Archive for the ‘Interviews '03’ Category

An Interview with Hayden Christensen

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

An Interview with Hayden Christensen-Shattered Glass
Shattered Glass is a significant departure from what audiences know of Hayden Christensen. He trades in his light saber for a computer in the true story of disgraced journalist Stephen Glass. Christensen has carefully chosen roles that are totally different from the Star Wars films to widen his appeal. He wants a career apart from the legendary franchise and is on the right track so far. He’s not very public about himself or his personal life, so I was genuinely curious meeting him. I suppose part of it was to barrage him with Episode Three questions, which is available in the interview section, but also to get a feel for his personality. He seemed pretty calm; a down to earth kind of guy still amazed by his fortune so far. I’ve got to give him serious props. He answered all of my Star Wars questions and signed my Attack of the Clones DVD.

Stephen Glass seemed fairly complex. Do you think you got to the bottom of why he faked those articles?

Hayden: Well, I never got to meet him, so I can’t say definitively this is why he told all his lies. But I could get a good enough sense to play the character. I think a lot of it stemmed from a pressure that came from his family. A lot of it came from a desire to get some time in the limelight, to not take the time to do the groundwork and report honestly. Then the collective consensus from the people who worked with him was that Stephen was a bit effeminate and generally lacking in confidence. I felt that was enough to formulate the character.

How did you research him?

Hayden: I read all of his articles. I had two photographs and from there I more or less drew my own conclusions. I definitely afforded myself some creative liberties, because he wasn’t a public figure. People had heard of him, but he wasn’t famous.

So he wasn’t forthcoming at all?

Hayden: We definitely attempted to seek his involvement, but at the time he was still denying it ever happened.

Did you read his novel?
Hayden: No, I haven’t. I definitely have an interest. He has a lot of balls to tell it as a fictional account. I know because I played him. You don’t tell as many lies as he did lacking them. It was like a domino effect, one lie to cover up the next.

Did you go out of your way to speak with him?
Hayden: Well we tried, but he didn’t want anything to do with the film.
You only had two photographs, but people who knew him said you nailed him, especially his walk.
Hayden: I think you can get a lot from looking at someone’s face. At least I felt like I could. His walk and his speech mannerism, a lot of it was extrapolated from people saying he was very feminine, very self-conscious, and having a lack of self-confidence. That was how it manifested itself for me. The entire time I was thinking, am I getting this right? Then we had some people who knew him, like Chuck Lane, come to the set and confirm for me that it was accurate.

As an actor, do you relate with Stephen Glass?

Hayden: That was how I related. I was trying to find similar intrinsic qualities with the two professions, acting and reporting. I think they both entail a lot of observation. They both try to observe something, draw your own conclusions, and formulate a story out of it. As far as Stephen, where he is reporting or the fantasy sequences, he’s very much on the periphery of everything, trying to take account of what was going on. That played a large part of how he would react in certain scenes.

At what part of the filming process did the Jayson Blair New York Times scandal erupt?

Hayden: That was after we finished filming, when we were in postproduction. I was in Australia working on Star Wars.

Star Wars, what’s that?

Hayden: It’s a small independent film. (Laughs) I was sort of removed from everything. I heard about it through people involved in our production. Obviously it made our story that much timelier. We weren’t that disappointed by it.

So what drew you to this character?

Hayden: A few things, one is an interest in his field of work. Also, everything the story stands for, as much as it was an isolated incident. It’s a film about ethics, which for me, speaks about what is wrong to the core of society. The script was based on a Vanity Fair article, which was the first thing I read. I was gaining interest in the film, all the lies he told, and the audacity to come back and ask his editor for a ride to the airport…

(Hayden’s cell phone rings)

Is that me? Oh that’s horrible, I usually don’t even have a cell phone. My apologies, anyway, I thought it would be a lot of fun to play, a very rich character.

It’s very unusual because after about half an hour or so, it’s no longer about Stephen Glass but about Chuck Lane. Was it like that in the script?

