Hayden Christensen on Star Wars

Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the last two “Star Wars” prequels, talked to the press at the Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith DVD junket last week. ComingSoon.net was present at the discussion:

Q: When you have kids and it’s time to show them Star Wars, will you start them with Episode I or Episode IV?

Hayden Christensen: Episode I, as the storyteller had intended it. But yeah, that will be the day! I’ll have to preface it with the fact that it’s just a movie and wait to see their reaction-I’m looking forward to it.

Q: How did you dig deep to find your dark side for the role?

Christensen: As an actor, I usually try to keep my motivation within the context of what my character is going through. So, I don’t think of my dog that died when I was 8 years old and how that made me feel. I try to stay within the psychology of Anakin. So it was really just really letting his frustrations seep in and how that would affect me.

Q: How difficult was it to hold back everything that you knew was going to happen in Episode III while you were filming Episode II.

Christensen: It was challenging-honestly, it was, because you are cast as this character that is the connective tissue to someone that represents all that is evil. So, your natural instinct is to try to take him there. George [Lucas] was constantly asking me to pull back from that and to make him someone who is struggling and someone who allows his frustrations to present themselves in ways that aren’t necessarily perceived as evil, but maybe in other ways. And to keep it at that and to not really show any sort of a character arc in Episode II. The character was more about who he was at that time of his life and Episode III was about changing him and making him evolve to Darth [Vader]-which was why I was very excited to get to Episode III to finally get to do that, which was something that I had sort of built up in my head for so long.

Q: Having built it up in your head for so long, how did it feel when you did get to those last scenes? How did you approach doing that?

Christensen: With great joy and glee. It came very easily because I just thought about it so much already. It was just an eventuality for me, you know? It was orgasmic (laughing). I don’t know. It was amazing. I was waiting and waiting and waiting and finally I got to take him to the dark side.

Q: How did you convince George Lucas to act inside the Darth Vader suit?

Christensen: I just very politely asked if it was possible. And George and Rick - and the kind of people that they are - allowed me that privilege. I just said, “Listen, I’ve read the script. Now I know he’s going to make an appearance at the end.” And I think they were already in the process of meeting with basketball players and really tall people to do that job. And I just said, “I don’t know if you guys can even make this happen but it would be really great for me if I could actually put the suit on.”

Q: How did it feel to put the suit on and walk onto the set?

Christensen: It was indescribable, you know? It was one, the completion of a job. It meant that my sort of five year journey was over coupled with the fact that it was just this incredibly powerful feeling, this beastly feeling that wells up inside of you when you’re playing a character that is Darth. You walk by and people see Darth and you know you watch the reactions on their faces. The days that Darth came out was quite the event on set. Everyone wanted to see what was going on. It was a one of a kind experience.

Q: Was [the suit] heavy?

Christensen: Very heavy. The logistics of actually being in the costume weren’t that great-it was very hot. They tried to make air-condition apparatus that didn’t work. It was very claustrophobic and your vision is very limited. As well, they had to compensate for the height difference, so they had to put these big lifts in the shoes, so it was like walking around with 20-pound weights on your shoulders in high-heel shoes-not that I practiced that way! (laughs) It was something like that.

Q: What did you learn from acting with older actors, such as Christopher Lee?

Christensen: I think I’ve learned the most, from all the actors I’ve worked with, from Ian [McDiarmid]. Not because he’s here, but because it was just an eye-opening experience getting to sit in that opera scene with him and listen to them tell that story and watch the subtlety, and still everything that he’s able to convey within that subtlety. I’d just sit there and shake my head and be like, “Oh, I’m not supposed to be shaking my head. Whoops!” And, he’s such a kind man and is willing to share his wisdom and help you when you ask for it. So, Ian, I’ve learned an awful lot from him.

Q: How do kids react when they see you in person? And are you ready to see a lot of Darth Vaders at Halloween?

Christensen: Now I’ve got two characters that people can dress up as. I don’t know. I was expecting a different reaction, to be honest. Kids still are enamored with this hero and I would have thought it would have changed how they saw Anakin and maybe they would have been a little shy at first. But it really hasn’t changed anything. If anything, they’re just more drawn to him. I still get little kids coming up to me wanting lightsaber training and I play along with it. I love it. But, no, Halloween…I stay at home at Halloween now. But when my mom tells me that there’s someone dressed up as Anakin, I’ll go to the door and give them their candy, which is fun.”

