As it got public that George Lucas had elected a young, Canadian actor named Hayden Christensen to the new Darth Vader it didn’t last long until the wildest stories were spread about him: Once there were rumors about an affair between him and co-star Natalie Portman, then he was said to be gay – none of these stories was correct, they just took care that young Hayden understood quickly what it meant to be part of the STAR WARS-universe.
In the year of 2000 the at that time 19-years old Hayden Christensen was not just in this country but also in Hollywood an almost unknown. Of course his degree of popularity was enormous increased through the part of Anakin Skywalker in STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES but many people still weren’t aware of many facts about this pale young man, who grew up under the care of a someone called George Lucas to the dark Darth Vader…

Passion and madness
Hayden Christensen’s birthday is April 19, 1981, his birthplace is Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. However, raised he was in Markham, close to Toronto. There he also attended school, where he soon developed to an enthusiastic tennis- and hockey-player. While the Canadian Opens-Tennis-Tournament he was so overeager as a ball boy at at match of John McEnroe, that he jumped out too early and caused a break of the game with that.
His parents David (a Canadian with Denish and English ancestors) und Alie Christensen (an American with an Italian mother and a Swedish father), who carry on a business called “Christensen Communications”, shall not have been to pleased at first, as one of their four offshoots decided to become an actor, especially the father is said to have been against it.
Choosing this job was actually a coincidence: His older sister Hejsa (Hayden’s older brother’s name is Tove and his younger sister’s Kaylen), former junior-worldmaster on the trampoline, was looking for an agent. As she had to watch out for her younger brother, she took him to a meeting without further ado, and promptly the little one got offered a job: He was asked if he was willing to appear in an advertising spot. It started with a Pringles-clip, soon to be followed by parts in series and other TV-productions.
With 12 he was Skip McDeere in FAMILIY PASSIONS, the first Canadian daily soap (together 130 episodes), a German-Canadian co-production, in which Dietmar Schönherr acts as the head of the family Haller, living in Hamburg, rising with their car company to power and importance and living in a lasting vendetta with a family called Langer/McDeere, located in Woodland/Canada, although the latter one is crucial involved in the success of the Hallers by developing new car models. Afterwards an appearance as paper boy in John Carpenter’s horror movie IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS followed, like a little part in the TV-movie LOVE AND BETRAYAL: THE MIA FARROW STORY, in which Patsy Kensit plays the poor Mia and Dennis Boutsikaris (IN DREAMS) the evil Woody.

Bit parts and short appearances
In JUNGLE LAW he mimes the young John Ryan, who is later played by Jeff Wincott. Ryan is a trained material artist, who gets under suspicion wrongly and has to get through with illegal fights, after losing not just his job but also his flat and with it all the things he owns inclusive his clothing.
The TV-film adaption of a short story of Kurt Vonneguts is HARRISON BERGERON, in which Hayden appears as “Eric”. This future vision is set after the second American revolution. All people are equal. With signals of an electronic streamer women, men and children have the same intelligence and talents, but the abnormal intelligent young Harrison Bergeron (Sean LORD OF THE RINGS Astin) was yet clever enough to escape this leveling. Before his genie shall be reduced to mean, he learns about the organization which takes care to keep the masses stupid – and he decides it’s time for a further revolution.
As brother of a brave young woman (played by Kelly KINDRED: THE EMBRACED Rutherford, with whom little Hayden fell in love with promptly – of course without having his prayers answered by the clearly older colleague) who doesn’t just lose her fiancé but also her parents by the sinking of the Titanic, he was seen in DANIELLE STEELE’S NO GREATER LOVE.
As an also-ran and even written wrong you find his name on the cast listing of STRIKE!, aka ALL I WANNA DO. As Christiansen he’s there led beside Rachael Leigh Cook, Kirsten Dunst and Lynn Redgrave. Hayden just has a little part as “Tinka’s date” as in a comedy about girls who are appalled by the fact that their girl’s school shall also be opened for boys, the ladies come first of course.
After all he had a real role name in the action thriller FREE FALL. He’s to see as Patrick, the teenage son of a security inspector of National Transportation Boards Renee Brennan (Jaclyn Smith), who has to investigate a serial of plane crashes. While his mother in this German-American-Canadian co-production tries to stop Hannes Jaenicke who is responsible for the catastrophes, Hayden squabbles with his future step father Bruce Boxleitner (BABYLON 5).

