It almost seemed like a lifetime ago since Hayden Christensen landed a role of a lifetime as the galaxy's greatest tragic figure in Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise making his franchise debut in 2002's Attack of the Clones. Not even a decade into his career, the actor was on the rise in TV shows like Forever Knight, Goosebumps, and Are You Afraid of the Dark and films like The Virgin Suicides (1999) and Free Fall (1999). Grabbing the torch passed previously held by David Prowse, Sebastian Shaw, and younger counterpart Jake Lloyd from 1999's The Phantom Menace, Christensen would see Anakin grow up into Darth Vader, science fiction's most beloved child killer. The actor spoke with StarWars.com about getting the part for the George Lucas film.
Hayden Christensen's Journey from "Attack of the Clones" to "Obi-Wan Kenobi"
"I remember when I got the phone call saying that I got the part," Christensen said. "I was still in bed, actually, in my apartment in Vancouver at the time. I recall walking out after I got off the phone, just sort of stunned and in disbelief by the news, walking into the living room where my roommate was. He was aware that I was waiting for this call, and he saw my smile and immediately understood that there was good news. My response was, I lit up an imaginary lightsaber. He was a big Star Wars fan too, and he had the soundtrack to Episode I. He put the Star Wars soundtrack on, and we had this whole imaginary lightsaber duel around our apartment, jumping on all the furniture and just screaming like giddy little children."
Christensen was very cognizant of the pressure before him handling it the best way he can. "For me, trying to develop the character of Anakin, there was a lot that I could draw from. There was a lot of source material. I was playing a part that was already played before me, as well as after me. This was a character that had a family, children that had grown up. You had all of these elements, and where he was in his life and what that life was, and how all that would have affected him. There were a lot of elements that needed to cohere," he said. "And for me, one of the aspects of Star Wars that I found really compelling was the generational aspect of it. I really wanted that to feel authentic and have as much continuity as possible. I was very cognizant of the performance that Jake Lloyd gave [in Episode I], and wanting it to feel like it really was just an older version of that kid, to some of the nuances and mannerisms of Darth Vader, wanting that transition to have some context as well, and to his children, Luke and Leia, and for that lineage to feel convincing. So I had a lot that I was drawing from, and then, of course, everything he's going through in the story."
One of the most crucial character-defining scenes of AOTC was one that found Anakin showing off his rage and making sense of his sorrow and remorse, in his gut-wrenching confession to Padmé (Natalie Portman) about the death of his mother at the Tusken camp and his brutal act of revenge. "We all understood that it was an important scene for this character and for his arc," he recalled. "When we were rehearsing it, we tried it a few different ways. I had conversations with George [Lucas] about the degree of his angst and emotional state, and trying to find it. We tried it one way, and I didn't quite feel like I was connecting with it. George walked over to me and we had a really nice heart-to-heart conversation. I felt that scene was pivotal in my relationship with him as well, in terms of how we spoke about the work and the character. We really opened up our dialogue, which then continued into Episode III. But yeah, that scene was a big one."
While Anakin would have his eventual falling out with his Jedi master Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) in 2005's Revenge of the Sith, Christensen has remained friends with his prequel co-star since into the current Disney+ series. "We were very close and remain close," he said. "We just hadn't seen each other in a little while. But we got together before we started filming, just to catch up, and it was so nice to reconnect with him. I love the man so much." Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi premieres on May 27th. You can check out the rest of the interview here.