Archive for the ‘Magazines '02’ Category

People’s The 50 Most Beautiful People: Hayden Christensen- May 13, 2022

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

ACTOR:A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … Well, it was actually just a couple of years back, in an apartment in Canada, that an unknown named Hayden Christensen was told he had beaten out more than 400 actors for the part of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

“He’s got a certain edge to him-the same kind that James Dean and Marlon Brando had,” says director George Lucas.

The 21-year-old Christensen still needed help looking the part. “Anakin is from a desert planet, so they gave me a pretty severe tan,” says the 6′1″ actor. He was also given hair extensions to lengthen a choppy cut from an unlikely barber.

“He was like ‘I need a haircut-think you could do it?’” says his brother Tove, 29. “He’s not one of those guys who are constantly preening.”

These days, Christensen is not even bathing. Appearing last month in the London stage production of This Is Our Youth as a drug dealer with “a cleanliness problem,” he said, “I haven’t showered for two weeks. I’m making a concerted effort to smell bad, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it.”

Movieline -Darth Victory - June 2002

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Ever since it was announced he would play the anithero of the dark, romantic Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones, HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN has been feeling everyone’s eyes are on him. Here he reveals how he’s been dealing with the pressure, while George Lucas and other Star Wars crew explain why they’ve entrusted their golden franchise to a newcomer from Canada.

Jaws dropped inside and outside of Hollywood back in 2000, when, after months of deliberation, it was announced that 19-year-old near-unknown Hayden Christensen had just landed the part of the young, romantic, pre-evil version of the most feared specter to ever hit screens, Darth Vader, in the second prequel of Star Wars. Outside the Industry, nobody had a clue who this kid was. There were plenty of people in Hollywood who’d heard of Christensen-he was one of the many boys in Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides-but they couldn’t comprehend how an actor with so few cred- its to his name could have won such a crucial role. Christensen was the hot subject at showbiz cocktail parties. Many felt it was Leonardo DiCaprio’s role, though it was never clear if DiCaprio actually wanted it (after being thrown by the huge success of Titanic, why would he throw himself from the frying pan into the fire?). Some thought Heath Ledger, Paul Walker, Joshua Jackson, Jonathan Jackson, Tobey Maguire, Chris Klein or Ryan Phillippe-all actors who already had a massive teen fol- lowing-were worthy of the role.

A number of people recognized the intelligence of casting a fresh face-it was not such a bad idea to have audiences wonder about who Hayden was, w.hen they had wondered so long what the young Vader might be like. But one could argue that Hayden Christensen became as much a marked man as a made man when Lucas announced that he had gotten the part. Overnight, Christensen’s face, credits and talent became the target of scrutiny by the press. The shock waves subsided temporarily while Christensen was off for months in Australia shooting Episode II opposite Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson. But tremors erupted all over again when the press sniffed out a purportedly hot off-the-set romance between Christensen and Portman, and Star Wars fans as well as moviegoers in general grew even more curious about him. Finally, in the fall of 2001, more than a year after he won the role of Anakin Skywalker, Christensen was able to show a bit of the substance behind the massive speculation. Starring as the emotionally conflicted teenage son of a terminally ill architect played by Kevin Kline in the little drama Life as a House, Christensen revealed himself to be soulful, edgy and, above all, capable. When awards season swept in, he received a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe nomination, and the National Board of Review and this magazine both gave him their male “Breakthrough of the Year” awards.

When Hayden Christensen, now 21, arrives to meet me for lunch, he appears to be someone for whom anonymity might not be private enough. He looks suspiciously like a person who wishes he could just vanish. He ambles onto the outdoor terrace of this comfortable, downscale and off-the-beaten-track restaurant with his jacket collar turned up to the edge of his chin and a baseball cap yanked down almost to brow level.

“It’s funny,” he tells me as we sit down together. “I have a friend in from out of town meeting with different agencies, just trying to get his career on track. I had to stop myself from giving advice because my experiences so far are not really an accurate portrayal of what a typical actor goes through when he first comes to Los Angeles. Usually, there’s a progression and development within the Industry, you know?”

Here’s what Christensen’s warp-speed ascension looked like. He grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and was interested in acting by the time he was 13. His older brother Tove had appeared in writer-director Robert Towne’s 1998 film Without Limits before going into producing, and his sister, now a Canadian martial arts champion, had done some acting as well. Christensen got a few commercials, then played a boy named Skip on the TV series “Family Passions.” Next came tiny parts in the films Street Lawand John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness and a handful of TV movies, including Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story. His mini break came when he costarred opposite Josh Hartnett and Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides, which led to the network movie Trapped in a Putple Haze (which starred his friend Jonathan Jackson) and the series “Higher Ground.” And, then, without much further ado, he was suddenly Anakin Skywalker.

Lucasfilm casting director Robin Gurland insists she and the big boss cast their net far and wide when they set out to find their Anakin. As many as 400 candidates were being looked at. “One of the great joys of working with George Lucas is that he allows you to do your job,” says Gurland. “Leonardo DiCaprio was not discounted, but neither was any appropriate actor in America, England, Canada or Australia.” Christensen’s managerial team set up an audition for him with Lucas and company in Los Angeles, and he met Gurland for half an hour, during which their conversation was videotaped. Lucas was not present.

“Hayden opened the door, walked in and, all of a sudden, I thought, ‘Now this could be interesting,’” says Gurland. “He hadn’t had all that much experience aside from ‘Higher Ground,’ but when I peeked at him through the camera, I thought, ‘Oh, this is looking very good.’ I knew I wanted to screen test him with Natalie Portman, which is something we wound up doing with only four actors. When Hayden left that first meeting, I called George at the ranch and said, ‘Anakin just left the room.’” About a month later, Christensen got word that director George Lucas had seen the tape and was interested in meeting him. But Christensen would have to pay for his own airfare from Canada to San Francisco and even his own cab fare from the airport to Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California. “My family is supportive of everything I do,” says Christensen, “but they were hesitant because I was asked to pay for my trip. To me, it seemed worth it just to meet George. So, I flew out there, met him and sat there in silence for the first 45 seconds while he looked down at my resume, then back up at me, then back down at the resume. He said nothing, either. Then he started asking questions about my work. Nothing about Star Wars, though.

“At this stage of the auditioning process,” continues Christensen, “if you’re going to be the one, the meeting usually ends with something like, ‘I really like you and think you could be right for this.’ At the end of this meeting, though, it was like, ‘Thanks for coming. Nice to meet ya. Take care.’ The casting director was like, ‘Thanks for coming. The car’s Waiting for you outside.’”

Was he crushed? “No,” says Christensen. “I generally go home after auditions with my tail between my legs, but this time, I thought, At least I can go home and brag about my experience with George Lucas. ” Robin Gurland laughs at hearing how Christensen experienced their interaction. “I thought I was giving Hayden really strong signals,” she says. “I was totally spun around by him. He’s a stunning actor with so much going on inside. What set him apart was just that he has-and this is such an overused phrase-’it,’ that certain something that means you can’t take your eyes off him no matter who he’s doing a scene with.” After the meeting, the Skywalker camp informed the Christensen camp that Lucas liked the actor, but wasn’t convinced he could look and act convincingly mature enough to also tackle Episode III (due in theaters in 2005), in which Darth Vader is supposed to be 30 years old. Although a date and location for a screen test were set up for him and Portman, Christensen pretty much felt he was just along for the ride. “Up until three weeks before the test, everyone was saying the part was going to Leonardo DiCaprio,” says Christensen, “and that they were just doing the tests to convince the public they were actually looking at other people. The impression I was under was that the role was always meant for Leonardo. But they told me George liked me because I had talked to him on some kind of real level, that I didn’t treat him like the almighty George Lucas. When you get to the level of success George has gotten to, it’s hard not to have people laugh at a oke when it’s not funny. I wasn’t doing that.”

When Lucas did a screen test of Christensen and Portman, he had them read scenes that hinted at the passionate quality of the relationship between Anakin and Padme. An insider who saw he test said, “Watching it, you could feel the elecricity between Hayden and Natalie. That didn’t happen with the other guys who tested.” For his part, Christensen says he found Portman professional. ‘She was very much, ‘Hi, nice to meet you, let’s go to work,’” he says. “She was mostly off making calls on her cell phone.

“The whole time, I never really thought it was going to happen for me,” Christensen continues. “I was just so enthralled I’d gotten that far. Natalie told me that Ryan Phillippe had also tested, and I remember the day I got almost definitive word that Ryan was the one George Lucas had chosen.”

Christensen should well remember that particular day, because the following day, his management team called him in Toronto and roused him from sleep with the news that he’d snagged the role.

“Whenever you’re casting, you’re first and foremost looking for a good actor,” says George Lucas, somebody who is very talented and has a certain quality about them. Then you go to the next level where you’re looking for somebody who fits the character. And in this particular case I was looking for somebody who was very boyish, funny, sexy, personable and young, but someone who had an edge to them. I had to cast with the third film in mind- when Anakin is much more like Darth Vader.”

Having agonized over the audition process for several months, Christensen went into a semi-altered state when he got the part. “I have an apartment on the 22nd floor of a high rise and got out of bed, went out on the porch and stood in the morning breeze or probably an hour,” he recalls. “I didn’t know what to feel, it was so overwhelming. When I came back in, my roommate was standing there and I just made a gesture of raising a lightsaber. He gave me a huge hug, jumped on me and started screaming profanities. He was a DJ and we’ve got a turntable at our place, so I called my mom and my roommate put on the Star Wars album and turned the volume up full, so that was the first thing she heard when she picked up the phone. “She started crying and I heard this domino effect all around my house of people screaming.”

Once the euphoria wore off, did panic set in? “Ijust said to myself, ‘These are smart people who must know what they’re doing by giving me the part,’” Christensen says as he shakes his head. “In the end, I wasn’t nervous at all but a lot of that had to do with me finally finding the character of Anakin, who I saw as someone who existed in a very dark place. I was able to shut out all my insecurities and just be that powerful place. I think that’s how I was able to overcome the fear and anxiety of being in a role that comes with such overwhelmingly high expectations.”

