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‘Star Wars Episode III’ on DVD: Hayden Christensen Out of the Mask

In this film, how deep did you have to dig, personally, when Anakin finally embraces the Dark Side?
Hayden Christensen:
“Well, as an actor I usually try to keep my motivation within the context of what my character is going through. So I don’t think of my dog that died when I was eight years old, and how that made me feel. I try to stay within the psychology of Anakin. So it was really just letting his frustration seep in and how that would affect me.”

How did you feel about the dark turn in the relationship between Anakin and Padme?
Christensen: “I really like it, in that it’s what drives him to commit these sort of horrible acts. He’s doing what he thinks is for the good of his love. Obviously she doesn’t see it that way, and so the relationship was hard. I mean, I think that’s what sort of makes it hit home for me and for most audiences: that transformation is something that is driven by love, which I really liked.”

Was it difficult to hold back on expressing Anakin’s darkness while filming Episode II, knowing you had to save it for the finale?
Christensen: “It was challenging. Honestly it was, because you are cast as this character who is the connective tissue to someone that represents all that is evil. And so you’re natural instinct is to try and take him there, and George [Lucas] was constantly asking me to pull back from that, and to make him someone who is struggling and someone who allows these frustrations to present themselves in ways that aren’t necessarily perceived as evil, but maybe in other ways, and to keep it at that. And to not really show any sort of character arc, also. It was more about who he was at that time in his life and Episode III was about changing him and making evolve into Darth Vader, which I was very excited to do. That was something that I had built up in my head for so long.”

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After holding back, how did it feel to get to cut loose in those climactic scenes?
Christensen: “It was great. I did it with joy and glee. It came very easily because I just thought about it so much already. It was just an eventuality for me. It was orgasmic! [Laughs]. I don’t know. It was amazing. I was waiting and waiting and waiting, and finally I got to take him to the Dark Side.”

Initially, you were not expected to play Anakin inside the Darth Vader armor. How did you persuade George to let you suit up?
Christensen: “I just very politely asked if it was possible, and George and Rick [McCallum], being the kind of people that they are, allowed me that privilege. I just said, ‘Look, I’ve read the script now. I know he’s going to make an appearance in the end.’ And I think that they were already in the process of meeting with basketball players and really tall people to do that job, and I just said, ‘I don’t know if you can make this happen, but it’d be great for me if I could actually put the suit on.’”

And once you were put in the suit, we’re told hundreds of people were waiting on the set to get a glimpse of you as Darth Vader?
Christensen: “It was indescribable. It was, one, the completion of a job. It meant that my sort of five-year journey was over, coupled with the fact that it was just this incredibly powerful feeling, this beastly feeling that wells up inside of you when you’re playing a character that is dark and you walk by and people see Darth Vader. You watch the reactions on their faces, and the days that Darth came out on set was quite an occasion. Everyone wanted to see what was going on. It was a one of a kind experience.”

Just how heavy is that suit?
Christensen: “Very heavy. I mean, the logistics of actually being in the costume weren’t that great. It was very hot. They tried to make some air conditioning apparatus that didn’t work, and it was just very claustrophobic and your vision is very limited. And they had to compensate for the height difference, and so they put these big lifts in the shoes, so it was like walking around with twenty-pound weights on your shoulders and high heel shoes–Not that I practice that, but it was something like that [Laughs].” 

You shared scenes with veteran actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee and Ian McDairmid. What did you learn from them?
Christensen: “I think that I learned the most from, out of all the actors that I’ve worked with, Ian. And that’s not because he’s here [today], but it was just an eye opening experience getting to sit in that opera scene with him and getting to listen to him tell that story and watch the subtlety, and still everything that he’s able to convey within that subtlety. I would sit there and shake my head, and then go, ‘I’m not supposed to be shaking my head.’ And he’s such a kind man, and is willing to share his wisdom and help you when you ask for it. So I’ve learned an awful lot from him.” 

