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So who's Hayden Christianson you ask? Until May 16, 2002, just about, well almost, nobody.

What a difference a day makes, especially when that day marks the highly anticipated release of Episode II of George Lucas film extravaganza Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. On that day, film history was made and the young 20-year-old was propelled from virtual anonymity to worldwide fame as the Jedi-warrior in training Anakin Skywalker-future father of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia-and even more ominously- the future Darth Vader.

Star Wars

Attack of the Clones is rich with themes we've come to recognize in all of the Star Was films: continual discovery, personal aspirations, heroism, duty and honor. EPISODE II of George Lucas'’ six-chapter epic features passion, love, and adventure. Interwoven with these familiar themes is one new to the saga – forbidden love – as well as the notion of Jedi heroism on a scale previously unseen in any Star Wars film. In one heart-stopping sequence, hundreds of Jedi battle powerful and seemingly innumerable forces.

The title itself hearkens back to the sense of imagination and excitement that characterized the classic movie serials and pulp fantasy adventures from which the Star Wars saga draws inspiration. "Attack of the Clones is a big, wide-eyed adventure film in the tradition and celebration of the Saturday matinee serials of Hollywood's golden age," says Lucas. "They were unpretentious and designed to thrill with lots of energy, suspense and excitement. You went to those movies to escape and enjoy yourself, and that's what I wanted to capture with Attack of the Clones."

Adroitly, the film leads one to the notion of 'connections' that resonate backwards and forwards through the saga, linking motifs, themes, actions, attitudes and phrases. Most importantly, they tie together the story's memorable characters: the feisty Princess, Leia, who is the daughter of the strong-willed queen, Padmé Amidala; that queen's son, Luke Skywalker, a young farmboy whose yearnings for adventure lead to the end of an Empire and revelations of family secrets; Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Padawan who becomes a Jedi Knight and connects father to son; and Anakin Skywalker, a young Podracer who travels a tortuous path to the dark side before ultimately finding redemption at the hands of that son.

The character of Anakin Skywalker is central to Attack of the Clones, and indeed to the saga itself. "What drove me in the first place to create this new trilogy," says Lucas, "was to create a story about somebody who starts out as a good person, but is seduced by the dark side and becomes evil. And is ultimately redeemed. That's the reason I started the story where I did in The Phantom Menace, with nine-year-old Anakin being a wonderful, normal kid. I wanted to explore how somebody like that turns bad." Adds producer Rick McCallum: "We obviously know Anakin’s ultimate fate. With these new films we explore the 'How' and the 'Why.'"

Attack of the Clones

"In Attack of the Clones we begin to see flashes of anger from Anakin," Lucas states, "and the seeds of his feelings are moving toward the dark side. The same flaws and issues that all humans are cursed with, curse him. There's a lot going on there." Says Jonathan Hales, the film’s co-writer, "Anakin is still a gifted, talented, likable, good person who is determined to be the best and most powerful Jedi. He doesn't set out to be evil, but in this film we see that pressures are being put upon him, and we become aware of some new temptations to which he is subjected."

Casting director Robin Gurland saw six months of hard work come to a successful conclusion with the selection of Canadian actor Hayden Christensen as the new Anakin Skywalker for Episodes II and III (scheduled to be released in 2005) of the Star Wars saga. "I was really in a state of despair until Hayden walked through the door," Gurland recalls. "He has those special qualities you hope to find in an actor. He pops off the screen. And he had two of the characteristics that we were seeking for the character: vulnerability and edginess. We really had to have that combination, and it's rare to find an actor who can go back and forth so well. I knew he had the physical and emotional attributes to play Anakin at the most complex stage of the character's life."

Rick McCallum agrees that Christensen has a special quality that seems uniquely suited to bring out Anakin's dual nature. "Hayden has a wonderful innocence and decency, with an edge that you can see in his eyes. There's so much happening there." Says Hayden, "The auditions became all about meeting Natalie, and the thrill of shooting scenes from Star Wars. I believe I had chemistry with her, which was key to me getting the part."