Given the sort of director George Lucas is, Christensen’s self-reliance was a valuable asset. “George doesn’t have time to sit down and talk with you for an hour about your motivation, your tactics, what you need to accomplish,” he says. “There’s so much else for him to think about. When he gave me direction, it was extremely specific and helpful. You’re taking direction from the man who envisioned your character and dreamed up this whole crazy universe. So, on many levels, if you’re able to get a ‘We got that one,’ then you know you got it. There’s no questioning him.” Still, the strains of working against blue screens and opposite actors in fur suits and latex masks take their toll. There were rumors from the set of Episode II that Natalie Portman felt so lost and upset during filming that she broke down and cried at one point. McGregor, word has it, periodically became downright unruly. True? “I don’t know anything about Natalie crying,” says Christensen, “but, in terms of Ewan, yeah, that’s kind of the impression I got, too. I can’t really comment on his frustrations but I think they’re obvious ones. I don’t blame him for anything he did. Ewan is a highly trained actor who comes from the theater. For him to be challenged and to have to deal with the struggles that he does sometimes feel are unfair- like having to submit to and understand that on a film like this, our involvement as actors, even though it’s extremely necessary, doesn’t have the same importance here as it does on a different kind of film. Making a film like this demands a certain level of trust among everyone involved, especially actor to actor, because so much of its coming to life happens at ILM with special effects. So much is superimposed later, you’re never sure what they’re going to put there and you have to trust that they’re not going to make you look stupid. It’s a great leap of faith required.”

McGregor, known as one of the few actors in Hollywood who’s extremely supportive of his costars and who doesn’t play power games on sets, was especially helpful to his relatively green costar. “I really asked a lot of Ewan,” says Christensen, “like how I should approach certain scenes and how to react to a nonactor like a droid. He and the stunt coordinator, Nick Gillard, were kind of my soul mates on the film. We were each others’ saviors. We’d just go out, escape it all and enjoy ourselves. We played a good many games of pool together. I’ve stayed good friends with both of them and when I go to London, I stay with Ewan and we all hang out.”

Of course, it’s the hanging out he might have done with Natalie Portrnan that people are far more curious about. Actors who play lovers on screen often hook up, and even if they don’t, the tabloids say they do. In the case of Star Wars, gossip columnists never stopped speculating about an affair between Portrnan and Christensen. “It was really bizarre,” he says. “I’m still getting asked in interviewers, ‘So are you and Natalie an item?’ You can’t blame them for their curiosity. My whole philosophy is that if they ask questions about things that aren’t true, I’m OK with it. If they start asking about things that are true then I’ll start to worry.”

Even if there was nothing between them in real life, are the scenes between them steamy? “Steamy?” he repeats, grinning. “I don’t know if you can do that in a Star Wars movie and I think George is pretty aware of that. The [relationship] is depicted in a very classical way: at times, it’s almost sort of melodramatic and over-the-top with how passionate these people are for each other. It’s definitely not the way you’d see people meet and fall in love in a contemporary movie. It works with the whole rest of the film. This movie encompasses many different themes, but it’s really a love story at the heart of it.”

It is not, however, a sugar-coated love story. “It has a dark feel to it,” says Christensen. “The story itself is darker and the love story is darker, almost to parallel the decline of the Republic. I think it was a conscious choice to make Episode I so colorful, but I think George is working away from that in this film.”

To hear Lucas talk about it, Christensen turned out to be the right choice in this endeavor. “For Episode II, Hayden had to balance his character. He had to have a sense of humor and be warm enough for Padme to fall in love with him, yet have a dark side. It’s a difficult thing to do. Hayden was able to pull it off very well.” Now that Christensen could well become a gigantic movie star, and perhaps a romantic idol, his own romantic history takes on a new dimension of interest. So, who was his first romantic crush? “I was 13 and I acted in a Movie of the Week [No Greater Love] with a woman, not a girl, named Kelly Rutherford,” says Christensen. “She was the kindest, most beautiful woman I’d ever met then. I was completely smitten by her and kept staring at her with these blank starry eyes and a big smile. We’re friends now. I didn’t really date at all when I was in high school. I mean, forget about ‘boyfriend and girlfriend.’ When it even came to holding a girl’s hand, I was extremely shy. When I was 16 and we lived in Toronto, there was this girl in Montreal who I had a long-distance romance with. She was kind of like my first girlfriend. On the weekend, I’d commute back and forth on the train to Montreal and that was really my first taste of being in love. It dissipated when I moved away from home. The point I’m making is that I’ve never really broken up with a girl or had a girl break up with me. There’s never been such a defined relationship, so it wasn’t lecessary. My experience with girls has always been very genuine but, up until recently, I was always kind of overly self-aware, which made it hard to reach out to someone else and be comfortable with opening up.”

Since he finds exposure so uncomfortable, how does he propose to survive the onslaught of publicity he is about to receive for years to come? “I think that’s why I live at home still,” he says, quietly. “I live with my parents in a small suburban town north of the city. It’s an easy escape, a way I don’t really have to feel the reality of others’ opinions. It’s such a struggle to protect your integrity and dignity in this industry. I haven’t gotten the worst of it yet, but I can feel it. They really want to attack your morality and your beliefs. They need you to give up a certain part of yourself before they’ll initiate you into ’stardom.’ I had a very small life before this. I’ve always been kind of a hermit. I find my joy in he little things they want to take away from me. Prior to all this, I took pleasure from being the observer. Now I’m the observed.”

Christensen has already become skeptical about people’s motivation or befriending him. “I’ve had to realize just recently that someone I thought had nothing but good intentions was otherwise,” he says. ‘Someone I thought was a friend was going around trying to capitalize on his relationship with me. It sucks. It’s really hard to know how to deal vith that. You find you accept a certain level of numbness. You desensitize yourself. Everyone has three good friends that you know are just solid but when it comes to people outside that circle, it’s probably not going to work.”

This sounds like the strategy of a guy who wasn’t even inclined to be voted most popular in his class. “They say acting is the shy man’s revenge, right?” he laughs. “I had a hard time talking to people. I started playing hockey when I was six and found myself surrounded with kids who were far more outgoing. I felt ostracized from the group I was trying to associate with. So I daydreamed.”

Christensen’s childhood fantasy of choice, he tells me, ran along the lines of the classic Curious George books. “Sometimes, I’d live vicariously through Curious George,” he says, “I loved him, still do. I have all he books. I just bought the really fat compilation book of the first 10 volumes, which is a great book.”

Curious George was apparently just a small part of a more elaborate vorld of whimsy. “I was convinced money literally grew on trees,” he says. “My sister would wake up before me in the morning and Scotch tape pennies to the leaves of trees in the back yard. I’d wake up and pick the pennies off the trees.” Now that he’s become a high-paid movie star, it is perhaps once again possible to believe that money grows on trees? “No,” says Christensen. “I’m relatively modest when it comes to my budget. I don’t rent some lavish penthouse apartment. I’ve had the same pearl white 1986 Jaguar XJC I’ve had since I was a kid, which I love even though it breaks down a lot. I got myself a big TV, surround sound and a DVD player, but that’s about it.”

Christensen has clearly not been cashing in on his Star Wars buzz to get the big Hollywood money jobs. The last acting job he took was the low paying stage gig in the London production of Kenneth Lonergan’s play This Is Our Youth, something Ewan McGregor urged him to do. In it, Christensen costarred with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin as a wealthy criminal lout. After that he met with several household-name film directors about projects that will fill his time and expand his horizons before he’s drafted for Star Wars duty again. And then, there is the short list of movie projects Christensen and his brother Tove hope to launch together as part of their deal with New Line. “When I was 16, I adapted a book I love into a screenplay and right after I finished it, I said, ‘I’m going to act in this, direct it and produce it.’ In a year or two, one of the three or four things that my brother and I are passionate about could be happening.”

With so much about to change in his life, Christensen prefers to keep his goals simple. “All want is all what my mother wanted for me when she raised me- to be happy. For that, I don’t need to be in a relationship. I don’t need to have a certain level of respect. I just want to care very much about what I do and be kind to everyone in the process. It’s important that I can feel that. That’s happiness.”

US Weekly- Here’s Hayden - May 10, 2022

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

With Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones out on May 16, US delivers a fast lowdown on Hayden Christensen.

HIS CHARACTER Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi knight who eventually becomes Darth Vader.

YOU’VE SEEN HIM BEFORE AS Kevin Kline’s pierced-and-pouting son in Life as a House.

WHEN HE GOT THE CALL FOR EPISODE II “As soon as I heard the voices of my manager, agents and lawyer on the phone, I assumed they weren’t all calling me up to give me the bad news. It was a week of absolute bliss.”

ON TABLOID RUMORS THAT HE’S DATING COSTAR NATALIE PORTMAN “My philosophy is that as long as it’s not true, it’s OK. As soon as they get the truth, then I’m worried.”

AND THE TRUTH IS “She’s a fine actress, which made it very easy to look at her with such adoring eyes.”

SINCE EPISODE II WRAPPED Christensen, 21, appeared on the London stage early this year in This Is Our Youth. A top British theater critic called him “absolutely riveting.”

CHEESY TIE-IN Christensen’s light-saber-wielding image will grace bags of Doritos Nacho Cheesier chips.

Teen Vogue- Hayden Christensen - Spring 2002

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Star Wars Episode II’s leading man lives with Mom and Dad, thinks fame is overrated, and doesn’t have a girlfriend (!).
This boy is about to become one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, and he still lives in his parents’ house in Toronto with Mom, Dad, Little Sis, a dog, a rabbit, and two parakeets. He sleeps in the same bedroom he’s occupied since the age of six. He hangs out with the same kids he hung out with in high school. And he still spends most of his free time reading. Success, it seems safe to say, has not changed Hayden Christensen.

Not so far, anyway. This May, when Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones comes out, 21-year-old Hayden will finally exit the fame waiting room he’s been in since it was announced two years ago that an “unknown” had beat out more than 400 other actors (a pool rumored to have included Ryan Phillippe, James Van Der Beek, and Leonardo DiCaprio) to win the role of Anakin Skywalker. During this time, his name has been repeated and his merits debated by fans eager to see what he’ll do with the role. His face has been splashed across magazine covers. But he’s still been able to walk down the streets unrecognized. That’s all about to change. And if what happened when Hayden was in Spain shooting the movie-”thousands upon thousands of people,” he remembers, gathered around the location creating rock-star-style chaos until the military had to be called in-is any indication, he’s really in for it. And ready, he says, if not exactly willing.

“I don’t think anyone can desire that kind of loss of anonymity,” he explains, sounding earnest and intelligent and only a tiny bit anxious. “You’d have to be a pretty deranged individual to actually want to be famous. You give up so much. But I’ll deal with it as it comes.” For Hayden, who started acting at thirteen and decided to really make a go of it after playing Hamlet at fifteen, it’s his love of the craft that makes all the other stuff worthwhile. “I enjoy the self-discovery aspect of acting,” he says, “reinventing myself and finding something out about myself through my character.”

