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The Force of Hayden Christensen Part One

The boy who would be Anakin Skywalker discusses the role of a lifetime on the eve of ATTACK OF THE CLONES' debut

By SCOTT COLLURA     May 14, 2002


Hayden Christensen is Anakin Skywalker, an accomplished Jedi apprentice who faces choices that will impact not only his own fate, but the destiny of the Republic in STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES.
© 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM
Every young actor this side of the WB wanted the job, but it was relative unknown Hayden Christensen who got ithe's the boy who would be Anakin Skywalker (picking up where the much younger Jake Lloyd left off) in George Lucas' highly anticipated STAR WARS: EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES. He's just a kidborn in 1981, a year after THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was released (!)but he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders at the moment, starring in one of the biggest films ever. Christensen seems to be taking it all in stride though, simply approaching the role of Anakin as he would any other.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Chistensen) are involved in an aerial pursuit on the planet Coruscant



When asked if EPISODE II was different from any other kind of acting he'd done before, he responds, "Not really. The character was different than anything I'd ever done, obviously. You have to play the duality of several different emotions at once, but the presentation and the technique wasn't that different from stage work."

Which isn't to say that the young actor didn't have to prepare for the job of playing one of the best known characters in screen history. Let us not forget, Anakin Skywalker is also Darth Vadera character who is immensely recognizable to the general public. How does one make such a character their own?

"It wasn't so much about making it my own as it was trying to make an extension of what we already knew of the character so you could have that linear sense of this kid growing up," says Christensen. "So I tried to take some of the sensibilities of Jake Lloyd's performance... the naiveté and rambunctiousness and immaturity. That's key to Anakin's downfall as well. It's that immaturity that leads to overconfidence and helps him ignore his master."

It wasn't just the young Lloyd from EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE that Christensen studied while preparing for the role. He also looked to the classic STAR WARS films as wellthough he found the version of the character seen in the original trilogy somewhat more difficult to emulate.

Anakin (Hayden Chistensen), Padme (Natalie Portman) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) prepare for a GLADIATOR-like battle in STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES



"It's kind of hard to take things from a man behind a mask," he says. "But I did try to instill the monotone aspect of the delivery of the dialogue that was pretty evident in James Earl Jones' voice into my own speech patterns."

Of course, director and STAR WARS creator Lucas had a lot to do with young Christensen's performance and interpretation of Anakin.

"He tried to make sure that I never got too far ahead of myself in that transformation to what he becomes," says the actor in reference to Anakin's inevitable change to the dastardly Darth Vader. "[It] was a process of him trying to make me more aware of what was happening in EPISODE I and make [Anakin] more whiney at times and more immature than what I was otherwise trying to do. [George] has more responsibility than most directors would have on a film set. As much as he's directing, and spending time with me so I'm clear [on] what I'm doing, he's also down at ILM making sure that his input there is felt."

Christensen's reference to his character as "whiney" raises an interesting point. Some who have seen the film already say that Anakin comes across as too much of a brat, but the actor's comments would seem to indicate that that's what he and Lucas where aiming for. A bratty hero?

Amidala and Anakin fight to keep their love alive in STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES



"To an extent, that's a main part of his character," says Christensen. "That's on the page. That's one of the key elements that prompts his descent into the Dark Side... [they] are extensions of those sensibilities.You never want him to come across as a complete brat. But he also needs to have this overconfidence that he can become the most powerful Jedi ever."

Another aspect of the STAR WARS films that naysayers are often picking on is the alleged disinterest on Lucas's part in the acting side of the filmmaking process. Christensen for one disagrees with this notion, pointing out as an example how Lucas worked with him and his co-star Natalie Portman (Padme) on a particular scene.

"There's this one scene where he told me to improvise," he says. "It's this scene where Anakin and Padme are at dinner and he uses the Force to take the fruit off her plate, but the story I'm telling prior to that... he asked me to improvise a story where I'm telling one of my Jedi experiences. So in a sense we could escape the rigid way people talk in the STAR WARS universeit's not the way normal people talk. So he wanted to sort of show the tenderness and human emotion that was prominent in their relationship. He asked me to loosen it up by making it up myself."

Be sure to check back for part two of CINESCAPE's Hayden Christensen profile.

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