Hayden: Yes it was. Billy [Ray, the director] wrote a really strong script. You’re consciously aware when you’re reading it that the protagonist and antagonist switch places halfway through the film. Then all of a sudden Peter [Sarsgaard], Chuck Lane is driving it. I don’t think you see that often in film. Structurally it was really neat.

So what was it like to be the star of the movie, then suddenly you’re not, not billing wise but character wise?

Hayden: For me it made perfect sense. As he’s being found out that weighs on him and he goes through a bit of a metamorphosis. So it seemed appropriate that as Stephen Glass he would fade into the background a little bit. Try not to be the guy telling all the stories in the pitch meetings, but retreat.

Did you speak to any of the reporters that worked with him and asked them how they feel about Stephen now? How does Chuck Lane feel about him?

Hayden: Obviously he’s not very fond of him because he doesn’t give a strong name to what he does. What people think of him now, for me that was not my concern because I was really intrigued by the events that happened, and how I would get to play it. As people view him now is a little redundant for me.

So do you see him as a bad person, someone who purposely did this, or a compulsive liar that snowballed himself?

Hayden: I didn’t see him as a bad person. I don’t know if it’s just from playing him. As an actor, you have to make a concerted effort to not judge your character. I never villainized him in my own mind. In retrospect, I don’t see him as a malicious person that was out to get people. I think he had an unhealthy desire to get a certain level of recognition that he didn’t deserve. That’s what fueled it. I don’t see him as a bad person per se.

Tribute’s Bonnie Laufer sits down with hometown Canadian boy Hayden Christensen to discuss his latest film Shattered Glass, and a little Star Wars!

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

B.L. For an actor, one of the most difficult things is to play a character based on a real person, but in your case this was a guy you couldn’t even talk to. What was it like for you to portray Stephen Glass?
H.C. It was a little daunting at first. Especially when you are making a film about accuracy in journalism - you want to make sure that your film is authentic and as accurate as possible. It felt like there was enough general information out there. Billy Ray who had written the script and directed the film did an immense amount of research, and had a lot of insight for me to work with. It wasn’t like I was playing Ronald Reagan where I had to have all the nuances to be exact. It never had to be an impersonation of Stephen Glass, which appealed to me. It was an organic portrayal because I’m not really good at impersonations.

B.L. Aside from the glasses that uncannily made you look like him.
H.C. The costume and whatnot I derived from a photograph that I had of him. I had these two pictures that I used to keep with me all the time. He had the blue shirt and the khakis and the loafers and I kind of used that for all of the scenes. I made that an extension of his neurosis, that he was always wearing the same thing.

B.L. Was it really a challenge to play somebody who is so flawed? How do you get inside the head of somebody like that?
H.C. It was an exhausting six weeks. I was glad that it was only six weeks because by the end of it I had had enough of Stephen. It’s not the easiest thing to go to work every day and have to lie through your teeth. You don’t have any honest reality to connect with and you don’t really get to gauge by your fellow actors how you are doing because they are all kind of looking at you and thinking, “Who is this liar?” You do feel like a bit of a fraud as an actor, you do feel like you are getting away with something and that, coupled with the character that I was playing, was pretty odd. All the insecurities that I was portraying were pretty genuine.

B.L. How did you connect with this script?
H.C. This was based on a Vanity Fair article and I had read the article and was enticed by that and was looking for someone to adapt it and do a screenplay. In that process I had discovered that there was already a script that existed and that it was really good, so that’s how I met Billy Ray.

B.L. You and your brother, Tove, produced Shattered Glass.
H.C. My brother and I had started a company a few years back and we were just looking for things to do and this was the first one that came to fruition for us.

B.L. How did Tom Cruise come into the mix as Executive Producer?
H.C. He was actually already involved in the project prior to us being involved. It was originally set up at HBO where it was sort of interned around there and no one was really doing anything with it. When I met with Billy Ray after I read the script. I asked him if we could get it out of there and make it into a feature, and that got Tom Cruise excited as well. Having his involvement attracted some really key creative people. We got a great cinematographer and editor. We got some great actors working on it too.