Playing Anakin, the boy who’ll become, in Episode III, Darth Vader, has doubtless given Hayden a chance to find out about his dark side, but it’s not the first time he’s done so. His first big role was as a juvenile delinquent on the short-lived Fox Family Channel series Higher Ground. He played rough again as Kevin Kline’s son in last fall’s Life as a House, a star turn that earned him Oscar buzz. Nevertheless, when I’m sitting face-to-face with Hayden at the Teen Vogue cover shoot, this dark side is not entirely evident. Instead, he’s extremely polite and very serious (witness the quotes above). Sure, he’s got that shy smile, but I certainly don’t see the “sullen” side that George Lucas, the creator and writer of the Star Wars series, recognized immediately. “I was looking for someone charismatic, boyish, and likable who had the ability to turn bad in the next film,” Lucas says. “Hayden just had a special quality to him. He’s got a sort of James Dean edge that is perfect for the part.”

Accolades notwithstanding, Hayden says he never reads his own press, lest wild critical praise (like he received for Life) or scorn cause him to lose his confidence. “I don’t want to think about any of that,” he says. “I think it will keep me more content in this industry.” And though he’s the first to acknowledge what he humbly refers to as his “good fortune,” he plans to use it not to make an ill-advised bid for leading-teen status but rather to continue to do “character-driven work where the film is about some sort of human expression, something that comments on life.” To that end, he’s also formed a production company with his older brother, Tove, a producer, and spends much of his time searching for scripts, the kind with “stories we can build from the ground up.” Hayden’s even adapted a favorite book into a script that they hope to film someday. (He won’t say which book, as he’s currently investigating its copyright status.) “I’m kind of a workaholic,” he says with a grin. “Unfortunately it’s the only lover affair in my life right now, but it’s enough that it keeps me fully consumed and completely content. It is a love affair, definitely.”

So Hayden let slip that he’s single, but that’s about all he’ll say on the subject, though he does allow that he’d like to meet a girl with “a good head on her shoulders.” Until he does, and until he finds his next part, he’ll keep busy hanging with his hometown friends. “I’m a little reclusive, maybe,” he says. Then he’s quiet for a moment, thinking about the crush of celebrity that could be a side effect of his success. “I’ve always been like that,” he muses. Then the cloud passes and he smiles again. “So I guess maybe my job suits me.”

TV Guide-The Chosen One -May 11, 2002

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Earthbound Hayden Christensen is the reluctant heartthrob who put off college to accept the role of a lifetime as Anakin Skywalker. Quiet, and a bit self-conscious, he says, “I don’t have any way of justifying how I got this part.”
All of teendom is buzzing about the chosen one. He is Hayden Christensen, the 21-year-old Canadian actor deemed singularly fit for the role of Anakin Skywalker, the future Darth Vader. He is the crucial, conflicted heart of “Attack of the Clones.” And its heartthrob.

At present, he is staring miserably at the cover of Teen Vogue. “I look so.feminine,” he says of the photo-though it racily depicts him with a nubile model posed between his legs, on a beach. Doll-faced and slight, Christensen manages to look handsome even now, in old, acid-washed jeans and a nondescript sweater. He is certainly more at ease in his present confines: a dingy greenroom in London’s Garrick Theatre. Here he is appearing in Kenneth Lonergan’s play “This Is Our Youth” and avoiding magazines that feature his likeness. “It’s hard because you get into acting for-I don’t want to say noble reasons, but for the right reasons,” he says. “It’s because you appreciate the craft.” The theater also suits his mild manner. “He’s really, really quiet,” says his “Clones” costar, Natalie Portman. “When I met him, I thought, ‘This is going to be so hard.’ But then I got to know him. He’s quiet, but it’s an attractive quietness. He’s got that unnameable thing that makes you want to watch someone.”

“Out of that shyness there is a real strength,” says George Lucas. “There’s a real energy that he keeps inside.”

The original Vader never had to contend with that undignified “heartthrob” tag. “I should be so pretty,” sniffs James Earl Jones. When Jones first provided the character’s malevolent voice more than 20 years ago, Vader was shorter on cheekbones and longer on polyurethane. Back then, the Jedi-gone-bad terrorized a generation of children that included Christensen’s brother, Tove, now 29. “I think I’ve kind of ruined this trilogy for my brother a little bit,” says Christensen. “That his little brother is playing [Darth Vader] is just not cool.”

Unlike his brother, Hayden’s childhood heart was not etched with Yoda quotes. Hayden was born in 1981-four years after the release of the original “Star Wars.” “My brother introduced me to the films when I was maybe 7 or 8,” he says. “And, you know, I enjoyed them. But I didn’t watch them every Sunday.” Still, he understands their appeal. “It had such fantastical elements,” he says. “I’m sure that’s why it has a cult following.” While he did not faint at the prospect of meeting R2D2, he respects those who would.

And he knows they have their doubts about him. Can an unknown kid from Canada pull off this high-profile role? Christensen doesn’t even draw his lightsaber. “It’s just so daunting to even project my thoughts there,” he says. Instead, he destresses by talking often with his mother, Alie, who runs a communications business with his father, David.
“I think that bonds with your family are the most valuable ones,” he says. But like Luke Skywalker, Christensen was also influenced by a paternal schism. “[My dad] doesn’t have any interest in acting or in my own building of that craft,” he says. So the son pursued his life’s course without the father’s blessing.

Third in the Christensen sibling line-up, Hayden also has two sisters, Hejsa, 27, and Kaylen, 17. He played competitive hockey and tennis, but high school drama-and then a series of small TV and film roles-distracted him. “I really enjoyed the challenge of [acting],” he says.

His father was less enthusiastic. Even as Christensen was winning numerous roles, “my father didn’t have such a high respect for people trying to be somebody else, instead of bettering him[self] or herself,” he says. He began in TV-movies (Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story, Danielle Steel’s No Greater Love) and bit parts in films (1998’s “Strike!” and 1999’s “The Virgin Suicides”). When he was 18, he won the role of Scott Barringer in Fox Family’s teen drama Higher Ground. The part was a potential breakthrough-and a blow to his dad, who expected Hayden to attend college on a tennis scholarship.

“He wasn’t thrilled,” says Christensen wryly. “It was definitely the cause of some heartache.” Intending to start college after one TV season, he set off for Vancouver, where Higher Ground was filmed. But later that year, he auditioned for “Clones.” In retrospect, he admits, “I never really felt it was feasible that I was going to get the part!” When he did, he traded college plans for Jedi training. “But I am going to go back to university,” he says. “Not for [my father's] sake, but because I want to. Natalie is in university, and I have a lot of admiration for that.”

It may be awhile. Christensen has offers lined up, thanks in part to the critical praise he received for his portrayal of Sam Monroe, Kevin Kline’s surly, glue-sniffing son, in 2001’s “Life As A House”.

“There’s a scene where Kevin tells [Sam] that he’s dying,” says Irwin Winkler, the film’s director. “Hayden got so into the role that he banged his fist against the wall, and he almost broke his knuckles. That’s the kind of actor he is. He lets the character flow right through him.” Such high-placed approval-and his escalating “Star Wars” fame-have boosted activity at Hayden and Tove’s upstart production company, Forest Park Pictures, in Los Angeles. “Most likely the next film that I do will be something that my brother and I coproduce,” he says.

Christensen, however, is not in Hollywood’s thrall; home is still his parents’ Toronto house. “I have a good relationship with my family,” he says-and that includes his dad. “I don’t know if he’s necessarily proud of me,” he says. “But he’s happy for what I’ve achieved.”

So the actor who would be Vader possesses that villain’s gravitas-but lacks his hubris. “I don’t have any way of justifying how I got this part,” he adds with a laugh. “Maybe George was attracted to me because I wasn’t known at all. The audience can definitely believe in someone if they don’t have any [previous] idea of who you are.” All they know is who he will be.

Instyle: Who’s Sexy Now - September 2002

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

By Day You’ll Find Him
Playing a leading role in Shattered Glass, now filming in Montréal.

Favorite Nighttime Activity
“When I was in Australia filming Star Wars Episode II, I lived on Bondi Beach. One night I went with Ewan McGregor to a pub, and when I was feeling a little ’simple’ some hours later, I decided to head home. On the way I started goofing off, making my way into the water. It was 2:30 in the morning, I was fully clothed, and I was totally peaceful. Just feeling the fluidity of the waves going up and down and listening to the sounds of the ocean was so calming that I dove into the waves. What a great night!”

Undercurrents
“I learned how to swim when my father dropped me into the deep end of a pool one day. Some years later, when I was swimming in the ocean, I got caught in a school of jellyfish, and was dragged back to shore with tentacles wrapped around my body. I’ve had a few run-ins with water, but I still find it totally sensual.”

Yam Interview with Hayden Christensen

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Star Wars made Hayden a mega star, but what is he like in private? YAM! met him and had a closer look at him…. (*I love those meaningful introductions……**groaning***) “Hayden doesn’t have a lot of experience with journalists yet, that#s why he’s a bit shy”, his PR lady explains while the door of the interview suite at Covent Garden hotel London opens and SW hero Hayden Christensen (21) comes in. Shy? Not really. The 1,85m Canadian (=6′1) introduces himself with a nice smile, strong handshake and a deep voice. Hayden discovers the mp3 mobile phone which the YAM! correspondent is going to use to record the interview. “Wow is that thing small! Can I have a look at it?” he asks. Is the Jedi knight a technology geek? Hayden laughs: “No, at home I don’t even have internet access. But my parents work in the communications business. I just know how to use video games.” When he’s not playing video games, Hayden spends his time with more oldfashioned hobbies: playing the piano, reading and writing. But is that how get such a great body? This is how Hayden explains his amazing figure: “I love sports. I’ve been playing hockey a lot and I was Nationally ranked in tennis.” Sports is like a family tradition. His father David went on a university scholarship in football (*the text say soccer but that might be a wrong translation by the journalist*), his brother Tove still holds the Canadian junior record in running a mile, and his sister Hejsa was a Junior World Champion on the trampoline. Hayden stands up and gets himself a glass of water. There’s not a trace of any arrogant star behaviour - he’s a grounded and friendly guy who never imagined getting the role of Anakin Skywalker. “When I flew to San Fransisco to meet George Lucas I had to throw up because I was so nervous.” In the meantime his stomach calmed down and Hayden is even going to get his pilot licence (*don’t ask me what that journalist misunderstood here…..gg*). No wonder he was excited, though as he was one of 40 applicants for the role, besides Leo Dicaprio and Keanu Reeves. But George Lucas, the father of SW picked Hayden. He considered him “the best upcoming actor since Harrison Ford”. Sporty, talented, good-looking and a huge star - that just has to make the girls queue in front of his door. Hayden blushes. “I’m far too shy to talk to a girl (*in the first instance*). That’a why I only had two relationships so far. Though I miss having a girlfriend. I often feel very lonely.” He’s even sceptical towards normal friends. “I doubt about the reasons for which strangers want to be my friends - especially now.” Hayden also experienced the dark side of fame. When a paparazzi photographed him with a cigarette, he got a mega sermon from his dad who didn’t even know his little son smoked. His family means everything to Hayden, and that’s never going to change. “My mum will always say thing like ‘have you already cut the grass?’ or ‘Are those your socks lying on the floor?’ and I just can’t say ‘Mum I don’t have to do that’ jut because I have a role in SW.”