Q: What was more intense: the physicality of the film or the one-on-one scenes with Ian?

Christensen: It was the physical preparation which was probably the most challenging. George asked me beforehand to put on some size - which I’ve since lost. But he wanted me to bulk up and try to physically show the maturity that had taken place between the two films. And I did that in about a 3 month period before we started filming. That was just a very grueling schedule. And actually getting to execute it on set was just good fun. And working with Ian wasn’t really so much challenging as it was rewarding and easy, because it’s very easy when you’re acting with actors who give a lot and are as good as he is.

Q: Throughout the years, where will Star Wars fit in your heart?

Christensen: It will always be dear to my heart, without question. This has been a wild ride for the past 5 years. It has just dramatically impacted my life-90% for the better. I cherish that and feel forever indebted to George for giving me the opportunity.

Q: How good of a gamer are you?

Christensen: Better than you! (laughs) I’m OK. I used to be good. I used to play a lot of video games growing up and still play, not as much. I count myself as a bit of a gamer.

Q: You probably had Luke Skywalker action figures when you were little. What was your initial reaction when you were a part of all of this?

Christensen: It was exactly that. The fact that I was going to have my own action figure. I was going to get to play myself in a video game and how cool was that? I mean, I didn’t personally have them. But I have an older brother who was a fanatic and had all the action figures and memorabilia and so I was very aware of the merchandising aspect of being involved in these films, and at the time was very excited by it. Now you know you walk into a convenience store and see your face everywhere when the film is out - it’s a different story.

Q: You were very involved in the creation of the Revenge of the Sith video game. How did the choreography of that compare to the onset of shooting the movie. Was it more relaxed or more difficult?

Christensen: It was just good fun. They invited me up for a couple of days to help sort of shape the character in the video game. It was a fun group of guys all very excited that they make video games. And Nick Gillard, the fellow who choreographs the fights, came out as well. We just, you know, fought with lightsabers for a couple of days and it was fun.

Q: What kind of role are you going to take on in the future?

Christensen: Ones that I haven’t done before. Ones that are going to challenge me and hopefully make me grow more as an actor and all that good stuff. I don’t know. I just finished a film called ‘The Decameron’ which was very much a departure from what I’ve done in the past. It was more of a comedic thing. I’m about to start work on a film which is a psychological drama/thriller and it will be challenging as well. Just, to be honest, honestly it’s less about the character and more about the story. If I’m drawn to the story, then I’ll find a way to play the character.

Q: Did you get to meet Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher at the Vanity Fair photoshoot?

Christensen: I didn’t. That’s the magic of the computers they use. It was an hour shoot on our day off and everyone who was working on Episode III was obviously there, but Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford and that lot were not there. And through the magic of technology they were in the picture.

Q: When you watch the DVD, is there a scene that you want to watch first? Do you keep props from the movie? Where do you keep them?

Christensen: I keep them in my closet just because it would be a little weird if they were out on display, like on a mantel or something.

Q: Which deleted scene from Star Wars: Episode III will you check out first?

Christensen: I don’t know. I mean there are lots of scenes that are cut. George films a lot and then through post-production, pares it down, truncates the story and gives it more focus. But I think for me…we spent a couple of days in a big vat of water. They made this big water tank for this sort of water sequence, or sequence in which we were supposed to be in fuel, and that, on the page and as we were doing it, seemed like it was really cool. So that’s something I’m looking forward to seeing first because it’s not in the movie.

Q: What is your opinion about Anakin and Padmé’s relationship and love that Anakin has for her?

Christensen: I really like it in that it’s what drives him to commit these sort of horrible acts. He’s doing it, he thinks, for the good of his love. Obviously she doesn’t see it that way so the relationship goes south. But no, I mean that’s what sort of makes it all hit home, I think for me and most audiences. That transformation is something that is driven by love, which is something that I like.

Q: Do you feel that Anakin was wearing a metaphysical mask before he became Darth Vader?

Christensen: As Frank [Oz] would put it, No. That was just who Anakin was. He’s sort of this un-emotive kid who has a hard time with his emotions. There’s a lot, obviously, boiling under the surface and stuff that shouldn’t be there, so he’s very hesitant to show it. And that’s sort of how I saw him.

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith hits DVD on November 1st. You can read ComingSoon.net’s review of the DVD here.

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