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It's Official: 'Star Wars' Has Its New Anakin!

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

HOLLYWOOD, May 12, 2000 – Surprise, surprise. Lucasfilm announced this afternoon that Hayden Christensen -- the 19-year-old Canadian actor everyone knew was going to be the next Anakin Skywalker –- has, yes, been tapped to play the next Anakin Skywalker in the upcoming "Star Wars: Episode II."

The confirmation of the world's worst-kept secret came via the official "Star Wars" Web site (www.starwars.com).

"'Star Wars' has always been big for my generation," Christensen is quoted as saying on the site. "When 'Episode I' came out my entire high school went to the theater for the first showing. It was a big event, and to be a part of that now is very special."

The casting process started last October with more than 400 candidates. The pool was eventually cut down to around 25, and finally, to the four unnamed candidates -- Christensen included. The final four performed screen tests opposite prequel-trilogy star Natalie Portman at "Star Wars" guru's George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch. And as was rumored, Christensen’s screen test was what won him the coveted role.

"I'm looking forward to working with Hayden," Lucas said on the Web site. "He did a great screen test with Natalie last weekend. He is very talented, has a great command of his craft, and I know that he has the physical and emotional attributes to play Anakin Skywalker at perhaps the most complex stage of Anakin's life."

Per his bio, Christensen got into acting when a talent agent spotted him with his older sister, who was doing commercials at the time. He had his first recurring part on a Canadian soap opera, "Family Passions," when he was 12.

Grade-schooler Jake Lloyd played the young Anakin in "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace." Christensen has been signed to play the future Darth Vader in "Episode II" and "Episode III," opposite Luke Skywalker's future mom, Queen Amadala (as played by Portman).

Shooting on "Episode II" is schedule to begin next month in Australia.

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