New York Times Magazine-Space Boy- March 10, 2022

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Darth Vader needs some chicken soup, and his mommy.

It is a sopping February afternoon in London, and Hayden Christensen, the 20-year-old Canadian actor who will play the young, conflicted Jedi Anakin Skywalker in ”Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” plunks himself on a sofa in the lounge of the Covent Garden Hotel, looking, well, young and conflicted, not to mention a little pasty. A patch of hair sticking up suggests that he hasn’t strayed far from his bed today. ”When I got into town, I got pretty ill, so I’ve pretty much spent the last week in my hotel room with the blinds drawn, trying to get better,” he explains, pulling at the sleeves of his sweater.

Christensen is a buffet of tics: he picks at his chin, tugs at the tongue of his boots, absently kicks at the coffee table in front of him. A few years ago, Christensen experienced an adolescent growth spurt that morphed him from the smallest kid in his junior hockey league to what he is today, a lithe, 6-foot-1-inch man with long, reedy fingers and an unwieldy pair of arms he seems unable to stow comfortably. His face, though, retains the dewy look of a child, endowing him with the odd overall aspect of an angel on stilts.

Christensen is in London rehearsing for his professional stage debut as Dennis Ziegler, the surly pot dealer in the West End production of Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 slacker drama ”This Is Our Youth,” which also stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin. Getting the part — like beating out every young actor, Leonardo DiCaprio included, for the ”Star Wars” role, as well as getting a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of a troubled teen in last year’s ”Life as a House” — is the kind of surreal achievement that would cause most young actors to gather up the Hilton sisters and a sack of drugs and wrap a Porsche around a telephone pole in unhinged celebration.

Christensen’s success, though, seems only to have heralded a two-year era of coughing and bouts of nausea. First there was the anxiety during his two trips to Skywalker Ranch to interview with George Lucas for the ”Star Wars” role. ”I puked going there both times,” he says. More recently, it has descended into his lungs, in the form of bronchitis, which he suffers from today. ”I’ve gotten it three times in the last four months,” he laments. And the British interpretation of America’s favorite home remedy has been a complete bust. ”I’ve ordered chicken noodle soup so many times over the past week because I’ve been sick, and gotten so many interpretations of what it should be,” Christensen says, shaking his head as though puzzling through a great mystery of the universe. ”A lot of them have had the bone. I don’t know if people over here just really like sucking on that afterwards. I just don’t know.”

What he does know, however, is that all this illness is just part of acting, something he takes very seriously. ”It’s kind of become a ritual that every time I have to go to work, I get physically sick right before we start production. It’s some sort of psychosomatic problem I have, just the anxiousness of wanting to get into your work.”

For Christensen, it’s always ”the work.” Though he looks like a kid who might have been abducted from a mall by a casting agent and slapped right on the big screen, Christensen evinces a brooding commitment to his ”craft,” as he earnestly calls it. After finishing ”Attack of the Clones,” he took the role in ”Life as a House,” Irwin Winkler’s modestly budgeted weeper. Though critics panned the film, Christensen was praised for his performance as Sam, Kevin Kline’s glue-sniffing son.

Christensen and his older brother, Tove, recently set up their own production company, Forest Park Pictures, so they can trawl for exactly that type of script, ‘’small in scope, character-driven pieces.” And perhaps in a few years, maybe he will finally find time to have some fun. But don’t bet on it.

”I think I work harder than anybody else my age,” he says matter-of-factly. ”Not to sound conceited, but I just don’t meet anybody in the industry that I work with who is so devoted to always being in that mind-set of character.”

Apparently, Natalie Portman, who reprises her ”Phantom Menace” role as Queen Amidala, found herself included in that group of laggards at times. Christensen would take the task of playing Portman’s on-screen love interest (their union will eventually produce Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia) to Actors Studio extremes. ”I don’t want to make it sound like he’s difficult to work with, because he’s not at all, but he’s very focused,” Portman says. ”Hayden would get mad at me occasionally for not taking something seriously enough. There were scenes where the entire take would be us walking up stairs, and he would be like: ‘You’re swinging your arms too much! You’re not taking it seriously! You’re not walking the way your character would walk!’ I would get all pissed off at him and be like, ‘It’s not your place.’ But he would be right.”

Achievement and discipline have never eluded Christensen, nor, it seems, any member of the Christensen family of Toronto. Tove still holds the Canadian record for the fastest mile for a junior athlete; his sister Hejsa was for a time the junior world champion on the trampoline. His father, David Christensen, a software developer, attended college on a football scholarship and enjoyed all the privileges of being a star athlete on campus. ”He sort of wanted that for all his kids, and so he made sure that we were all pretty competent at our respective sports,” he says. Christensen excelled at hockey and was nationally ranked in tennis. ”At the time, I was a little resentful of it, but it was probably a good way to spend my childhood,” he says, perhaps not sounding entirely free of resentment.

At 7, Christensen was spotted by a talent agent when he accompanied his sister to her agent’s office for a Pringles commercial. Soon, Christensen himself was doing commercials, coughing for the camera in a Triaminic cough syrup ad and shooting at the television screen for an interactive video game. He attended the Arts York drama program in Unionville, a suburb of Toronto, and immersed himself in acting.

Two years ago, right before graduation, he was offered a part in a Fox Family Channel series, ”Higher Ground,” playing a druggie teen who is sexually involved with his stepmother. Rather than going off to college, Christensen took the part, which was not a popular decision in his household. ”My father wouldn’t really talk to me for a few days,” he says.

Now Christensen’s tasks are bigger than television boilerplate. The kid who was born four years after the original ”Star Wars” was released, and who has a vague recollection of his brother’s Millennium Falcon toy, gets the task of bridging young Jake Lloyd’s huggy-bear-with-a-bowl-cut Anakin Skywalker in ”Phantom Menace” to the point that by ”Episode III,” Skywalker dons the scary black helmet and becomes his ”dark side” alter ego, the fearsome Darth Vader. All the while fending off mobs of doughy, middle-aged Jedi junkies who make a habit of showing up, crazy-eyed, wherever he does. Recently in Los Angeles, he was chastised by a middle-aged man when he was unable to sign an autograph. ”So there was this 50-, maybe 60-year-old man, cursing my name, screaming, ‘I came all this way just to get your autograph!”’ Christensen says. ”I don’t want to say that that was sad, but, you know, it’s not what I want to be doing when I’m 50.”

Nor does he want to be doing what Mark Hamill, the first boy wonder of ”Star Wars,” is doing at 50, which appears to be very little.

When asked about the Hamill curse, a Yoda-like smirk spreads across Christensen’s face. ”You see ‘Corvette Summer’?” he asks, referring to Hamill’s disastrous ”Star Wars” follow-up. ”I don’t really think there’s a Mark Hamill plague. I think there’s a I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m-doing plague.”’

Sweat it not, young Skywalker.

Teen People-What’s Next: Hayden Christensen- December 01/January 02

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN: ACTOR (Life As a House) Hayden’s face may not be familiar yet, but if’s coming soon to posters, lunch boxes and notebooks near you. George Lucas handpicked the virtually unknown actor over more established stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Phillippe to play Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones. But before Hayden Joins the Dark Side, you can catch the 20-year-old Vancouver native’s riveting turn as a drug-addled teen in the just released drama Life As a House.

EXPERT OPINION: “I’ve worked with a lot of new actors, and part of the fun of working with them is that they are all extremely enthusiastic, and they work really hard. Every day Hayden gave us 110 percent, and it shows on the screen. Hayden is young and charming, but at the same time he’s got a nice edge to him. He’s really strong, and you can see him becoming Darth Vader.” -GEORGE LUCAS (director, Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones)

Contents-Facing the Royal Treatment: Hayden Christensen- May/June

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

It’s a typically wet and overcast morning when I arrive in London. After checking into my room at Blakes, I find myself strolling down King’s Road and eventually inside a rather non-descript bookstore. On the bottom half of the newsstand there are stacks and stacks of newspapers whose headlines all announce the death of Queen Elizabeth’s troubled sister, Princess Margaret. Above this is a phalanx of Vanity Fairs on which we see Hollywood veteran Natalie Portman in a Renoir-esque reclination upon the likes of newcomer Hayden Christensen. One royal exits, another royal enters.

Hollywood royalty like Old World royalty can be attained by either marriage or birth-think Michael Douglas, Rob Reiner, Anjelica Huston, Jon Peters, Kate Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Candy and Tori Spelling, Lourdes etc. Talent is encouraged, but certainly not required.

Of course, entree into Hollywood royalty can also be somewhat more democratic than Old World. All one needs to do is put together a string of critical and financial hits over a decade or so, ala Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks, and hardly anyone will remember that you started off a pool-attending pauper before ending up a noble prince of Tinseltown.

And then there’s admittance to Hollywood royalty via the wild card. Every so often along comes a role so coveted-think Vivien Leigh-in a movie destined to be so classic, not to mention profitable-think Gone With The Wind-that the lucky soul who snags the part is instantly catapulted to the head of the coronation line and ceremoniously ushered into the kingdom. Forever.

And so shalf it be for 21-year-old Hayden Christensen. It was two years ago this May that Christensen, while starring in a Canadian TV drama (who knew Canadians possess drama outside of a skating rink) landed the acting gig of the new century. Insiders say Christensen beat out Hollywood royals Leonardo DiCaprio and Colin Hanks, Tom’s son. The role, of course, is that of Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader, in George Lucas’s Star Wars movies, Episode II & III. Finally, the world will see Lord Vader as neither an 8-year-old prodigy nor upper-management’s masked malcontent, but as a villainous intergalactic hottie playing Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala for all she’s worth. Talk about your Big Bang.

And if there were any naysayers occupying the Court of Lucas, all have since been rendered silent by Christensen’s Golden Globe and S.A.G. nominated performance in last year’s Life As A House.

It is a Sunday afternoon when I sit down with the 6′1″ Canadian somewhere in Kensington, only a stone’s throw from the late Diana’s former digs. It is also Hayden’s only day off from his current project, the revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, playing in the West End. But before you read this Q&A I want to be fair, to set the record straight, as it were. If you ever get to spend five minutes with Hayden, he would tell you that all this talk about royalty and such was just so much conjecture by a writer looking for an angle. He would most likely confide that he’s just an actor who got lucky. Or that he’s (gasp!) no different than you or me. But isn’t that just like real royalty. They never lose the common touch.

