During our recent visit to Skywalker Ranch, actor Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker & Darth Vader in the film sat down with the press to discuss his role in the Star Wars films and reveal his feelings surrounding the final chapter of the trilogy coming to DVD on November 1st.
Hayden Christensen: At Episode I as the storyteller had intended it. I'll have to preface it first with the fact that it's just a movie, and wait to see their reaction.
In Episode III you seem to really get into the darkness of the journey your character embarked on. What did you do to get into the role at those points?
Hayden Christensen: As an actor, I usually try and keep my motivation within the context of what the character is going through. I don't think of my dog that died when I was 8 years old. I tried to stay within the psychology of Anakin. It was really just letting his frustrations seep in. And how that would effect me.
How challenging was it to struggle with the role of Anakin and not to jump right to the darkside of the Darth Vader character?
Hayden Christensen: It was challenging because you are cast as this character that was the connective tissue to someone that represents all that is evil. So your natural instinct is to try and take him there. George was constantly asking me to pull back from that. Make him someone who is struggling, and who allows himself to present his frustrations in ways that aren't necessarily perceived as evil but may be other ways. To keep it at that. To not really show any character arc. It was more about who he was at time in his life. And Episode III was about changing him. It was very exciting to get to Episode III, to finally get to do that. It was something I had built up in my head for so long. I was waiting and waiting and waiting... and finally I got to take him to the Dark Side.
How did you go about asking George [Lucas] to let you wear the suit for the finale of the film?
Hayden Christensen: Just very politely asked if it was possible. And George and Rick, being the kind of people that they are allowed me that privilege. I just said, I've read the script now, I know he's going to make an appearance at the end. I think they were already in the process of meeting with basketball players, and real tall people to do that job. And I just said, "I don't know if you guys can make this happen, but it would be really great for me if I could actually put the suit on.
How did it feel putting on the [Darth Vader] suit?
Hayden Christensen: It was indescribable. It was the completion of a job. And my 5 year journey was over. Coupled with the fact that it was just this incredibly powerful feeling. Basically, this feeling wells up inside of you when you're playing a character that's darkening. And you walk by people and you see dark. You watch the reactions on their faces, the day the Darth came out. Everyone wanted to see what was going on. It was a one of a kind experience. Very heavy.
Was it heavy?
Hayden Christensen: The logistics of actually being in the costume, weren't that great. It was very hot. They tried to make some air conditioning apparatus, it didn't work. Very claustrophobic. They had to compensate for the height difference so they put these big lifts in the shoes. So it was like walking around with 20 lb. weights on your shoulders and high heeled shoes.
Acting with a veteran like Ian McDiarmid, did you end up taking anything from your experiences acting with him?
Hayden Christensen: It was an eye opening experience, getting to sit in that opera scene with him and listen to him tell that story and watch the subtlety. And still everything he's able to convey within that subtlety. I'd just sit there and shake my head and go, ‘Oh, 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 yeah, I've learned an awful lot from him.
Now that you've become Darth Vader are little kids scared of you?
Hayden Christensen: Kids still are enamored with this hero. And I would have thought this would have changed how they saw Anakin. Maybe they would have been a little shy at first, but it really hasn't changed anything. If anything they're just more drawn to him. Little kids may want lightsaber training. I play a lot with them. I love them. But Halloween, I stay in the house I don't go out. But if my mom tells me there's someone dressed up as Anakin, I'll go to the door. Which is cool. (Laughs)
Hayden Christensen: The physical preparation was probably the most challenging. George asked me to put on some size, which I have since lost, but he wanted me to bulk up and physically show the maturity that had taken place between the two films. And I did that for about a three month period before we started filming. That was just a very brutal schedule that I actually executed on set. Working with Ian wasn't really so much challenging as it was rewarding and easy. It's very easy working with actors who give a lot which he does.
A lot of other Star Wars actors and actresses reflect on their experiences in different ways. How will remember your experience?
Hayden Christensen: It will always be dear to me. This has been a wild ride for the last 5 years. And it's just dramatically impacted my life. 90% for the better. I feel forever indebted to George for giving me the opportunity.
How good a gamer are you?
Hayden Christensen: Better than you. (Laughs) I used to be good. I used to play a lot of video games growing up. And still play, but not as much.
What was the coolest part for you in taking the role initially?
Hayden Christensen: It was exactly that. I was gonna have my own action figure. I was going to be able to play myself in a video game. I had an older brother who was fanatic. Had all the action figures and memorabilia, and so I was very aware of the merchandising aspect of being involved with these films. Now, when you walk into a convenient store and see your face plastered on everything that comes up, it's a totally different story.
How involved were you with the sculpting of the Anakin character in the video game?
Hayden Christensen: It was good fun. They invited me out for a couple days, to help sort of shape the character and the video game. It was a fun group of guys all very excited that they make video games, and the fellow who choreographs the fights came out as well. We just fought with lightsabers for a couple of days.
How was it meeting the original trilogy cast for the Vanity Fair cover shoot?
Hayden Christensen: I didn't. That's the magic of the computers that they use. I was on a shoot, on a day off. Everyone who was working on Episode III was obviously there. Mark Hammill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were not there. Through the magic of technology they were in the picture.
Did you end up taking any props from the film?
Hayden Christensen: Yeah. I keep them in my closet just because it'd be kind of weird if they were out on display. There's lots of scenes that are cut you know? George films a lot and through post production pares it down. Truncates the story and gives it more focus. I think for me, we spent a couple of days in a big vat of water, for this sequence where we were supposed to be looking for fuel. And that, on the page and when we were doing it, seemed like it was really cool. It's not in the movie.
How do you feel about the Anakin / Padme love story in the film?
Hayden Christensen: I really like it in that it's what drives him to commit these really horrible acts. He's doing it he thinks for the good of his love. Obviously, she doesn't see it that way so their relationship goes south. That's what makes it all sort of hit home. For me and for, I think, most audiences, that transformation that is something that is driven by love. Which is something I like.
Dont't forget to also check out: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith [WS] [2 Discs]