On May 11, 2000, Hayden Christensen was just another Canadian. Very handsome, but unknown. On May 12, 2000, this young man who was then 19 years old was already the most wanted man in Hollywood. And perhaps from several galaxies. That day it was announced that that beardless actor had surpassed 442 candidates (which included Leonardo DiCaprio, Heath Ledger and Paul Walker) to become one of the great icons in the history of cinema. He was chosen to be the young Darth Vader, and his face soon appeared on lists of the 50 golden bachelors or the sexiest men, according to the magazine People. But the public display had a less glamorous and trivial face. The prequels of starwars were received with some resentment, and in 2003 and 2006 he received a saber (laser) in the form of two Razzie awards for worst actor. His story is the definition of Hollywood cruelty.
“I would advise my 19-year-old self to be patient. Everything had to happen like this. It is the smartest advice I should have received, ”she recalls at 41 years old in an interview with EL PAÍS via Zoom and from London. Not only is Christensen back on his journey to a galaxy far, far away, but he’s excited about this round of high school reunions that has become the promotion of his Jedi Master series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, which premieres this Friday on Disney +. Despite running an entire empire, he now embraces staying in the background.
In 2005 nobody would have said it, but, in reality, his second dance ruling the galaxy of George Lucas is as expected by him as by the followers. “I cannot summarize how important reconnecting has been. Receiving the support of those fans who were children when the prequels were released has been very comforting. I’m checking what they meant to them. That experience is why I do it. Honestly, I think that reborn support and being asked for so much is what allows us to come back,” explains Christensen: “There is an important aspect of nostalgia, and I admit that it has touched my heart. Reconnecting with Ewan McGregor and remembering the prequels has been a very emotional journey, one of the highlights of my life. We live in two different countries and we haven’t seen each other for years, but we’ve kept in touch. I love him like a brother.”
That nostalgia, or that fight against the past, is also part of the plot of the series, which EL PAÍS has not been able to see when writing this text. McGregor’s Jedi Master has already retreated to the desert of Tatooine, where Alec Guinness was in the first Star Wars. He is a broken and faithless man who spends his days watching over little Luke Skywalker from afar, who grows up with his aunt and uncle without knowing that his father is the leader of the dark side formerly known as Anakin Skywalker. “It’s a story about dealing with the past. About how the end of the Episode III it has impacted our characters”, sums up Christensen to avoid stepping on 99% of the things he cannot say.
Christensen sees them as brothers, although Deborah Chow, the first female director in the saga, always saw a platonic love story. That’s what she wanted to explore in Obi Wan: reordering the legacy and giving new meaning to the mythical battle of the 1977 film. But in the Lucasfilm studio it was discussed for months if presenting a new fight was the right thing to do. Touching on legacy is always thorny among ardent fans, and Christensen knows that better than anyone. Vader, moreover, did not even appear in the Stephen Daldry film where this series originated. Was there anything left to tell about him? The actor never imagined having to deal with this chapter of his life. He was hired to bring Anakin to life and only put on the suit for a few minutes of footage. The imposing voice of James Earl Jones (or Constantino Romero in the version dubbed into Spanish) did the rest. The novelty precisely pushed him to want to explore it: “It was an honor to be cited. He is a complex character wherever he is in his life.”
Christensen had to be aware, moreover, that he was reopening a door that he closed with a partial withdrawal pushed by the attacks and by resounding failures such as jumper either Awake. “They will remember him for playing the rather handsome void that Anakin should occupy,” he criticized The New Yorker. During this time, the Canadian has mutated into Obi-Wan’s introspective mindset, living on a 200-acre farm in Toronto far from the madding crowd. Still, today Christensen finally seems to enjoy himself as much as he did on that day in 2000, when he was told he was going to be Darth Vader, and he went to fight his roommate in an invisible lightsaber battle.
The actor feels like another person, and sees one of the great movie villains as a story of a prisoner of power: “I’m in a different place in my life and that influences the character. Vader has an inherent identity struggle and we’re going to see that contrast. I want the viewer to feel bad for him. He always empathizes, although it’s easy because we’ve seen how he fell into the dark side of him. He has made bad decisions, but it is not his fault alone. 10 years after Revenge of the Sith, lives imprisoned in his choices. Having lived longer, I understand him better. We explore it further.”
The changes since the prequels have been internal, and also external. Actors no longer have to imagine everything around them. Now they work with a spectacular LED screen – which they nicknamed The Volume when they created it for The Mandalorian— today omnipresent in the cinema. The real backgrounds are projected on it: “We shot the prequels on green and blue backgrounds; and now we can see the stage where we are. You literally walk into starwars. That immersion helps the work and everything is more credible”. Goodbye to actors complaining in interviews about how difficult it was to work without references. Lucasfilm already has three set up in Los Angeles, one in Vancouver and one in London.
Vader will continue to hide under his iconic helmet: “Most of the work was gym and highlighting the character’s physique. We could have filled it in, but I wanted to feel it and have that inform how I move and walk. I had to change my diet and had a personal trainer.” As he dressed in each piece, he acknowledges that he got emotional. As he went over the path Anakin had taken in his absence, through Clone Wars Y Rebels, series created by Dave Filoni, new weaver of the universe: “Animation has made the prequels better. I have tried to study everything, although there is a lot of material”.
That path will help him understand Vader’s possible next steps. Because, like everything in the starwars current, nothing dies. It is more than likely that Christensen will appear in the new series of Ahsoka, padawan with which he has not yet been able to cross. This was announced by Rosario Dawson in a post on Instagram that she had to delete after a call from Disney’s red phone. Christensen looks to the future ready to break the curse of Darth Vader, suffered by actors like David Prowse and Jake Matthew Lloyd: “It means a lot in my life. I would love to continue doing things with him. I sign now”.
A new hope
Like Anakin Skywalker did when he blurted out “I am your father,” Christensen has dealt with his ghosts. Ewan McGregor has made the same path of reconciliation, how did i count Vanity Fair: “I felt that it was not what I represented. It was difficult to record the films with the bad reviews. And there were still two left (…) But at a premiere, when they asked me if I wanted to come back, I suddenly realized that inside I wanted to do it. He had learned to appreciate them.
The Mandalorian opened a new television hope for starwars, but, although the goal is to get away from the usual characters (or so they say), nostalgia is still the engine of the Disney industry and of this series in particular. That sentiment has even rehabilitated the prequels. Obi Wan tries to close the Skywalker page on high, while paving a way away from the theater; a forced movement due to the need to rethink the strategy in theaters. Soon they will have a series Andor (with Diego Luna), Ahsoka Y The Acolytethe project that goes the furthest from the original path when traveling back to the time of Jedi splendor.
You can follow EL PAÍS TELEVISION on Twitter or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Exclusive content for subscribers
read without limits