Didn’t you have bronchitis?
Yes, I contracted bronchitis in September and just when I thought I was over I had to get on another long plane ride, I’ve had it three times so I have to give up smoking.

You just got back from your photo shoot. So how was it working with the famous Duane Michals?
I really enjoyed him. He’s very quick. He only needs a couple of rolls for each shot. We had this one shot in Trafalgar Square where I’m running through the birds and there was this old bird lady who was really getting upset with us. She said we were disturbing their meal. Duane was like, ‘Get away from us! We don’t care what you have to say.’ He really articulated how uninterested he was with what she had to say. Duane’s a bit of a character. The whole premise of the shoot was that your character was able to write in his diary every morning exactly what would happen to him that day. In a lot of ways that’s you. How do you feel about that?
You really can’t be that fortuitous in your thoughts, but I’ve always aspired to be successful at whatever it was I was focusing on. In my family we were all heavily involved in sports. Whatever our respec- tive sport was we did it at a high level. But in this industry your measure of success isn’t necessarily parallel to the amount of effort you’re putting into it or how dedicated you are to your craft. It’s quite in frustrating at times… but it’s nice to be choosier about the roles.

So how is this impending fame affecting your family?
It’s kind of disgusting how many people sort of come out from the woodwork after all this stuff started happening.

Have your brother or sisters said, ‘Give up the business, Hayden a just give it up?’

Nah. They’re very supportive. They’re not really as aware as I would like them to be about how it’s going to be when Star Wars comes out. It’s really a hassle to get them to take their names out of the phonebook. ‘Nah. We’ll do that later.’ It would really be a smart idea for them to that now.

How do you think your next Christmas is going to be when you go home?

Honestly, no different than my last Christmas. The ritual is very intense. We always have it at our house in Toronto. The same people come over every year. It’s my favorite time of year. Maybe they’ll get nicer presents. [laughter]

I heard you’re pretty good in tennis. What happened?
You mean why aren’t I playing now?

Right.
I love tennis, but I originally started playing competitive hockey when I was young because in Canada you’re handed a hockey stick as soon as you come out the womb. I started playing when I was 6 years old and by the time I got to be 16 I was playing at a really higher level. But I decided to quit because of all the politics having to do with scouting. It added a whole new layer in having to playing a really simple sport. So I decided to give it up on the one contingency that my father gave me: that I had to pick up another sport and play seriously so that I could have that experience of going to university on some sort of athletic scholarship like he did. My older brother and sister went on scholarships.

Don’t you think the women’s tennis circuit is more interesting than the men’s?
I don’t know. I just don’t enjoy the women’s tennis as much as the men’s. I know it sounds very…

John McEnroe?
I know, I know. But it comes from me playing at a junior level.

Hayden, why would anyone want to become an actor, a job where you pretend for a living?
That’s something I’m struggling with myself. It’s an odd profession. I came to many crossroads when I was deciding to go to university or not. I had to evaluate where my mindset was when it came to acting because I loved it, and it was very therapeutic. I think for me it’s the process and not the product. I’ve always found it very intriguing to explore what motivates someone to do a certain action. I’ve alway regarded myself as a sort of observer.

Plus, you get to live all these other lives.
Then there’s that thought that I’m not sure what I really want to be so I’ll be an actor and pretend I am all these different things.

Did you give yourself a time limit? Did you say to yourself, ‘If I don’t succeed as an actor by this date, I’ll quit’?
I never honestly viewed success in this industry as it relates to your public profile or whatever you wanted to call it.

So here you are a Canadian playing an American in a play that’s going to run in England. Have you picked up any nasty habits? Are you resisting the urge to pick up the accent?
It’s just infectious. As an actor you’re very aware and you just let things affect you. Everytime I go to another country I start to play with the accent. I started saying wanker a lot. [laughter] I love all the British slang. It’s more humorous than derogatory. I saw Elijah Wood on Jay Leno and because he was working with all these Brits on Lord of the Rings he would fade in and out of this accent.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, do you think it would have been better to film Star Wars Episodes I & II back-to-back like Peter Jacksor, did?
We couldn’t because my character, Anakin, has to age ten years. I still have some baby fat on my face.

So you aren’t worried about getting into some terrible car accident like Mark Hamill did between sequels?
Oh, God. I don’t even want to project myself there. But as a rule of thumb it’s harder to revisit a character after you’ve said your good byes.

I’m sure you had to hold something back in Episode II as a contrast to when you go completely evil as Darth Vader.
It’s really challenging. It requires a much more linear approach to how you see your character. I’m building an arc… character growth or whatever you want to call it.

More like character decay.
Yeah. So that arc is over the course of two films. In the second film I don’t even know what I’ll be doing. It’s a real trippy process. I spend a whole lot of time writing about my character, well all my characters, but for this I find it very helpful because it gives me a chance to revisit all the things I had defined as my character’s sensibilities.

Your character is really the first in all the Star Wars that has such a strong character development.
We’re doing a lot of firsts. We’re also tackling the topic of love, something that had yet to be done in Star Wars.

How does it feel to portray Darth Vader? I mean, there was Jake Lloyd who did it at age eight, and Sebastian Shaw played him when he was eighty-two, but you’re the first layable Darth Vader. [laughter]
It’s as nerve wracking as anything. I’ve decided not to worry about justifying getting the part. But it’s a little too overwhelming to try and put what happened to me into perspective.

You got the part of Anakin almost two years ago. Has life changed? Be honest. I mean, I had a limo pick you up this morning. [laughter]
Yes, it’s changed in a lot of ways, but what I hold dear and value I think I’ve been able to preserve. But my working experience has completely changed. There’s a feeling that it has all happened too fast, but at the same time I do have my places where I can go. I still have my friends and family.

How are you going to deal with all the sycophants? Can you spot the phonies?
Yeah, I think so. I’ve had to already. Not fans but people who have different interests in relating to me. My circle of friends has become much more defined and smaller, which kind of sucks. But that is what comes with being in a film like Star Wars.

Did you ever hesitate about taking this part? For instance, Ewan McGregor got a lot of flack and people predicted he would never overcome his casting as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Of course, that hasn’t been the case. Look at Moulin Rouge.
No, but I don’t know what the response is going to be. The films I’m interested in are usually much smaller in scope.

In a way you’re in a damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t situation. If you start doing Indie parts people will say you’re trying to get your credibility back, and if you’re in another big movie…
I’ve sold out.

Tell me about George Lucas.
He’s unquestionably a brilliant storyteller. He’s really in his domain in an editing room. I think George was more excited by his work in this film because there was more of a story to tell. Because he had to set up things for these next two films. The first didn’t leave much room for human interaction.

Does Episode III end as a downer or as a question?
I think it’s going to be a much darker film which George will really enjoy directing.

Does Jar Jar Binks finally get his in Episode II? [laughter]
He’s still in it. His part is somewhat modified. I can’t give too much away. It’s hard for me to talk about a film I’m extremely excited about and then say ‘Sorry, I can’t tell you.’ But yes, Jar Jar is back.

Damn! When you came on the set was there any resentment among the established stars? Did Mr. Lucas warn the cast not to give you any shit?
There was none of that.

Oh, come on.
Honest to God. It was one of the warmest embraces for an actor stepping into an almost family structure.

Let’s talk about Life As A House. Did you warn your mother about that opening scene?
No. [laughter] I told her that she was in for a lot. I went with my entire family to the opening at the Toronto Film Festival and I was petrified. It didn’t click until we were approaching the theatre that I was going to be sitting next to my mom while on screen I would be masturbating… having this exotic asphyxiation.

Did your mom lean over and ask, “Hayden, have you ever done this before?” [laughter]
No, they were able to accept that I was just playing a character. That was very cool. So now I’m less hesitant to have them come out and see my play.

Kevin Kline, I felt, was really ignored as far as awards go.
He was one of the reasons I was so anxious to do that film. I thought he gave a great performance.

Let’s discuss what you’re doing here in London. Right now you’re doing This Is Our Youth. You’re playing Dennis, the drug dealer.
Yes.

You’re playing a lot of dark roles. Can you describe the play for me?
The play for the most part is two guys talking and commenting on different things that have happened in the past couple of days. What happens is that Warren steals $15,000 from his father and brings it over to my house. We’ve got this money, what are we going to do? It’s kinda like the frog in the hot water assimilation. If you have a frog and throw it into a pot of boiling water it will jump out. But if you keep turning up the heat five degrees every ten minutes it won’t know when to jump out and then it will all be too late. In a lot of ways that’s what’s going on in the play.

Does either Warren or Dennis gain a perspective?
By the end of the play you’re aware that Warren is able to have perspective on everything that is going on and grow up ultimately. My character is pretty much a lost cause. Personally, I find him more interesting to play but the journey is in Warren.

I know it’s a limited run but do you see it making its way to Broadway?
They’re toying around with the idea.

We’ve been talking about the dark side of things so let me ask how are you going to resist the dark side of Hollywood?
By resisting Hollywood altogether.

Do you have a home in LA?
I have a place there but I use it just for work, just a couple of months out of the year. I prefer to spend my time in Toronto. LA is not my favorite place.

Many a young actor has been chewed up and spit out by Hollywood. What’s your game plan to avoid all that?
The exhausting aspect of being an actor is that you’re always on the job. You never really get to go home and say it was a hard day at work because you’re always analyzing what your character can and should be doing. In that way it’s hard not to take on the mannerisms sensibilities of your character. So you’re always sort of in character.

But aren’t you afraid that by taking on so mam characters that…
I feel like I’m getting them out of the way now. This my first time working since Life Is A House and we finished that over a year ago. It took me awhile to recover from that experience.

How did it feel not hearing ‘The Golden Globe for Actor goes to Hayden Christensen’?
I left the Golden Globes feeling that things went exactly right. I sat down the night before and tried to put things into an intelligent perspective. I thought, ‘These are the people who voted for you because you were nice to them. You take your pictures with the Foreign Press and you’re very kind, so maybe this is why I got nominated.’ It was so absurd that I had to put the pen down and say I’m not going to win. So I went there hoping I didn’t have to get up on stage a wing it. I didn’t win, so it was good.

The Globes is such a surreal and intimate gathering.
It’s weird having Ian McKellan come up to you afterwards saying, “I loved your performance. I can’t wait to see your play.” My play! How did he even know about it?

Here’s a cliche: Is there anyone you’re looking forward to working with?
John Tuturro is someone I really have to work with. I have to work with Meryl Streep. I’ve met a lot of famous people in the past couple of years and I’m always amazed how I’m not in awe of them- “Oh, you’re just another normal person’-but when I met Meryl Streep it was like when I met Wayne Gretzky when I was eleven. “Oh, my God! You’re the Great One.” She’s amazing.