B.L. Great actors, to say the least! Everyone was so fantastic, but Peter Sarsgaard was really outstanding as the editor Chuck Lane.
H.C. Peter Sarsgaard is a really strong actor and a really nice guy too, which is always nice. We had lots of fun, played lots of ping pong in between shots; we had a ping pong table on set that we would run back to and try to get a game in and keep our sweat going. We tried to keep the dynamic between the two of us very alive.

B.L. It’s probably almost impossible to answer this question because you are NOT Stephen Glass, but you see this movie and all I wondered throughout was why did he do it? What drives someone to lie like that and continuously get away with it?
H.C. You have to have a climate that is conducive to it, for one. He knew the fact checking system inside out. He was a fact checker for a long time, that is how he started off at The New Republic magazine, and would intentionally instill errors and misspell certain things or get a date wrong so that the fact checkers felt like they were picking up on some things so that they would brush over the broader strokes of what was fabricated. He was a conman so he was presenting something that was indicative to getting people to turn a blind eye a little bit. They really weren’t expecting it from him. If anything they always needed him to come up with something to top his last story, because they were just so unique.

B.L. Have you met him since you’ve made it?
H.C. No.

B.L. I know now that since the movie has opened in the United States he has seen it, and has appeared on numerous talk shows. What would happen if you bumped into him at a party?
H.C. (laughs) I don’t know. I’d have to ask him “Why?” because that is still my question. I never really could understand why he did it. I always had to reason it to there being something pathologically off. I’ll never really know.

B.L. I know that he calls the movie his own personal horror story, but on the same level I think that it has been therapeutic for him.
H.C. I think so too. Something that I had a hard time with at first was being able to play the character without a guilty conscience; exactly that sort of psychosis lends itself to getting off on someone making a movie about you.

B.L. Over the last few years, you have really come into your own with all of these fabulous performances. How is life for you? How have things changed and how are you adapting to all of this, especially since Star Wars?
H.C. Life is good. I don’t get to spend as much time at home (Toronto) as I’d like but I can’t complain. I’m getting to do what I want to do and am afforded great opportunities. I get to take a more proactive approach with the roles that I want to play by having my company. It’s a very exciting time in my life. I’m busy and doing what I want to do so I can’t complain.

B.L. It must be amazing, but do you have a lot of creepy Star Wars fans bugging you?
H.C. They’re not so creepy. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be. I get a lot of little kids coming up to me and that’s fun. I enjoy that. They can’t really separate me as an actor and me as Anakin. Then I get to bring to fruition their own dreamworld and try and make that real for them, so that’s kind of fun.

B.L. So I know you are SWORN to secrecy and can’t really tell me too much about the next Star wars film that we are going to see in 2005, but what is the status?
H.C. We have finished shooting.

B.L. Wow, already?
H.C. Well, I think so. We finished principal photography about two months ago and George (Lucas) says that he is very happy and feels like he has most of what he needs. But on the last one, we went back about three or four times for re-shoots. So I think that he will likely go back over the course of the next two years while he’s cutting it and will add new stuff and fine-tune our stuff.

B.L. How was it reuniting with everyone?
H.C. It was awesome. It was so great to be back and see most of the same cast and crew. I have to say it was an amazing experience for me.

B.L. How was the process different this time around than when you made Attack of the Clones? Obviously Anakin has a much bigger journey in this next one.
H.C. Yeah, as far as the character work there is more for me to sink my teeth into. I felt more acclimated in that setting, it was very new to me when I did the last one and I felt a little bit more comfortable in front of all the bluescreen this time around. I think that George is really excited by this one as well. It’s a good story, and at the heart of it there’s a really strong character arc for me and for Ewan. Our relationship as it plays out over the course of the film is interesting to watch. So I think that George was really excited by that and it being the last one there’s certain nostalgia in the air. It was a bittersweet goodbye.

B.L. I was going to ask you that. It must have been a bit sad; lets face it, you are part of a huge franchise here. This is Star Wars and it’s a historical move for you in terms of movies that live on forever. It must have been kind of teary to say goodbye to it as opposed to someone like Stephen Glass who you were glad to be rid of.
H.C. You know, that’s one of the great things about what I do is that I get to go and live these different lives and then I get to say my goodbyes and go on to the next one. Star Wars has been something that I’ve been able to extend over a few years, being a part of two of them, but I’m just as eager to go on and do my next role. I feel very lucky to be a part of those films, but I am ready for the next.

