," the actor quietly explains. "I think that if you don't take it too seriously and just take it as it comes, keep your ambitions where they were before, and then you'll be alright." Those 'ambitions' Christensen speaks of, he elaborates, "Were merely succeeding as an actor and just wanted to make good films."
On hearing that he had been cast in 'Attack of the Clones', the actor admits that he "couldn't define for myself what I was feeling when I found out that I got the part. It was a week of just sheer bliss and I got to work." Work included spending several months in Sydney where he shot all of the interiors. Despite being far from home, Christensen loved his Aussie experience. "I really loved it, even though there were times I wished it were a little bit closer," he says. "I stayed on Bondi Beach in this magnificent apartment building on the south shore." He didn't catch up on his surfing while in Sydney, "but I did do some serious boogie boarding", he adds laughingly.
Christensen returned to London "for what they call re-shoots, but I don't really know". Asked how tired he is of answering 'Star Wars' questions, Christensen matter-of-factly responds that he "is more accustomed to it than anything else. I mean, everything's pretty new to me at this point, so I'm just learning as I go along. Talking about 'Star Wars' is why I'm here; if I hadn't done 'Star Wars' I don't think I would have been cast in 'Life as a House', so I'm just happy to share as much as I can."
As for the coolest thing about being the Anakin? "Wearing the big cape was pretty empowering. The sabre of course, was pretty cool too." Audiences will get to see just HOW cool, when 'Attack of the Clones' blasts into theatres shortly.
STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES WILL BE RELEASED ON MAY 16. 2002.
Hayden Christensen/Attack of the Clones Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.