What was the most specifically challenging part of Episode III, for you?
Christensen: “It was the physical preparation which was probably the most challenging. George asked me beforehand to put on some size, which I’ve since lost. But he wanted me to bulk up and try to physically show the maturity that had taken place between the two films, and I did that in about a three-month period before we started filming, and that was just a very grueling schedule–Yeah. Then actually getting to execute it on set was just great fun, and working with Ian wasn’t so much challenging as it was rewarding and easy. It’s very easy to work with actors who give a lot and are as good as he is.” 

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How do children react when they encounter you in person?
Christensen: “Now I have two characters that kids can dress up as that are me. I don’t know–I was expecting a different reaction, to be honest. Kids are still enamored with this hero, and I would’ve thought that it was going to change the way that they saw Anakin, and maybe they would’ve been a little shy at first, but it really hasn’t changed anything. If anything, it makes them more drawn to him. I still get little kids coming up to me who want light saber training, and I play along with it. I love it. At Halloween I stayed at home, but when my mom tells me that there’s someone dressed as Anakin, I’ll go to the door and give them candy, which is fun.”

What was your initial reaction to the idea that you were going to become an action figure?
Christensen: “It was that I was going to have my own action figure! I was going to be able to play myself in a videogame, and how cool was that? I have an older brother who was a fanatic of ‘Star Wars’ growing up, and he had all the action figures and memorabilia, so I was very aware of the merchandising aspect of being involved in these films. At the time I was very excited about it, and now you walk into to a convenience store and see your face everywhere when the film is coming out–that’s a different story.”

We’ve heard that you were also involved in the creation of the video game “Star Wars: Battlefront II.”
Christensen: “That was just good fun. They invited me up for a couple of days just to sort of shape the character in the videogame, and it was a fun group of guys who were all very excited that they make videogames. The fella who choreographed the fights in the movies came out as well and we just fought with light sabers for a couple of days, and it was fun.”

As gamers go, how good are you?
Christensen: “Better than you [Laughs]. I’m pretty good. I’m okay. I used to play a lot of videogames growing up and still play. Not as much, but I still count myself as a bit of a gamer.” 

Have you kept any props from the Star Wars films as mementos?
Christensen: “Do I keep props? Yeah. I keep them in my closet just because it would be a little weird if they were out on display like out on the mantle or something like that.”

What’s the first scene you’ll take a look at on the new DVD?
Christensen: “There were a lot of scenes that were cut from the film. George films a lot and then through postproduction he trims it down and truncates the story and gives it more focus. We spent a couple of days in a big vat of water. They made this big water tank for the sequence where we were supposed to be in this fuel. On the page and as we were doing it, it seemed like it was really cool. So that’s something that I’ll go back and see first, because it’s not in the movie, obviously.” 

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Some actors in the both the previous and current Star Wars have had different reactions to their association with the saga after all was said and done. Some have embraced it and others have distanced themselves from it. Years done the line, where do you think your Star Wars experience will fit?
Christensen: “It will always be dear to my heart, without question. It’s just been a wild ride for the last five years, and has dramatically impacted my life ninety percent for the better. I cherish that and feel forever indebted to George for giving me the opportunity.”

What kind of roles are you looking to take on in the future?
Christensen: “Ones that I haven’t done before and ones that are going to challenge and ones that are hopefully going to make me grow more as an actor and all of that good stuff. I don’t know. I just finished a film called The Decameron, which was very much a departure from what I’ve done in the past. It was more like a comedic thing. I’m about to start work on a film which is a psychological drama/thriller and will be challenging as well. To be honest with you, it’s less about the character and more about the story, and if I’m sort of drawn to the story I’ll find a way to want to play the character.”

One day, if you have children and the time comes to sit them down and show them the Star Wars saga, where will you begin–Episode I or Episode IV?
“At Episode I, as the storyteller had intended it. I’ll have to preface that with the fact that it’s just a movie, and wait to see their reaction. I don’t know. I’m looking forward to it.”

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