He became famous at the age of 19 in the original Star Wars films, but Hayden Christensen abruptly quit fame in favor of a quiet farm life. Here’s why.
When Hayden Christensen auditioned for the role of young Darth Vader in 2000, he was content to pick up some souvenir hats from his visit to George Lucas’ secret Skywalker Ranch.
He wasn’t expecting, as a then unknown Canadian newcomer at the age of 19, to land the part of cinema’s most respected villain.
But after his spinoffs from two Star Wars movies hit movie screens, the 41-year-old must have wished he’d borrowed a Kevlar helmet from Stormtrooper.
As for Hayden’s performance as Anakin Skywalker in the hit science fiction series, he faced a barrage of criticism.
The Razzies, or Golden Raspberry, awards are given to the worst performer in Hollywood, and the Razzie Worst Supporting Actor has been awarded a Jeannie.
Describing him as an “N Sync kid who doesn’t have the same talent”, one critic said his romantic moments with Senator Natalie Portman Amidala “couldn’t be an Amiduller”.
Since Hayden debuted 20 years ago, fans of the 1977 original Star Wars have continued to grumble about the pre-attack of the clones and Revenge Of The Sith, which told how Anakin became Darth Vader.
By 2010, that was enough to force him to quit acting for four years in favor of the quiet life on a secluded farm in Canada.
Now, though, Hayden has a chance of redemption among the Jedi nerds. He wears the black mask and cape again in the $176 million six-part Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series, which launches today on Disney Plus.
The actor will use a lightsaber with Ewan McGregor, who returns as the title’s mysterious Jedi Knight, first made famous by Sir Alec Guinness in the original film.
Hayden said of the flames he encountered in an interview with The Sun, “Of course, this is a tough thing. But I feel like I’ve gotten over it somehow.”
And the excitement around the series seemed to overshadow any fan negativity, which is what studio executives were looking for — the trailer was watched seven million times on its first day.
Fans will watch Obi-Wan live on the desert planet of Tatooine, where Anakin’s son Luke is guarded. Our bearded hero fears that if the Chosen Child falls into the hands of his father, Luke may also turn into the “dark side” of the invisible force that permeates this fictional version of our universe.
Ewan is rumored to earn $2.8 million per episode, and next year his new wife Mary Elizabeth Winstead will appear in another Star Wars television series, Ahsoka, which will also feature Hayden.
Old relationships played out well for Hayden, who has remained friends with Ewan over the years. A source told The Sun that the Scottish actor lobbied for his co-acting to join the cast of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
It’s an opportunity that Hayden, whose films have been largely underdeveloped, did not anticipate.
“Going back to these characters again was a surreal thing, you know? he said.
It echoes his feelings when he first went for the role of Vader, when his only previous film part was a junior in Sofia Coppola’s 1999 film Suicide of the Virgin.
Hayden said of his Star Wars experience, “I never thought I could get the part—it seemed so big.
“Then when I got the phone call, I was in disbelief. It had a huge impact on my life. Professionally, obviously, and also personally, it has changed a lot for me.”
But not in the way he had hoped. The handsome new star Leonardo DiCaprio, who was said to have missed the role of Anakin, was expected to be with a life among Hollywood’s elite.
An insider said: “In his twenties, when Hayden was at the height of his Star Wars fame, he and his brother toffled all over the Los Angeles party and celebrity social scene, enjoying the perks that came with Hayden’s outbreak of world fame.”
But it all fell apart after poor reviews of Attack Of The Clones and Hayden’s 2008 sci-fi movie Jumper. The only consolation Jumper made was that he fell for star Rachel Bilson, of The OC fame.
The couple experienced a relationship as beginning as Hayden’s career.
They got engaged in 2009 before calling it off the following year, and then got back together again. Rachel, 40, and Hayden have never been married, but they have a seven-year-old daughter, Briar.
The couple shared their time between a ranch in Los Angeles and a 200-acre ranch north of Toronto, which he once said he wanted to fill with pigs, cows, horses, sheep, goats and “maybe alpacas.”
In 2018, he explained his desire to escape Hollywood: “I was inspired so much by my involvement in Star Wars, and how quickly things are changing for me.
“I just need a way to verify. I was 19 when I got involved in Star Wars, and although I thought I was mature enough to fully understand the experience, I was still a kid.
“To get perspective on that, you need time to think, and an environment in which I can do it. Something inside of me needs space. So I went out and found a place.”
He also took a break from acting, from 2010 to 2014, even though he knew it was a risk.
“You can’t take a vacation for years and it doesn’t affect your career. But in a kind of weird and destructive way, there was something appealing about that to me,” he said.
Since his return, his films have included the completely forgotten low-budget action films with Nicolas Cage in 2014, and the first kill with Bruce Willis in 2017.
Hayden and Rachel’s entire workload didn’t help their relationship and the couple separated for good in 2017. However it was an amicable breakup and Briar split her time between both parents.
In the fall of 2019, Hayden is invited by the makers of the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series to return to a galaxy far, far away once again.
He wasn’t about to turn down such an opportunity and said, “No brainer. When I got the call I immediately felt elated. I was so excited to be back after all these years.”
It’s been 15 years since he wore the Vader suit, which was only worn at the end of the 2005 movie Revenge Of The Sith.
But he said, “It was a very surreal experience to put on the suit again, and put the helmet back on.”
Neither Disney nor production company Lucasfilm has said who will voice Darth Vader in the new series, but James Earl Jones’ chilling tones have been used in every Star Wars movie featuring the famous villain.
The 91-year-old actor took on the job in Revenge Of The Sith after putting the famous black mask on Hayden’s head, and again in The Rise Of Skywalker, the third installment of the Star Wars trilogy, in 2019.
How many appearances Vader will make remains a closely guarded secret, while the main villain of Obi-Wan Kenobi is set to be the Grand Inquisitor, played by British actor Robert Friend.
But Vader’s role will be significant enough for Hayden to worry about what fans will think.
He said, “It’s Star Wars, you know, there’s just a level of expectation you want to satisfy.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is reproduced with permission
Originally published as Why Star Wars Actor Hayden Christensen Has Disappeared From the Spotlight