Unafraid of the Dark

Ready, Jedi, go! Plucked from relative obscurity to star in what will certainly be one of the biggest movies of all time, Hayden Christensen will soon be seen as Anakin Skywalker — the young Darth Vader originally played by Jake Lloyd — in ”Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” as well as in ”Episode III” (due in 2005). Here, the 20-year-old Christensen, currently performing on the London stage in Kenneth Lonergan’s ”This Is Our Youth,” talks about fake tans, instant celebrity, and the return of that jabbering alien.

So we’re supposed to believe that cute little Jake Lloyd from ”Episode I” evolves into a mass murderer?
Hmmm. I can’t really reveal anything, but when I read the script I thought, Oh, that’s very clever. [Pauses] I don’t know how much of this story has leaked.

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Well, Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles has seen the movie. He wrote this big…
Wait! They showed it to someone?

Well, Lucasfilm says they don’t know how it happened.
And who’s this Harry Knowles guy?

He’s like, this gigantic, redheaded guy from Austin, Texas.
Really. [Laughs] I’m not a big Internet guy. Was it a good review?

Yeah.
Cool! Bizarre, but cool. Well, okay, Anakin is protecting Amidala and he falls in love. It’s a conflict, because the Jedi is not supposed to experience romantic love. And there’s animosity between Anakin and Obi-Wan because Anakin is developing quickly as a Jedi and thinks he should have a position of [greater] importance. Conflicting ambitions and desires make him boil; he doesn’t just snap and go to the dark side.

What was an average shooting day like?
I would get to work a couple of hours early to get makeup done. I had to get a tan applied. I’m supposed to be from a desert planet and I’m actually from, you know, Canada [points to his face]. You had to put the hairpiece on. Then the Jedi robes, a cool ritual unto itself. And you get on set and it’s blue screen and crazy alien creatures with plastic faces. They made sure the process was as fun as possible.

How?
Ewan was always able to lighten up a situation. And there were odd moments. My pants split numerous times, right up to my crotch. It happened over and over when I was doing jumps. So there was always something to laugh at, even if it was me. Making a ”Star Wars” is the most pleasant experience you could ask for.

Not sure everyone would say that. ”Episode I” had Liam Neeson talking retirement.
Yeah, I remember. I was probably more accepting of the things that weren’t, uh, typical, since I had more experience on stage [than in movies]. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I see my performance. [Laughs] And I’ll go, ”Those a-holes!”

What piece of ”Star Wars” merchandise would you most dread seeing your face on?
Uh, probably Pepsi cans. I like Pepsi and I just don’t think I could drink one that has my face on it.

You costarred in last year’s ”Life as a House” and are in the middle of a pretty tough play. Do you feel pressure to showcase your versatility before this role defines you?
I’m just letting it be. You can’t control how the public sees you or wants to see you. I’m going to go after the roles I want to play. Still, actors are associated with one or two roles. People say, ”De Niro? ‘Raging Bull’ or ‘Taxi Driver.”’ But I think Darth Vader is a cool role to be defined by.

When did you first see ”Star Wars”?
I was 7 or 8. My brother sat me down and played all three [on video]. He was torn about me getting the part. You can’t be the spectre of evil to the guy who beat the crap outta you.

Last question. This is important. Jar Jar Binks — where do you come down?
Uh, okay. I actually am, uh, a big fan. [Laughs] Seriously, I can see why people have distaste for him, but I thought [the character] was appropriate considering the audience ”Episode I” was directed at. It’s really a question of whether you can create a digital character that you can care for. They [usually] don’t deliver. I mean, how do you hug Jar Jar?

Good question.
It’s very bizarre. Even when he’s standing still, he’s moving. When you’re hugging nothing, you still have to rock along with him. You end up feeling like an ass.

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