B.L. So, what is next?
H.C. Yeah, I am going to be doing a romantic comedy, which I think we will start shooting in March. Jillian Armstrong is going to direct it. It’s like a period fable piece and I am trying to put together a spy thriller-type movie with my production company along with a couple of other projects. I’m always looking for neat stories that spark an interest and cool characters that need a reason to be played.

B.L. There are a lot of young Canadian actors like you that have made it big in the United States. I was wondering if you got a really good Canadian script, would you be open to coming back home to make a film?
H.C. Absolutely! I was meant to be here last winter actually to make a film but it fell apart at the last second, which was unfortunate. But I get the occasional Canadian script and they are always higher up on the list than the other ones that I receive. I’d be perfectly happy if all the films I did were filmed here in Canada. My family is here and it’s where the heart is.

B.L. Is there anything particular that you look for when you do get a script?
H.C. A good story is a good story is a good story! (Laughs) I look for characters that are different than what I’ve played before and are different from myself. I like feeling like I am going to work, presenting something that is removed from myself, and it makes me feel like I am earning my dollar. A good story is the most important thing for me.

B.L. So when you get some down time, what do you like to do to relax?
H.C. I haven’t been getting a lot of it recently but if the weather is warm I’ll get out and play a game of street hockey with my friends or if the pond is frozen over I’ll slap on some skates. I just went bowling the other night and that was fun. Normal things, things that are sane.

B.L. I have to say that final scene in Attack of the Clones - Yoda, he kicked butt! What a great fight. So did you get a chance to perfect your light sabre techniques a bit better?
H.C. I did, yes! I will say, and as little as I can share I will tell you that there is an amazing light sabre fight at the end of the next film. Ewan McGregor and I were out there a couple of months before we started filming and learned the choreography for the epic final battle and I have to say, it’s pretty neat.

B.L. Well I am psyched!
H.C. I can’t wait for it either, the last light sabre fight will probably put all other sword fights to shame!

Hayden Christensen Raises the Bar for Episode III- October 15, 2021

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I recently got a chance to interview Hayden Christensen for his upcoming film, Shattered Glass. Like any dorky fan boy, I was chomping at the bit and asked him to confirm some rumors about Episode Three. Kids, put your diapers on because the expectations have been raised. He actually used the term “Bad-Assed” to describe the final showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Another reporter also asked him if he would be donning the infamous Darth Vader costume. He couldn’t reveal any details, but he will be in the suit. David Prowse don’t give up your day job. 2005 has never seemed farther away!

Julian: George Lucas has described the tone of Episode Three as being the darkest of the franchise yet. Is that true?
Hayden: “Yes, it really will be. It still has to reach out to a specific audience, but it will be substantially darker than the previous films.”

Julian: Nick Gilliard (the stunt coordinator) has said the light saber battles in the film will be the greatest so far. That’s a bold statement once you’ve seen Yoda and Count Dooku go at it. Can you confirm this?
Hayden: “I will say, on the record, the final fight sequence in this film will, in my opinion, and not having seen any of it cut together, should surpass any fight sequence that has been put on film so far. It’s the longest, I can’t give you specifics, but it is quite the bad-assed fight scene. Nick Gilliard has done an amazing job instilling an arc of story in the fight. It justifies, because you know Anakin and Obi-Wan have it out, but Anakin is the chosen one-he is supposed to be the best. But he comes out on the shorter end of the stick in the fight. It justifies it really nicely as the fight progresses.”

Julian: Does Jar-Jar get hurt at all? Hayden: (Laughs) “I wish I could share some specifics.” Julian: You are playing an iconic character in the Star Wars franchise. As the fan base goes, Star Wars fans are pretty hardcore. Do you get hounded on the streets?
Hayden: “They’re full on fanatical. But the only people that make a point of embarrassing me on the street are six and seven year olds. I get such a kick out of it. They still can’t differentiate between movies and reality to a certain point, so they can’t see me as an actor.”

