Canadian actor Hayden Christensen was just beginning to carve a respectable acting career for himself when he snagged the much-coveted lead role in Episode II: Attack Of The Clones. Quite a challenge for any actor, but for a 20-year-old with only a few years in the business it was a pretty audacious move.
In return for being rocketed instantly to superstardom, Hayden would have to satisfy millions of fans worldwide by believably portraying the youthful Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker's descent into the Dark Side and his transformation into Darth Vader, one of contemporary pop culture's mythic villains. The soft-spoken actor didn't shrink from the task, however, and was determined to prove he was a lot more than just a pretty face.
So just how did he pull the role off so successfully? Apparently, by not thinking about it. "I was pretty aware of the responsibility of playing the role when I started to break down my part," says the actor. "But it just really wasn't conducive to doing my best work. I try not to project my thoughts there just focus on how I was going to play the character and not so much the repercussions if it was done wrong because that just brings you down."
Born to David and Alie Christensen in Vancouver, Canada, on April 19, 1981, Hayden was raised in the nation's largest city, Toronto, where he continues to live today. He made his first foray into acting aged 13, with a supporting role in the German-Canadian TV-series Macht Der Leidenschaft/Family Passions, and from there on worked steadily in supporting roles on Canadian TV productions and occasional film appearances Stateside.
But 2000 would be Hayden's banner year. He scooped the part of a local drug-abusing delinquent who was sexually molested by his stepmother in the US TV series Higher Ground. It was a role which gave Hayden the chance to show off his acting talents and earned him a loyal fan base.
Next came the US made-for-TV film Trapped In A Purple Haze in which Hayden gave a gripping portrayal of the effects of heroin addiction. Within a month of the movie airing, Hayden had nabbed the Star Wars part, reportedly due to good on-screen chemistry with predetermined co-star Natalie Portman. His remarkable ability to completely change his look from angelic to malevolent in the flash of an eye might have helped a little too.
Filming had no sooner wrapped on Attack Of The Clones than Hayden further proved his acting chops, scooping a Golden Globe in 2001 for his role as Kevin Kline's drug-abusing son in Life As A House.
But although it is for his Star Wars part that Hayden is currently best known, Hayden isn't worried about being typecast with the sci-fi role. "There's a risk in playing any character if it's not done right," Hayden says. "And of course there's obviously a larger risk in playing a character presented in such a major platform. But if you're not willing to take those risks then what's the point of acting?"