Hollywood takes notice
About at the time, as Hayden’s career started to gather its way, his older brother Tove was already ending his path in front of the camera. After a small part in Robert Towne’s WITHOUT LIMITS (1998) Tove preferred to try it as a producer. Meanwhile he founded along with Hayden a production company. Also Hejsa, one of the two sisters, gathered experience in acting (amongst others in CLASS OF ‘96), but concentrated on her sport talent and is amongst others a Canadian master in material arts.
With his little part as one of the many admirers (another one is played by Josh Hartnett) of the sisters Lisbon in THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, the direction debut of Sofia Coppola, Hayden was first also noticed in Hollywood. The picturization of Jeffrey Eugenide’s novel (who won the Pulitzer prize for “Middlesex”) about the in a very short time sequently happening suicides of four sisters is also the second movie, Hayden Christensen was standing in front of the camera beside Kirsten Dunst (in the part of Lux Lisbon).
Noticeable increased Hayden’s degree of popularity was with the series HIGHER GROUND. For the very first time Hayden absorbed one of the leading roles. Although the serial, broadcasted on the Fox Family Channel, was knocked off after just one season, especially Hayden Christensen was celebrated mostly as a genuine discovery above all the youngsters being sent to a boot camp for catharsis – and this in a by all means sophisticated part!
In the 22 episodes Hayden plays Scott Barringer who is sent to the Mount Horizon, a school in the wilderness, in order to pick up the pieces of his life. He was hassled by his step mom and has a drug issue like many of the other teenagers in Mount Horizon who also try to deal with their problems.
The leading role in HIGHER GROUND and also his part in the TV-production TRAPPED IN A PURPLE HAZE Hayden got through the attention he had received with THE VIRGIN SUICIDES.
He used his chance, ’cause also in TRAPPED IN A PURPLE HAZE he got positive reactions from critics and audience although he just plays a sidekick to the hero (portrayed by Hayden’s friend Jonathon Jackson).

“Anakin just left the room”
Coevally Robin Gurland, casting director at Lucas Film, was looking for Anakin Skywalker. At this juncture neither trouble nor expense were spared, as at least 400 candidates were taken a look at. Leonardo DiCaprio was just as well considered as any other actor in America, England, Canada or Australia who was expected roughly fitting for the part.
In case of Hayden Christensen it were his managers who tried to get an audition with George Lucas. A meeting for Hayden with Robin Gurland in Los Angeles was arranged. This half-hourly conversation with her was recorded. George Lucas wasn’t even there.
Already as he opened the door and entered the room, Gurland remembers, she had the feeling that it could become interesting this time. And also through the camera lens this young actor, who just had made some experience in mini acts and only one bigger role (namely HIGHER GROUND), looked very good – in the opinion of the expert. Soon Robin Gurland knew that she would invite Hayden to a screen test with Natalie Portman – and this means something, as of all the hundreds of candidates who have been considered, screen tests were just made with four of them. Anyway, somehow it seems to have been set right after this very first meeting with the casting director, as Gurland called the Skywalker Ranch right afterwards and said: “Anakin just the left the room”. About a month later Hayden was told that George Lucas would like to meet him. The young actor had to pay himself for his journey from Canada to San Francisco, and even for the ride to the Skywalker Ranch. His family, who always has supported him in everything he does, became a little skeptic on this matter. Hayden also found it weird but thought that it would be worth it, just to meet George Lucas.
At the meeting itself there were 45 seconds silence: Lucas studied Hayden’s résumé, but kept looking up on Hayden without saying a word. Hayden also didn’t say anything until asked a few questions about his former work, the subject STAR WARS wasn’t even mentioned. As unusual as the “invitation” was the good-bye, because in most cases the applicant gets some hint at the end of such a meeting, if a cooperation can be imagined: casting director Gruland just said “Thanks for coming, the car is awaiting you outside!”
Although he understood this dry parting as a denial, Hayden didn’t take this to heart, ’cause at least he now could boast with his experiences with George Lucas…
It’s funny that Robin Gurland looks back on this matter in a totally different way. She thought she had given clear signals towards Hayden Christensen that he was their favorite as she really was overwhelmed by him.
After the first meeting Christensen was informed that George Lucas liked him but was not convinced yet that Hayden could look grown-up enough to be believable as an about 30-years old Darth Vader in EPISODE III. Although a date had already been set for the screen test with Natalie Portman Hayden still believed it to be a sure thing that Leonardo DiCaprio would get the part.
From his point of view the screen test with Natalie Portman was very “professional”: She said: “Hi, nice to meet you, let’s go to work.” For the rest the young actress was very busy with using her cell phone. But observers of this scene talked about a special energy of these two in front of the camera which was not visible with the other candidates.
Still there were rumors soon after, that Ryan Phillippe, who also had been invited to the test, would have gained the part. But just one day later Hayden was – back in Toronto – awaken by a phone call of his manager who told him that he is the new Anakin!
The casting had taken some months and was for Christensen quite nerve-wracking as he hadn’t really believed in his chance at no time. The morning he got the pleasant and redemptive news, he first enjoyed the morning breeze at his porch on the 22nd floor. Going back into the flat he pulled a fictive light saber in front of his room mate who knew immediately what that meant, hugged him and started to “scream out cusses”. Next thing on the list was playing the STAR WARS-soundtrack very loud and calling Hayden’s mom. The first thing she heard was the famous music, and she started to cry. Hayden heard his family screaming one by one at the house of his parents.