Julian: Do you really embrace it, think of doing other sci-fi films, or do you try to move away from it?
Hayden: “I’m very proud of my involvement with the films. I feel privileged to be a part of something that is so prominent in popular culture right now. But they were two films I was involved in. Hopefully I’ll get to do many more in many different genres. I don’t really see it as something I have to fight against. It’s obviously a character that people will associate me with. Its not like I was in a TV series for ten years and that’s all they’ve seen me in. Hopefully they will be able to see me as someone else. That’s the fun of what I do. I love that I get to be a part of it.”

Julian: Are there a lot of Wookies in Episode Three?
Hayden: “There are some Wookies.” (Laughs)

Julian: Are there some butt-kicking Wookies in Episode Three?
Hayden: (Laughs) “I can’t say any more, but there are some Wookies in the movie.” Star Wars: Episode III is schedule to open on May 25, 2005.

An Interview with Hayden Christensen- October 30, 2021

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

IGN talks to the future Darth about balancing fantasyland and reality,
playing the controversial and dark Stephen Glass and working on another Star Wars film.
A few years ago, no one had ever heard of Hayden Christensen. His previous parts had been on Canadian TV and in smaller film roles. Everything would change in an instant when he was cast as Jedi in training and future Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, in the second prequel in the Star Wars series, Attack of the Clones. Before Attack of the Clones was released, he would gain enormous critical acclaim for his role in the Irwin Winkler directed drama, Life as a House. While Attack of the Clones would come and go amidst mixed reviews, Christensen had already proven his skills as an actor.

Before shooting the third Star Wars prequel, Christensen took his most challenging part yet as the young, brash, pathologically truth-bending journalist Stephen Glass. Shattered Glass is the true story of the journalist responsible for fabricating, in whole or in part, 27 of the 41 articles he wrote for The New Republic magazine. He was also found guilty of fabrications in numerous other publications including Harpers, Rolling Stone and George.

It’s never easy to play the character under attack, but Christensen pulls it off with flying colors in Shattered Glass. The first thing we had to ask Christensen was how you prepare to play such a flawed character. “I should say, first off, that I never met with him,” Christensen says of the real-life Glass. “I never got to speak with him. So my interpretation wasn’t an imitation. I had all of the articles that he’s written and within that, had separated fact from fiction. …So I had an idea for the kind of storyteller that he was and how colorful his lies were. I talked a little bit to some of the people who worked with him… There was sort of the general take on how he was perceived in the office as being this guy who lacks self-confidence and is really self-effacing and trying to [make] a concerted effort to get people to like him. But really, getting to talk with [writer-director] Billy Ray. I spent a lot of time with him. He was like my Stephen Glass Encyclopedia. He knew anything that I needed to know because he had done such an immense amount of research to write a script that was factually accurate.”

Glass’s masterful skills are something Christensen has mastered in his performance. He talks about his character’s famously repeated phrase, Are you mad at me? “It didn’t really work in his favor but I think that’s where that stemmed from was looking for a sensation that he belonged. There was sort of the idea that he had a lot of pressure from his family put on him and they weren’t really so happy with his chosen line of work. …For the most part, it was finding the Stephen Glass inside of me because he’s not a well-known public figure. It wasn’t like I was doing a Nixon impersonation where I had to get all of his little mannerisms down. But I would let, sort of, what I decided, what motivated Stephen Glass to string along such an elaborate tale of lies, to affect me in a way that would hopefully manifest itself in a manner that was consistent with how people perceived him. But I could never speak with him about intent or why he did it, so I had to sort of come to those conclusions on my own. I spent some time in different news publications sort of getting a feel for general banter in the pitch meetings. The sense that there is this ambition to up yourself from your last [story], which was, I think, really indicative to how Stephen got away with it. Maybe starting off with a very small, minute lie and letting that sort of land on people, and obviously, in a positive manner… It was required of him then to come up with one that was even more creative and more elaborate. And such stories didn’t really exist, or [not in the] ones that he could find.”