Here’s your last question, Hayden: What are we most I about you in the National Enquirer?
Hopefully, everything that’s not true. [laughter]

Twist- It Boy of the Month- May/June

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

He’s hot, he’s talented, he’s way down-to-earth, and he’s about to take the world by storm in this summer’s mega blockbuster, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Meet Hayden Christensen, Hollywood’s new (and a little reluctant!) heartthrob.

ON WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE TO BE RECOGNIZED EVERYWHERE HE GOES: “That’s going to be unsettling. You have to be a pretty deranged individual to want that-to want to be famous on that level. Loss of anonymity comes with the territory and when it’s taken from me, it’s taken from me.”

ON TABLOIDS SAYING HE AND CO- STAR NATALIE PORTMAN ARE A COUPLE: “Yeah, you don’t know what to do with that. As long as the [tabloids] aren’t telling the truth, “I’m okay with it. My philosophy is as long as it’s not true, it’s okay. As soon as they get the truth-then I’m worried.”

ON WORKING WITH NATALIE: “It was a great experience. She’s a fine actress and she made it very easy [for me] to look at her with such adoring eyes.”

ON WHAT ROLE GIRLS ARE PLAYING IN HIS LIFE AT THE MOMENT: “Not such a prominent one right now-I don’t have time!” Hey, Hayden, we’ll help you find some!

Arena - June 2002

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Legends of the Fall

On May 1st, 1977, at the Northpoint Cinema in San Francisco, George Lucas screened Star Wars for the very first time. He and all his friends were convinced that he’d committed commercial and professional suicide. Instead, the preview audience went wild. So did the rest of the planet. Against all the odds, Lucas had created the most successful film series in history, re-invented the film industry and introduced us to the most iconic screen villain of all time. A quarter of a century later, on May 16th 2002, Lucas releases Star Wars: Episode ll - Attack of the Clones. This time, the guy with everything to prove is a little known 20-year-old Canadian actor called Hayden Christensen. He’s the man who would be Darth Vader.

On May 12, 2000, LUCASFILM announced that the poster-boy for its next two Star Wars films: Episode ll - Attack of the Clones and the as-yet unfilmed and untitled Episode lll would be played by the previously unheard of Canadian actor Hayden Christensen. Chosen from thousands of hopefuls and a “shortlist” of 442 actors (among them Leonardo DiCaprio; Dawson’s Creek’s Joshua Jackson and James Van Der Beek; Ryan Phillippe; American Beauty’s Wes Bentley; American Pyscho star Christian Bale and Tom Hanks’ son Colin) the now 20-year-old actor had been plucked from relative obscurity to play the most famous villain in screen history, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.

Having already carved a niche in various small-time TV and film dramas as the guy to call if you needed someone to play a fucked-up, drug addicted, possibly sexually molested teen, Christensen now gets the chance to essay the role of the most disenfranchised young man in the universe. Anakin is by turns immature, hot-tempered, aggressive and often arrogant. None of which describes the real life Hayden Christensen. He is playing Skywalker/Vader on the cusp of his turn to the dark side, certainly the most complicated and confusing period in his life. It is a role which requires considerable acting chops. Encouragingly, a raft of critical applause and a clutch of award nominations (among them a Screen Actor’s Guild and Golden Globe) attest to his burgeoning talent. For his part, the normally reticent Lucas is in uncharacteristically bullish mood about both this instalment of the saga and his lead actor, explaining that Christensen displayed in spades two of the characteristics that Anakin needed: vulnerability and edginess. “He is very talented, has a great command of his craft, and I know that he has the physical and emotional attributes to play Anakin Skywalker at perhaps the most complex stage of his life.” Though he may not care to admit it (and even though it was spectacularly successful - becoming the third biggest film all-time behind Titanic and the original Star Wars) it does seem that George Lucas has taken heed of the criticism of The Phantom Menace - that any human interest was swamped by the thick emulsion of special efftects, that the super fast-cutting and breakneck pace resembled a computer game, that the plot lacked dramatic emphasis and that the dialogue was clunky - and has now produced the most well-rounded Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back. Other good news is that CGI cretin Jar Jar Binks has been relegated to playing a tiny - but pivotal - role.

While Lucas himself is bomb-proof enough not to have to scratch around behind the sofa to find loose change for the meter in the unlikely event that Attack Of The Clones tanks at the box office, and while not wanting to overplay the melodrama of the situation, there is a hell of a lot riding on the performance of this young man. In terms of high-pressure environment, making a jump into the big leagues counldn’t be made on a larger, more public and hence potentially more dangerous stage than a Star Wars movie. Think about it. He’s Darth Vader. Darth fucking Vader. There must be times when the enormity of it must slam into him like a steam train. Like, “Hey, I’m Darth Vader.” How cool is that? Thankfully the early word suggests that Christensen’s performance is finely tuned and full of subtle nuance - if you can believe that of a Star Wars movie.

We meet initially at a covent garden hotel during a February weekend break in rehearsals for Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth. In person he’s tall (over 6 ft 1in), has light brown hair and blue eyes. He’s lithe rather than built (he’s into competitive sports, almost going pro in Triple A hockey and was once offered a university tennis scholarship). And he has a “look” rather than being matinee idol handsome (though the thousands of cutesy “I love Hayden” websites that have sprung up since his announcement as Anakin may disagree), and has more facial moles than his press shot leads you to believe. He’s polite, confident and thoughtful. Occasionally we get flashes of his humour: dry and sarcastic and often at his own expense. We chat for half an hour in the presence of one of Lucas’s senior aides, who while never intruding on the conversation, imparts just enough of an impression that this man is a very, very important property to Lucasfilm. Unsurprisingly, given the company, most of this answers are worthy of graduates of the United Nation school for extreme diplomacy (he is much less guarded and more open in our subsequent meetings). He is effusive in his praise for George Lucas (“He’s kind of like a rock star - he has this entourage that follows him around. But when you’re alone with him and he’s giving you direction, he makes you feel very at ease. He’s very disarming”), his co-stars (“I would often go to Ewan McGregor for advice. He’s fun to hang out with”), and filming a Star Wars movie in general (“I had the best summer of my life. It was just a blast”). He describes his first day on set as surreal. “It was the first time that I was in character and costume at the same time,” he remembers. “I felt very powerful walking around with a cloak on and a lightsaber hanging from my belt.” He admits that he was so excited about saying the line “May the Force be with you” for the first time that he broke out in a shit-eating grin three times straight.

After principal photography wrapped on Attack of the Clones some 18 months ago, Christensen took a left turn and hooked up to play Sam, son of Kevin Kline’s dysfunctional architect in the manipulative but effective weepie (your better half will love it) Life As A House. Knowing it would be released before Attack Of the Clones, it is a concerted attempt by Christensen to pre-empt any Mark Hamill-like typecasting in the minds of the public. To get into character he dyed his hair black and blue, painted his fingernails, wore blue eye shadow and lost 25 pounds on a water, vitamins and salad diet. The effort earned him a Golden Globes Best Supporting Actor nomination. His opening scene is a cracker. “When I read it I just thought, ‘This is perfect,’ ” he says. “It said, ‘Sam gets out of bed, walks over to his dresser, takes out some spray paints, sprays a rag, stuffs it in a paper bag and starts huffing on it, walks over to the closet takes a tie from one of his robes, does it up in a noose, puts himself in it and starts to get off through auto-erotic asphyxiation, the closet falls down, his mom walks in…’ I thought it was a cute opening scene.” He is philosophical about the finished film. “I think the script had more potential. It was a little forced, but we learn from our mistakes.”

Unlike many young actors of his generation, Christensen cheerfully admits that until he was 17 the only reason he enjoyed acting was because it afforded him a chance to skip school and hang out with adults. He fell into it by accident. His older sister did a commercial for Pringles (she was Junior World Trampoline Champion) and when she went to get a talent agent, “there was no one to baby-sit me, so I went along for the ride. They asked me if I wanted to do some commercials, and I said sure.” By the time he was 12 he had a recurring role in the first Canadian television soap opera Family Passions. It was while studying performing arts at a high school in Toronto that he got his first taste of stage acting. He was hooked. “It was the sensation of really experiencing ‘the moment’ on stage,” he says. “It is something that is very specific to stage. It’s really the only place in drama that you can experience the sensation of real life and living. I was playing Hamlet when I was 16 and I just loved everything that went in to forming the role, and that sensation of being on stage in a character mask and being consumed by someone else’s sensibilities. It was exhilarating. It’s something that you can still experience, but only in the most minute degree, when you’re doing a film. I’m really enjoying experiencing it again with This is Our Youth.”

Lest you get the impression he takes this acting lark too seriously, you should know that his audition piece at stage school took the form of a clown routine. “His thing was that whenever someone touched him he had an orgasm,” he explains. “And so it was just this guy that was constantly walking around having orgasms. Not that I have an infatuation with sex of anything like that.”

Though his CV also boasts blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances in standard TV and film fare, it was his portrayal as drug-abusing delinquent Scott Barringer in the Fox Family Channel TV series High Ground that set him on course for Vader-hood. Relishing the chance to play something other than the all-American boy, he had to move to Vancouver four days after getting the part. He was 18, away from home and starring in a hit show. Unsurprisingly, he remembers it being an exciting time in his life. Filming and hour a week of television taught him to be economical with his acting, and to be comfortable in front of a camera. They were obviously lessons well-learned, as it was the strength of just a few taped episodes of his work on the show and a chat with casting director Robin Gurland that bagged him the audition with George Lucas and Natalie Portman at Skywalker Ranch on April 29-30, 2000 that would Change his life forever.

The Star Wars saga is really the story of the Skywalker dynasty with Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader as its patriarch. Anakin is the young man who marries Padme [also, confusingly, known as Amidala] and sires Luke and Leia Skywalker, before being knocked into a fiery pit in a fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi and emerging as Darth Vader. Anakin may start off a good guy, but he goes bad, very bad, becoming the worst person in the universe. Attack of the Clones takes up the slack ten years on from The Phantom Menace. Anakin has grown up from a sugary sweet muppet into a cocksure, 19-year-old “Padawan” Jedi apprentice. His powers are formidable. Constantly hearing that he may grow up to be the greatest Jedi ever, the fabled “one who will bring balance to the force” has swelled his head to the point where his relationship with Ewan McGregor’s patient Master Obi-Wan Kenobi is testy and fractured. And though Anakin doesn’t actually get to wear the black helmet and outfit this time around, the seeds are sown for his eventual downfall in Episode lll.