No fear?
Of course you may ask yourself if – as the first euphoria was over – panic hit the young actor? According to Hayden Christensen that was not the case, as he had the calming certainty that the people who had given him the job knew what they were doing: “At the end I wasn’t nervous at all. I had found the character of Anakin, whom I see as someone existing in a very dark place. I was capable of leaving all my insecurities outside and totally get into this powerful position. I think that was my way to deal with the fear implicating a role combined with such high expectations.
First criterion for George Lucas with his search had of course been the talent of the applicants, and second important was that the actor had to fit to the character. The special difficulty Lucas had to consider was the fact that this was one part in two movies, played by the same actor. He needed someone capable of portraying Anakin as a young, happy man as well as being believable later on when Darth Vader is enraged and embittered.
Still it was important that Hayden felt comfortable about the role, because George Lucas is not know as being a director who sits down with his actors for an hour to philosophize about motivation, technique and arty aims. Therefore he simply has too lot on his plate. But, Hayden Christensen knows to tell, the directions he gives are very accurate and helpful – at least Lucas is the one, who “invented all these characters and the whole crazy universe they live in”…

Blue suffers
Not just the quite inexperienced Hayden Christensen had to suffer with the special challenges the shooting of the star saga brought along. There were rumors that the work in front of the blue screens and with actors in furry-suits and latex-masks was also not easy for other participants. Hayden hadn’t noticed the tears Natalie Portman is said to have cried as she felt so lost and confused while these shootings, but he was very aware of the gradual sagging mood of his far more experienced colleague Ewan McGregor.
Christensen stated that it is extremely frustrating for an actor like McGregor that in a movie like STAR WARS the importance is more lying on the special effects than on the actors. You must have great trust interacting with something which is not there yet and you even don’t know exactly what it will look like, as ILM will add it later. “You just have to put your trust that they take care you won’t make yourself ridiculous” – otherwise it won’t work, says Hayden Christensen.
McGregor is known for being one of the few actors in Hollywood who always supports his co-stars very much and doesn’t slug out power struggles on the set. So it also was in the case with Hayden Christensen. The comparative fledgling often asked the older companion for advise, wanted to know how to deal with a scene or a droid best.
“Ewan and the stunt coordinator Nick Gillard were somehow my soul mates on set. We’ve saved each other. We just went out together and had fun. Thereby we’ve played some matches of pool-billiard together.”
The three also stayed buddies after the shooting was over and when Hayden is in London, he stays at Ewan’s, and the three guys still see each other.
Hayden also had good contact to his film partner Natalie Portman, but the rumors of a hot affair weren’t true – although some journalists don’t get tired of asking Hayden about it. He stays calm: “As long as they ask me about things that never happened, it’s okay. I start to worry if they ask me about something which is true.”