A few months ago, Stephen Glass appeared in an interview on 60 Minutes. This was Christensen’s first chance to see the real Glass live and in action. “Yeah, I mean, that was all after we had done our film. We had finished our film about a year ago and that was, I guess, maybe two or three months ago. Honestly, it was a bit of a sigh of relief because I was somewhat nervous about playing a real person and not getting to meet him. I felt like I could derive a lot from a picture. I had a couple of pictures of him that informed how he dressed and how he smiled in the picture. There was sort of a distant gaze in his eyes, and that, sort of coupled with what took place, made me think that there was sort of something pathological about him that wasn’t quite right.

“When you’re playing a character that is flawed, it’s kinda like, the first rule of acting is that you can’t be judgmental, otherwise you’re playing him with that bias and you’re projecting that onto your character instead of just letting him be. And so I was very sympathetic, and that sympathy and that sense of insecurity, by the end of the film, really kind of got under my skin. I was really eager to be finished with it all because it’s not the most confident place to exist as an actor. You go to work every day wanting to connect with something real and honest… When your task is to go to work and lie through your teeth everyday, and still gauging how people are reading [your performance]. A lot of my work was with Peter (Sarsgaard, who plays New Republic editor Chuck Lane) and, obviously, [his character is] really skeptical. So to go home thinking, ‘He was looking at me the entire day like I was a complete fake.’ It’s a little nerve-wracking.”

Being in the public eye, Christensen has gotten to see things from the other side, often reading mistruths about his own life. “Yeah, I catch a bit of it. I find out people I’m dating and it’s all really amusing. … I struggled a bit at the beginning where I was deciding whether or not I wanted to do the film. Putting all of someone’s lies and one of the worst times in their life and committing that to film for someone to go to a video store and rent whenever they so please and I was like, ‘Can I really do this with a good conscience?’ But then, you know, you’re like, ‘You need to be held responsible for your actions.’ I came to the conclusion that there was a large part of Stephen that sought the spotlight and that’s what motivated him to do all these sort of misdoings and I think it’s just becoming more clear when he’s coming out with this book now and he’s doing all this press for his book.”

Knowing so much about the man and spending so much time in his shoes, I had to ask Christensen if he would dread ever running into Glass socially and if he would approach him: “I wouldn’t dread it. … If I saw him at a party, absolutely. The one thing that I could never really get around was intent. I never got to ask him why. I’m really curious. I’ve made up my own reasons and then there were opinions floating about, but no one really knows. And I’m not saying he’d give me an honest answer…”
Moving back and forth between a movie like Star Wars and a small movie that takes place mostly in an office has to be a little surreal for any actor. “Day and night. A film like Star Wars you go and you live in your imagination and for three months you’re in fantasyland. … The majority of the film is done in just an entirely blue set where you go to work everyday and it’s the exact same environment. It’s almost like Groundhog Day, only you’re saying different lines. The cameras are in the same place and everyone’s looking the exact same… You live in your imagination. And then, when you get to do a film like Shattered Glass, everything that is gonna motivate you to behave in a fashion, all of your stimuli is provided for you and there’s an intimacy in doing a film… It doesn’t have anything to do with the size of the budget. It’s just the scope of the film and the relationship between the characters and the weight that’s placed on that… that, you know, [it] breeds an environment that’s most conducive to doing good work. When you’re on a big budget movie that has so many different aspects involved that are digital, there’s uh… the focus is a little scattered at times. It often gets a little chaotic and they’re each their own demon and each their own blessing. I think I’ve learned the most from those films in all honesty, so I do feel very privileged to be a part of it because there won’t be very many other films that are made the way they make those.”

After Attack of the Clones was met with a somewhat lukewarm reception, we asked Christensen whether he expected this one would be more popular. “I hope so. There’s no question that there was an excitement on this film that wasn’t as prominent on the last, particularly George’s approach, [which] was much more hands on this time around as far as how much he wanted to relate motivation and sort of the things that actors like to talk about. And just the inherent art of what Anakin’s journey is was more enthralling than the last and there was more for me to sink my teeth into and that final transition is one for the books. It’ll be a neat film, definitely.”