“For the most part he’s still a little kid right now,” Christensen says. “But you do catch glimpses of the dark side in him, and there are certain events that obviously trigger certain feelings inside of him. There are specific moments where George has chosen to reveal moments in Anakin’s future…hints and intimations of what’s going to happen.”

Attack of the Clones starts with the two Jedi being dispatched to protect Natalie Portman’s senator Padme after a failed assassination attempt. Elsewhere, renegade solar systems - under the leadership of Christopher Lee’s charismatic separatist and ex-Jedi master Count Dooku - are planning a war with the Galactic Republic. Muddying the waters even further is Senator Palpatine, Ian McDiarmid’s scheming politician and part-time Darth Sidious, who is cajoling the senate into granting him emergency powers so that he might create a “grand army of the Republic”, ostensibly to fight off the threat of the separatists. The clone army of the title are taken from bad-ass bounty hunter Jango Fett (played by Kiwi hard-man Temuera Once Were Warriors Morrison). Thow into the mix Samuel L Jackson as kick-arse Jedi master Mace Windu; a lightening-wrangling, lightsaber-wielding 874-year-old Yoda; massive inter-speciel battle and the mutilation of one of the key characters, and you have all the ingredients for the coolest Star Wars film since, well, The Empire Strikes Back.

Christensen admits that he wasn’t a Star Wars fanatic growing up, that he came to the series late, on video, when his older brother sat him down one afternoon when he was six or seven and made him watch the original films back to back. “I appreciated them, but didn’t become obsessive about them,” he recalls. He didn’t watch them again until the digitally re-mastered versions were re-released in cinemas. “I remembered really enjoying the films but didn’t have a clear perception of the characters and what happened in it, so I had a fresh experience when I went to the theatre. I thought that they were fantastic.”

A warning. If you are reading this before you’re seen the film, then stop, because two major plot-points are about to be revealed. Jump ahead to the next segment and come back to it after you’ve seen the film. Attack of the Clones’ finest scenes, and certainly the ones where Christensen gets to utilise his considerable range, come when he avenges the torture and death of his mother Shmi [played by Pernilla August] by slaughtering a tribe of Tusken Raiders and his subsequent admission to Padme [Natalie Portman] of his actions.

“My mother pretty much dies in my arms and my immediate reaction is to go ballistic. I walk out of town and murder all the Sand People. There isn’t too much to it. I haven’t seen the film so I don’t know how long it’s played out, but when we shot it was just me in front of a blue screen pretending there’s Sand People there and killing them. It’s just me holding a lightsaber going, “Aargh!” to nothing. I have no idea what it’s going to look like, but as long as I look like a bad-ass Jedi, then cool,” he smiles. “Those two scenes are right on top of each other. The other scene is about the re-telling of what I’ve done to the Tusken Raiders. It’s the nest day and I’m in the garage with Padme working on some droid. I break down and cry. I’m definitely my most vulnerable in that scene. It was a way to justify a lot of Anakin’s immaturity and some of the naive qualities that I had taken from Jake Lloyd’s performance. It was very important for me that he breaks down and re-tells it, in a really childish manner to justify his young sensibilities. Because after he had done this horrific thing, how he explains it, and how he displays his immature qualities, was very important to me.”

So what kind of direction did Lucas offer on this crucial scene? “That was one scene where George and I were in conflict as to how it should be played. He wanted me to play it much stronger and not break down and show any real emotion until the very, very end, and I was like, “I don’t know if I can do this, because the way I had been justifying playing these younger and more naive situations was the fact I had this scene coming up. His not breaking down wouldn’t justify all those qualities. And so I compromised a little bit and he compromised a little bit and it was sort of a melding of the two, which was really neat, to have this sharing with him.” Lucas is not known for his hands-on approach to his actors, famously (and it must be said, self-confessedly) offering only two directions: “Faster” and “More intense”.

“Yeah, I heard that a couple of times,” he says. “I had that understanding of his reputation as a director, but he didn’t give me that impression from working with him. On one level I felt he was maybe a little more excited about this film. He was very specific with his direction and I was very insistent that we had a constant line of communication, because he is the one who created all these characters and understands how they relate to each other. So you’re asking questions of and getting direction from the writer, the director and the visionary in this whole process.” Though this is the most challenging and rewarding scene as an actor for him in the film, it is not his favourite. The one he is most looking forward to seeing is a two second linking scene where he pulls up to a Jawa on his “swoop bike” to ask for directions. He remembers looking down at the french midget under the brown hessian robe and thinking for the first time, “Well, this would be me in a Star Wars film, then.”

We catch up a month or so later at the cover shoot for this issue. This is Our Youth has recently opened to excellent reviews. Christensen has taken to spending the hinterland between lunch and curtain call wandering around London’s West End without a soul bothering him. It is strange to think that in a few week’s time he will be the most famous actor in the world, with an assured place in popular culture history. He, perhaps more than anyone, is acutely aware that this is the lull before the storm.

“I’m able to appreciate everything that I do right now and how it hasn’t been affected by the media invasion,” he tells me later. “I take pleasure in simple things like riding the tube. I know that being in a film like Star Wars mean you lose your anonymity on that level. I’ve never had any aspirations for that kind of attention. I think if you’re seeking it there’s something a little deranged about you. How can you really want that? That loss of anonymity is something that has to be taken from you, I think.”

Right now he’s on the cover of American industry bible Entertainment Weekly with Natalie Portman. It is just the start of the avalanche that will include one of the biggest press and marketing blitzkriegs of all time. He nods when he is told that the cover story looks good, but he doesn’t seem particularly interested. What becomes obvious, the more time we spend together, is that he is trying hard not to be consumed by the whole Star Wars experience. What he’s feeling right now is a mixture of extreme trepidation and suppressed excitement. It’s as if he’s dying to see how the film turned out, but scared that he might suck, thus curtailing a promising career. It’s as if he doesn’t want the enormity of the situation to break him down. And he certainly won’t allow himself to go down his own dark path by letting the attention go to his head. Earlier, he had admitted the only way he could reconcile and make sense of Lucas picking him for the role, in the face of such massive worldwide competition, was to put it down to the fact he “looked like the kid.”

I wonder if he is getting more nervous as the release date grows nearer?
“Honestly, I try to give it as little thought as possible for my own sanity,” he says. “I think if anything, it won’t affect me as much as it would most people because my lifestyle is conducive to…I’m not a very social person. I’m a bit of a hermit. I don’t go out that much, so if it becomes a problem I’ve got no problem staying at home.”

He is more concerned about the film’s effect on his family than himself. “I try to protect them and keep them as far removed from it as possible. They’re aware of what’s going to happen to my life, but they’re really not aware that it’ll transcend into theirs. I’m constantly telling them to get their number out of the phone book, but they won’t do it.”

Unheard of for someone in his position, he turned up at the Arena Studio alone and on time. Bleary eyed and puffy cheeked he hasn’t long since got up. It takes half an hour before his face settles down enough to be shot. He has no entourage, no aides, helpers, assistants or hangers on with him. He wears whatever he’s asked and is relaxed and friendly. He’s heard that Arena contributing editor Harry Knowles has seen the film, and is eager to know what he thought of it.

“Damn, I only spoke to George last night and I was asking him when I could see the film,” he says. “And George said nobody had seen it yet. I’m doing a junket for the movie at the Skywalker Ranch in early May so I hope they let me see it before then.” He is especially interested to hear Knowles’ report on the film’s climatic battle between Count Dooku and the now totally computer generated Jedi master Yoda. “That was the one scene where when I read the script I thought, “Man, this could really suck.”

Why? “Because when you read it it’s basically a little green frog with a sword, flying around doing all this crazy stuff. Visually it’s such a risk. It’s all going to be done by the people at ILM [Industrial Light And Magic - Lucas's special-effects house]. I didn’t know what to make of it and I tried not to think about that section of the story as were were filming.”

At least he got to read a complete version of the script. For the filming of The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi even the principal actors were only given the pages of the script relevant to their character. Mark Hamill only knew that Darth Vader was to be his screen dad when he shot the scene in the Bespin bowels where he confronts and is beaten by Vader. Lucas reasoned that the knowledge of his illustrious parentage would have negatively influenced the way Hamill approached the role. Christensen got a complete version of the script two and a half weeks before principal photography began in Sydney. His initial reaction to what he read, bearing in mind that he had signed onto a project not even knowing its title, was one of excitement and tellingly, relief.

“I was excited by the love story and the fact that it was a more dialogue intensive film. It still has all the other themes that you expect in a Star Wars film, but it had a stronger sense of human attraction, relationship and character growth. My character definitely goes through a lot of change, which is more of a rarity in a Star Wars film. Making it was a bit of a leap of faith because of all the blue-screen work, which is why I’m actually getting really excited about seeing how it turned out.”

Lucas relaxed his normal steel curtain of secrecy to the extent that Christensen’s brother was even allowed to hang out on set during filming in Australia. And though he was warned not to say anything about the film to anyone, there was someone who he couldn’t refuse. “When I first took on the role I wasn’t really sure how severe the security rules were and so my mom was like, ‘Tell me about the other stars’ and I was like, ‘I can’t, I promised them, I can’t.’ So she’s like, ‘I’m not going to tell anybody! I’m your mother.’ I had to ease into it after that.”

Hayden Christensen was born in Vancouver on April 19, 1981. His family later moved to Toronto. He has a brother, 29, and two sisters, 27 and 17 years old. His parents run a communications business. He has abmirably close relationship with his family; he runs a film production company - Forest Park FIlms - with brother Tove, and often turns to his parents for advice. He thinks the reason he doesn’t sound Canadian is because he’s been filming an American soap for so long that his accent has natually matured into something untraceable. It is April 8 and we’re in Christensen’s Green Room at the Garrick theatre along Charing Cross Road. This is Our Youth has less than two weeks to run with its current cast (Matt Damon and Casey Afflect then take over the lead roles). Buoyed no doubt by Hayden’s new bankability, the show has sold out for most of its run.

It is four o’clock and as we wait for Hayden to arrive at the theatre it’s impossible not to notice that his backstage sanctum is a dingy garret. There is the pre-requisite make-up chair and spot-lit mirror at one end of the room. A battered chaise longue and decrepit desk take up the rest of the floor space. Christensen knocks on the door and waits for an answer before entering the room. He asks where he should sit, slumps onto the chaise and sparks up his first cigarette of the day. “I’m not one of those people who rolls out of bed and has a cigarette straightaway,” he says. “I can’t stand the taste of nicotine and morning breath.” He’s pleased when I mention his notices have been uniformly positive, but admits that the three cast members had made a vow not to read any reviews at all. Every night after the show, he goes back to his rented flat in Bloomsbury and chills out, explaining that it takes him a couple of hours to get out of character. Then he eats and goes to bed. He looks genuinely suprised and bashful when I mention that the number of fan sites dedicated to him has grown by 2,000 per cent since we first met.