Hayden Christensen was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on April 19th, 1981. The third of four children, he has a brother, Tove (27) who first introduced him to Star Wars, and two sisters, aged 25 and 15. The young Canadian actor started his career at age of 6, although quite accidently. As he tells it, "I got involved in acting through my older sister actually. She was a Junior World Champion on the trampoline and they wanted her to do a Pringles commercial. She did and after that they wanted her to get an agent, and I was just along for the ride. I was 6 or 7 and was in the agency office and they asked me if I wanted to do commercials and I naively said sure." By 13, he began to appear in several Canadian TV dramas. His biggest break was a starring role on the Fox Family network's Higher Ground (2000). On the series, Hayden showed off his acting talent as a teen who was sexually molested by his step-mom, and turns to drugs in despair. Later, he appeared in the television movie Trapped In A Purple Haze (2000). Recently, he appeared on the London stage in Kenneth Lonergan's This is our Youth.

 Life As A HouseHe also played the role of Kevin Klein's rebellious son in the touching Life As A House (2001), filmed during a break in the filming of Clones . But his fortunes dramatically changed when George Lucas stunned the entire world by picking the then-unknown actor as Anakin, after he had turned down such big names as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonathan Jackson, as well as 400 other candidates. What happened when he heard the news? "I was just waking up and my roommate walked in and handed me the phone and it was my agent and manager and they were pretty excited and so I knew as soon as I got on the phone, and I walked outside just stunned and in disbelief. I called my mom first thing, and my roommate started blaring the Star Wars soundtrack in the background. I didn't tell my mom right off, but of course she heard the music and started flipping out," he recalls.

Christensen fills a role that has been played by actors ranging from then eight-year-old Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace to seventy-eight-year-old Sebastian Shaw in Return of the Jedi. Christensen, a longtime Star Wars fan, is well aware of the connections and challenges inherent in the character's story arc from young slave boy to Dark Lord of the Sith to redeemed Jedi. "The hardest part of playing Anakin was finding the medium between what Jake brought to the role and what Sebastian Shaw did as the unmasked Darth Vader, finding that medium between the good and the bad, and making it believable," he says.

"Anakin is very passionate about the responsibilities he's undertaken as a Jedi," the actor comments. "He's very determined to break free, wants to be the best at everything he does, and never backs down from a challenge."

Among these challenges is his increasing, and forbidden, attraction to Padmé, played by Natalie Portman. Anakin's passions lead to romance, although it is forbidden for Jedi to form such attachments. In the story, Anakin and Padmé are reunited after ten years, when she finds her life endangered and is offered the protection of Obi-Wan and his young apprentice. "It's a subtle, grown-up love story," says screenwriter Jonathan Hales, "It isn't a question of love at first sight. When they're reunited, she still sees him as a child. Initially, there's tension, but always with an underlying attraction. Add to the fact their feelings for each other are forbidden. That's interesting and it's adult."



"Padmé's matured as a woman," says co-star and Harvard co-ed Natalie Portman. "She's idealistic, honest and good, and because of that, sometimes naive. Padmé doesn't want to fall in love because she thinks she has more important things to accomplish. She sees a future for herself as a leader, which doesn'’t allow for much vulnerability, which in turn is a key component of romance."

In Attack of the Clones, we see Padmé as more of a person and less as a ruler of a nation. She wears softer, less formal clothes. Since the character is older, she was able to wear some sexier clothes as well. "George wanted Natalie to have a softer, more feminine, less formal look in EPISODE II," says Costume Designer Trisha Biggar.

As the film progresses, Padmé's demeanor as well as her wardrobe becomes more informal, as she transitions from her duties as Senator, to a woman falling in love, and ultimately a woman of action, fighting for her life.

As the romance evolves, Anakin and Padme share some intimate moments, and some fiery love scenes as well. Since inquiring minds want to know, did those feelings translate to real life as well? Says Hayden, "We never dated or anything. We hung out." Portman agrees, "We are friends. I usually don't talk about anything private, but Hayden is awesome." If faced with the challenges Anakin faced, would Hayden's decisions be the same as Anakin? "It would definitely take some reflection, but I would choose love over obligation, definitely,"” he says. When asked about his opinion of women in general, the man with two sisters says "It's difficult to say because I don't understand them at all." Now that he's the darling of Hollywood however, we suspect he'll learn pretty quickly. It'll be interesting to see who he takes to the 2003 Academy Awards???

Obi-Wan’s mistake ultimately proves to have grave consequences for Anakin and for the galaxy

Obi-Wan incorrectly believed he could train Anakin to the level of the revered Yoda. Obi-Wan’s mistake ultimately proves to have grave consequences for Anakin and for the galaxy. The film’s Stunt Coordinator Nick Gillard also focused on training Hayden Christensen, who had to convey Anakin’s formidable skills with the lightsaber. “We need to see Anakin’s flashes of brilliance, the man who will be Darth Vader in action,” says Gillard. “He’s more skilled than even Obi-Wan, and he always attacks.”

