Live from Italy: Hayden Christensen

Taking a break from the set of his latest film The Decameron for De Laurentiis Productions, actor Hayden Christensen chatted live on a phone from Italy with host Jay Laga’aia in the Sagamore Ballroom about his experiences playing the biggest baddie in cinema — Darth Vader — in Revenge of the Sith.
Christensen, who became an international star when filmmaker George Lucas cast him as Anakin Skywalker for Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, discussed his thoughts on preparing for the notorious role and his training with master choreographer Nick Gillard for the most-anticipated lightsaber battle ever.

For three months Christensen worked with a trainer twice a day, practiced complicated lightsaber moves with Gillard, and ate six meals a day to bulk up for the role.

“It was grueling preparation,” Christensen recalled. “It was not a lot of fun and not something I plan to repeat.”

Physically preparing for the role wasn’t Christensen’s only challenge. He also wanted to show his character changing from a rebellious teen into a much more troubled young man.

“George asked me to hold back in Episode II, but in Episode III I had free reign to be darker. This is what I’ve been waiting for since the beginning. I let my ambitions get the best of me and I suffered from delusions of grandeur for a bit, but it was worth it,” Christensen laughed.

Fans may already know that wearing Vader’s suit was more than thrilling for Christensen, but he also candidly revealed that the experience was bittersweet.

“When I put on the suit I went through every emotion you can imagine — and it’s sad in a way because it meant real closure for me in that my time in Star Wars was going to end,” Christensen explains to the audience. “Yet it’s very empowering to play the most badass villain of all time!”

Not only did the suit have an obvious impact on the actor, but also on the cast and crew working with him on the Revenge of Sith set in Sydney, Australia.

“When I walked past in full costume, the crew’s eyes would light up, but a few of them had a glimmer of fear in their eyes as well,” Christensen chuckles. They would take two steps back and lower their heads a bit.”

However while wearing the intimidating outfit, Christensen told the Celebration III audience that seeing through the eyes of a fallen hero wasn’t easy, in fact he had trouble seeing much at all.

“I had limited vision through the mask,” Christensen admits. “I sat higher up in the costume due to the shoe lifts, so I had to look through the mouthpiece instead of the eyes. I didn’t see much as Vader.”

But Christensen had no complaints. As a fan of the original trilogy as well, Christensen told the crowd that he thought once fans understood the human tragedy of Anakin’s path to the dark side it would forever will alter their perceptions of what made Darth Vader so frightening.

“The meanest villain in the original trilogy is now all of a sudden relatable and humanized,” Christensen says. “He becomes a much more pathetic person in a way and it changes the whole dynamic about how we see Darth Vader.”

Taking questions from the audience, Hayden spoke fondly about his experiences working with Gillard on the intricate lightsaber movements he memorized and mastered for the intense fight scenes that saturate Revenge of the Sith.

“Nick defined the lightsaber style we use in the films, but he’s very open to suggestions,” Christensen says. “He choreographed every finite detail, but the lightsaber reversal thing I like to take credit for.”

“No one knows lightsaber style like Nick,” Christensen adds.

When asked if given the choice, which character other than Anakin would Christensen like to have portrayed on the big screen, and he promptly replaced to host Jay Laga’aia’s surprise — Captain Typho, with Boba Fett coming in second.

Another young fan asked Christensen who was more fun to play — a Jedi or a Sith.

“Being a Jedi is much more fun,” Christensen confessed. “I like the color of the lightsaber a little better.”

Laga’aia made a point to relay a special message from Episode III Producer Rick McCallum inviting him to New York in a couple of weeks to sit down for a screening of the film to which Christensen excitedly replayed, “Yes! I’ve been waiting for him to ask! I’m as anxious as the rest of you to see it!”

“It has all become very personal for me to be a part of George’s world,” Christensen adds. “When I was 13, I was given the George Lucas: The Creative Impulse book and was in awe about this creative haven George created away from the Hollywood system. And now my life has come full circle to be a part of it as well.”

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