Pothead, Jedi-Knight and fraud
As EPISODE II was more or less done, Hayden stood in front of the camera in a completely different role. In the drama LIFE AS A HOUSE, produced and directed by Irwin Winkler (GOODFELLAS, ROCKY), a father, who was recently confronted with the diagnosis of cancer, tries to make his son to someone he believes is a good person. Simultaneous the new neighbors try to change the father into their imagination of a good neighbor. The father sentences his son, who lives at the mother’s, to help him build a house, and bars him from everything the goth-like teenager with make-up likes: especially the drugs. For still getting his dose of weed the 16-years old is even ready to prostitute himself. At the end father and son – also furthered by the morally tightened neighbors – are able to approximate each other again…
LIFE AS A HOUSE hit the theaters – due to the long post-production time of EPISODE II – before the latter one was finished, but of course it got around that the new Anakin has a leading part in that one. Knowingly Hayden had chosen a totally different role as he was very aware what it meant to be a part of the STAR WARS-universe. Actors like Mark Hamill had been so defined to their part, that they never managed to gain ground in Hollywood ever again. You barely recognize Hayden in his make-up and with the piercing in this sometimes bad conservative tear-jerker – especially when comparing him with the young Jedi-Knight!
He has done well not resting on his laurels but to show that he also can and wants to play other roles. Hayden cannot complain about a lack of offers for parts as already before EPISODE III a further drama with him in it hit the theaters: SHATTERED GLASS is the direction debut of author Billy Ray (wrote the script to VOLCANO and had the idea for the series EARTH 2) and shows Hayden as the young Washington star-journalist Stephen Glass, who has made up more than the half of his articles. The film, based on a true story, reaped lots of plaudit with the critics. Peter Skaarsgard won a Golden Globe for the part of the chief editor and Hayden Christensen a Golden Satellite Award (conferred by the International Press Academy). It’s a little gem which you shouldn’t miss – if it hopefully also is launched on DVD in Germany soon (yet it’s just available as UK-import).
Pushed into by his friend Ewan McGregor Hayden Christensen appeared 2002 in Kenneth Lonergan’s stage play THIS IS OUR YOUTH alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin (X-MEN) as a churl who is just as rich as he is criminal.

The future…
looks rosy for Hayden Christensen – at least concerning his job. Due to the dramas he had made at the same time as STAR WARS and the new challenges he always likes to face, he hasn’t been a victim of the Hamill-syndrome, but also is a sought-after actor even after the end of the star saga. Four new projects are already in progress or at least in a state of preparation.
Already in post production is DECAMERON: ANGELS & VIRGINS, the film adaption of a collection of stories from the fourteenth century penned by Giovanni Boccaccio. The story which forms the framework is based at a country house in the hills of Florence. Seven girls and three young men escaped there because of the pestilence. To kill time every day one of them is made to king or queen of the companionship and has to take care of the complacency and entertainment of the other people. Co-star in this film adaption of literature by David Leland (BAND OF BROTHERS) is O.C.-star Mischa Barton, with whom Hayden already plugged for the new movie – the German opening date is not certain yet.
About the thriller LESS THAN KIND, which is in the state of pre-production, not much more is known yet than being the direction debut of Kristin Hanggi, telling the story of a young drug trafficker, who during his getaway hijacks the car of a middle-aged housewife who also tries to escape from something. What starts as an act of desperation ends up in tragically incidents…
Also set up is AWAKE (book & direction: Newcomer Joby Harold), a thriller with Jessica Alba (SIN CITY, INTO THE BLUE, DARK ANGEL) and Sigourney Weaver in which Hayden Christensen plays a man waking up during a surgery at the open heart, getting everything going on around him but isn’t in the position to attract attention to that fact…
Announced for 2006 is the comedy OTHER SIDE OF SIMPLE (directed by Joseph THE FORGOTTEN Ruben) in which Hayden will co-star with Don Cheadle and Vince Vaughn.
But there’s much more to it than that, what Hayden has resolved for his future. Together with his brother Tove, who already has functioned as producer of SHATTERED GLASS he has concluded a deal with New Line in which scope the two want to achieve the realization of a few projects. They already have a short list of films they want to bring on screen together. One of them shall be based on a script, Hayden has written with 16 adapted on a favorite book of him. This matter he would also like to produce and put on himself – and of course adopt the leading part…

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