Christensen, a talented athlete whose sports of choice are tennis and hockey, was offered a full college scholarship in Tennis before he was cast in Star Wars. He trained three to four hours a day with Gillard, wearing the ensuing bruises like badges of honor. “You don’t feel like you’ve done your job unless you walk home with a few bumps and scrapes,” the actor notes.

The film’s costume designs also offer foreboding links to Episodes IV-VI. Costume designer Trisha Biggar created the costumes for Anakin Skywalker, which echo that worn by his later incarnation, Darth Vader. Biggar’s initial thought was to give Anakin a costume that would mirror the one worn by Ewan McGregor in The Phantom Menace. “But we wanted to have a feel of the future to come, so we looked to aspects of Darth Vader’s costume,” recalls Biggar, another Episode I veteran.

So what’s Anakin Skywalker (aka Hayden Christensen) up to now? Since The Force is definitely with him, he recently got to go to the Cannes Film Festival with George Lucas as part of a major press tour. “I just came from Madrid. We were in London before that and then Toronto before that and before that Skywalker Ranch (Director George Lucas' home in Marin County, California)," he told Reuters Television while he was there, shaking his head in wonderment at the rollercoaster he is riding right now. "It looks so beautiful with the boats on the water and the people walking out there. And the sunshine -- I haven't seen too much of that recently. I would like to catch up on a little bit of sleep and see the city a little bit. I would like to go on a boat. Maybe tomorrow when I get a day off. It's a little bit chaotic. I am a little bit disoriented with all the traveling and stuff."

But since then there has been one piece of news sure to put a big smile on his tired face. Attack of the Clones -- topped $30 million at the American box office on its very first day of release. “That is pretty cool. It is nice to know people want to go and see it. That is not bad,” he said.

And as if all this news wasn’t good enough, there’s more afoot for the young actor. If the rumors turn out to be true, Hayden is negociating to star in the upcoming Lion’s Gate film Shattered Glass, the intriguing true story of the former hot-shot “Rolling Stone” and “New Republic” writer who disgraced himself by making up sources, quotes, and even entire stories.

New to the Star Wars musical canon is a love theme that underlines Anakin and Padmé’s romance

New to the Star Wars musical canon is a love theme that underlines Anakin and Padmé’s romance. Early on, Lucas described to Composer John Williams his vision of the love theme. “George said to me, ‘Why don’t you score it as if it were a love scene from an old Hollywood movie,’” Williams recalls, “‘where you’d see Claudette Colbert in love with a handsome leading man.’ Meaning what he wanted expressed here musically was in the traditional vein of a love theme.”

Williams’ Attack of the Clones love theme reflects the forbidden and ultimately tragic nature of the Anakin-Padmé love story. “There is an aspect of their romance that recalls classic love stories like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Tristan and Isolde”, where the romantic couples are separated by class, family, or rank,” the composer explains. “In Episode II, we have a queen /senator and we have a soldier, a Jedi, and their ranks and social structure separate them, creating tension. And so the love theme expresses this tragic aspect that separates the two young people. It was a different kind of musical opportunity and challenge than I faced with the other Star Wars films.”

With Hayden Christensen and the rest of the cast moving on to other projects, there will be little time for Lucas, Producer McCallum and their teams to relax after Attack of the Clones’ May 16th global release. Soon enough they’ll be scouting locations, the art department will be working on costume designs – and George Lucas will sit down to write EPISODE III, in longhand, in a binder he has used for all his films. What will the future hold for Anakin and Padme?

The saga continues…

Where Is He Now? 

With his Darth Vader days behind him, Hayden Christensen has proved himself to be a strong leading man in many other sci-fi films, including "Jumper" in 2008.  Recently it was announced that he would continue this trend in a new movie co-starring Nicholas Cage called “Outcast”, in which he will play the role of a young crusader in search of redemption in China.  The movie has been much anticipated- especially by a growing Chinese audience- and is set to release this fall.

On top of his return to the big screen, starring with Nicolas Cage in "Outcast", Christensen recently released his 2014 summer menswear collection RW&CO.  He explained his collection  with the statement, “Style comes from how the clothes feel on you, and comfort was a key factor in creating this collection.”  Look for it in stores this summer!

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 158 - September 4055
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