“I guess it’s good being computer illiterate now,” he says. “But I don’t know what to make of it, it’s not how I perceive myself and it’s not how I hope people will perceive me. It is very odd as it’s the opposite of how I always saw myself growing up. I was never the real popular one in school. I never even had a serious girlfriend in school. I was never a good catch.”

Though he can’t help feeling excited about the idea of owning an action figure based on him, he is nonplussed about his face appearing on everything from children’s pants to fast food cartons. “I prefer Pepsi over Coke, and I won’t be able to drink it because I refuse to drink pop out of a can that has my face on it. That’s a little too odd. That stuff frightens me to be honest, but the kid in me still gets a bit excited that I’ll be able to play myself in a video game. That’s very cool. So I mean it has its ups and downs.”

One of the downs that he is talking about is the gossip industry that has grown up around him recently. One such story goes that he was so heartbroken when a rumoured on-set dalliance with co-star Portman crumbled that he wouldn’t come out his room, playing Britney Spears’ “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart” over and over again (“I kinda like that stuff actually,” he says. “It makes me laugh. As long as it’s not true I’m OK with it”). On the other end of the slander-scale a leading American Gay magazine has declared him, “Definitely gay.” “That’s hilarious. It just goes right over my head,” he says, adding, “I’m not. It’s amazing how much people will speculate if they haven’t actual information to draw from, they just make up whatever they feel is appropriate or what they want to be appropriate. That’s cool. As long as the people I know and care about know the truth then everyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Of the upsides, he of course gets to lock lips with Natalie Portman on a number of occasions. “My friends were like, ‘You lucky bastard.’ ” He jokes that when they were filming their love scenes he would purposefully force extra takes by turning to the camera grinning and flashing thumbs-up. “They would be like, “You have to stop doing that Hayden! Now we have to do the whole scene again.’ I’d be like, ‘Fine.’ ”

He says he stays sane by hanging out with a group of friends - some of whom are actors - but mostly with non-industry pals from way back with little interest in the film business. One of his newest friends is Ewan McGregor, with whose family he spent Easter. His closeness to McGregor is genuine enough to have outlasted the filming process. Their friendship seems originally to have mirroed their on-screen bond. “It was sort of an apprentice/master relationship, just not to the degree it was played on film,” he says, “I have an enormous amount of respect for what he does, so when I first met him I put him on a bit of pedestal. I never really wanted to emulate what he was doing, but I had a respect for him because of it. When I was still trying to find my bearings and get situated in the Star Wars family I would often go to him for advice. He made sure that the lines of communication were very open and that we were comfortable with each other right from the beginning. The first time I met him he came over and gave me a huge hug and a big kiss and was like, ‘This is going to be great. I can’t wait to be doing this with you for the next four months.’ Just very, very welcoming.”

While he’s been in London for the play he’s seen a lot of McGregor. He sometimes takes his daughter Clara to the park and rides pinion on expeditions on McGregor’s motorbike. He is clearly enamoured of him. “I’m very envious of him. He is an amazing actor, has a wonderful family and is just in a very nice place in his life.”

I remind him that Attack of the Clones opens in 36 days time. What does he imagine May 17 might be like? “I’m taking my family to the charity premiere in Toronto. I played with the idea of not even seeing it, but I think I have to. May 17 will probably be a day of romantic reminiscing. I’ll be thinking about two years ago when I was first auditioning for this film and then about the day I got the part. And then here I am two years later, the film’s opened and here I am in my life, that will be nice. Hopefully I will be at home with family and friends. It will be a good reason to have a relaxing day. And a lie-in.”

Christensen has no definitive film commitments post Attack of the Clones. He is toying with three projects, two of which he and his brother’s production company has optioned. One of them is a coming-of-age project set in New York in the early Eighties, another is about a feted American political journalist who turned out to be a fantasist and fraud, and the third, well, he doesn’t want to talk about that one, lest he jinx it. One thing’s for sure, it doesn’t take place in out space.

Before I go we talk about Episode lll. Pre-production started only a week after Attack of the Clones wrapped and shooting begins in the summer of 2003. Sets are already being built for a script that hasn’t been written, most of the principals are already cast (as they were in Episode ll) and one scene has already been filmed, in Tunisia, doubling for Tatooine. It is the only scene from the next film to be set there, so Lucas brought the actor out to the desert set and got it in the bag while he could. Christensen reveals that he and McGregor have made a pact to go out to Australia two months before shotting beings, “to get really amazing with out lightsabers, so we can make our battle the coolest thing ever.” McGregor has had an early make-up test for part lll (he looks strikingly like Alec Guinness in Star Wars) but Hayden hasn’t heard anything about his part yet. He’s bugged Lucas for clues, of course. When exactly does he go bad? When will he wear the helmet? How will they explain the change in Vader’s voice? But Lucas is staying silent. Even the baddest man in the universe doesn’t get to hear these things until he needs to.

Source: Typed By: TinaJ.

Cinescape- The Chosen One - February 2002

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Newcomer Hayden Christensen turns to the dark side as the future Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

The Force was certainly with him on that day…
The Day Hayden Christensen discovered he would be the next actor to play Anakin Skywalker for George Lucas in Star Wars: Episode ll - Attack of the Clones.

“It was very surreal,” says Christensen who was in Canada when the news came. “I can’t really define the feelings inside of myself, it was so surreal. It was pretty big news. It was a week of absolute bliss and then I got to work researching the part and took it very seriously.”

A task that’s easier said than done. Aside from the details locked inside Lucas’ head, backstory for the man who will become Darth Vader is dicey at best. Here’s what we know: 1) He’s been played by two actors: Jake Lloyd (Episode l - The Phantom Menace), who played an 8 year old slave boy with an unusually high degree of flying talent and an innate ability to tap into the Force, and Sebastian Shaw (Return of the Jedi), who played a salvation-seeking Vader who sacrifices himself to save his son’s life - an act that allows him to become one with the Force. 2) He was the Padawan learner of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the youngest Jedi to fight in the Clone Wars. 3) As his Force talents developed, Senator Palpatine lured him to the dark side, eventually turning him into the villian audiences know today.

It is that version of the character - the Anakin in emotional turmoil - that the 20-year-old Christensen has spent the last two years of his career playing. And with two Clones trailers and an internet teaser making waves over the last two months, the actor is well aware that by the time the movie hits screens on May 16, 2002, he will no longer be that fortunate kid who got a big break. He will forever be known as Anakin Skywalker.

However, for the time being the actor is relishing in his anonymity. He enjoys an absolutely normal life, walking the streets of his Toronto hometown and living in the same bedroom he’s had since he was 6 years old. Of course, the actor is quite aware of the fact that the minute the film opens, his life will change dramatically - something he admits to spending a great deal of time thinking about.

“I am more pensive about it than anything else,” reveals Christensen. “I will experience a loss of anonymity that is going to be unsettling. You have to be a pretty deranged individual to want to be famous on that level. Something has to be taken from you and it comes with the territory. When it’s taken from me, it’s taken from me.”

Luckily, Christensen was comforted by co-stars Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan) and Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala) who have both been there themselves. “Both Ewan and Natalie Portman kind of got their worlds turned upside-down when Episode l came out,” says Christensen, who bowed to them for advice on handling his impending fame. “They had to deal with what I will deal with.”Ironically, it’s that very same anonymity that Christensen credits for landing the role to begin with.

“That’s one of the reasons I think George picked me for the part, because it is a role where you need to believe the actor,” he says. “So, if I was going to do a movie that’s coming out before, it had to be something where you weren’t going to see the future Anakin. The less you know about and the less you have preconceived about an actor, the more you can believe in the role.”

That’s exactly why he tackled the part of troubled, rebellious teen in Life as a House, opposite Kevin Kline. The two roles are worlds apart and he looks nothing like what he will in Star Wars. Additionally, while he shot House after wrapping principal photography on Star Wars, the arthouse drama has already opened seven months earlier than Attack of the Clones, allowing audiences to catch an early glimpse of his acting ability.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to make sure I was so unrecognizable in that film, was that upon seeing Anakin for the first time audiences will still have an original impression in their minds,” says Christensen.

Spending three months of his life in Australia learning to fight like a Jedi, shooting effects-laden scenes and body surfing when not required on set, Christensen admits that the moviemaking process required him to act in front of a blue screen about “one 10th” of the time, taking him back to his days on the stage, where much was left up to personal interpretation. “It requires a lot of imagination,” says Christensen, “but even on the sets there was some element of a blue screen.”

What he is referring to is the fact that Lucas creates physical sets and atmospheres, only to drop in computer-generated backgrounds, objects and effects as a later time with the help of Industrial Light and Magic(ILM). Nary a shot in the film does not have some form CGI, and although Christensen admits to performing a stunt or two of his own, he won’t sat exactly what kind of stunt since it would reveal a portion of the plot - an act he knows Lucas would not condone.

Strictness of script confidentiality aside, working with Lucas was “incredibly awe-inspiring,” according to Christensen, who was surprised at just how down-to-earth the mega-successful director is. “With everything he has accomplished and all his responsibilities, he’s managed to understand the importance of just being a nice guy,” says Christensen. “I think that he is first and foremost a nice guy.”

A big fan of Lucas’ films (though he wasn’t born when the first two Star Wars films were released), Christensen will not comment on what he thinks of the title Attack of the Clones - unlike his co-star McGregor, who admitted he wasn’t that fond of it, only to retract his feelings days later. Of course, fans and critics alike said the same about The Phantom Menace, but eventually the title grew on them.

That’s not unlike Jar Jar Binks, right? Nonetheless, much to the chagrin of many a Star Wars fan, the digital creation does appear in the new film and, yes, Christensen has a few scenes with him. Rumor has it, however, that Lucas is bringing Jar Jar back merely to kill him off. I any care, Christensen ain’t talking about the subject - once again Lucas, and a binding contract, have forbidden him to speak of any details from the film.

However, that comes with the territory, admits Christensen. Being involved in a Star Wars film is a life-altering experience for anyone, and now Christensen’s life is about to change in a big way. “I relish in the fact that I can still take the subway and do normal things with my friends and be left in peace,” he says. “Whereas [later] I might not be able to.” In fact that’s one of the things the actor was conflicted about at shooting of the movie.

“I struggled with the fact that I was just afforded this amazing opportunity and I was going to get to do all these great things in my work because of this film,” explains Christensen. “I was struggling with the importance of it and what value an actor has in this world. I think that one of the things that I walked away with was just the importance of filmmaking and the ability to have a voice and how rare that is. It’s something that should be treated respectfully and only a handful of people out of a generation have the ability to comment or define what it is to be living at that time.”