From 2002 until 2005, the famous Canadian actor was best known around the globe for his role as Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise. In addition, he would receive praise for parts in films such as Shattered Glass and Life As A House respectively. 

He would earn numerous award nominations for his work during the early 2000s and looked as though he was quite literally going to take Hollywood by storm as he entered his late 20s. 

And yet, as quickly as he stepped into the lights of Tinsel Town, he disappeared! 

Whatever became of Hayden Christensen following the conclusion of Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy? Where is he now? What has he been up to? And, what’s next for the now 40-something-year-old actor? Let’s take a look and find out! 

From Fame to Oblivion

Hayden Christensen was born on April 19th, 1981 in Vancouver, British Columbia. A film and television actor and producer, he is perhaps best known for expertly portraying the slow but inexorable descent into the dark of a young Anakin Skywalker as he transformed into the notorious Darth Vader in two Star Wars films between 2002 and 2005.

Raised in Toronto, Ontario Hayden Christensen never once dreamed that he would make a living as a successful Hollywood actor. This is because, among other things, he never really even tried to be such a thing. You see, his short-lived affair with the glitz and glamour of Tinsel Town was triggered by absolute chance and happenstance. 

When he was a young child, Hayden regularly tagged along with his older sister as she went about doing rounds of casting calls for commercials. It was during one of these outings that some keen-eyed producers noticed charismatic Hayden and saw the raw potential within. 

Soon after, he began appearing in local commercials. It is through this medium that the young Hayden developed a profound love for acting, and honed his skills before making the leap to the world of fiction.

Hayden Christensen actor in the early 2000s

Did you know that even though Hayden received widespread praise for his nuanced portrayal of a conflicted Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars prequels Episodes II and III, he also received extremely harsh criticism from some Star Wars fans?

If there is one role for which Hayden Christensen will always be remembered, it is, without a doubt, that of Anakin Skywalker in 2002’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The Canadian actor was chosen as the embodiment of innocence and brooding darkness from a pool of more than 400 actors. Hollywood gossipers like to point out that Hayden would beat out Hollywood icon Leonardo DiCaprio, known for his iconic roles in everything from James Cameron’s Titanic to Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, for the role of a young Anakin!

Even though Hayden did not have a ton of experience, and even though many thought he did not possess the chops to bring such a complicated character to life, he skillfully portrayed the fledgling Jedi Knight in the service of the Republic as he succumbed to the Dark Side of the Force and became the villain, Darth Vader.

Heyden’s Initial Years in Hollywood

It was in 1993 that the then 12-year-old Christensen landed his first dramatic role in a German/Canadian television series called Family Passions.

Soon after, legendary horror film director John Carpenter granted him the honor of participating in the fantastic American horror film In The Mouth of Madness. This would officially mark Hayden’s big screen debut in the film. While it was a very small role, he would share the screen with such big screen giants as Charlton Heston and Sam Neill respectively.

From there, Hyden Christensen went on to land several small roles in a variety of film and TV projects. Among these would be classic episodes of Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark?

He eventually landed a very important, and likely career-defining, role in the critically acclaimed 1999 film The Virgin Suicides by director Francis Ford Coppola.

His fame took off in the early 2000s thanks in part to the television series Higher Ground, in which he played a teenager dealing with the emotional aftermath of being sexually abused by his stepmother.

It was this brilliant performance that initially caught the attention of Star Wars director George Lucas and made him consider Hayden for the part of Anakin. However, before filming began on the movies, Hayden landed a Golden Globe nomination and a SAG nomination for his critically acclaimed role in the movie Life As A House. He even won a National Board Of Review award for Breakthrough Performance Of The Year.

However, none of these roles made him a household name. That honor fell on something else entirely.

The Role Of A Lifetime

Superstar film director George Lucas is known to have said in an interview that as soon as he saw Hayden in Higher Ground, he knew that the actor had the chops to play the slow and tragic descent into the dark that defined the character of Anakin Skywalker. Lucas has also previously said that Hayden and Natalie Portman, his co-star in both Episode II and Episode III, had an immediate connection.

The role of Anakin Skywalker brought Hayden almost overnight popularity. Star Wars was a franchise with a built-in audience of millions of passionate individuals, and most of them adored Hayden from the start. However, his portrayal was panned by critics, even earning him two Razzie Awards in the process, including worst supporting actor.

Even with all the hate, the fans loved him. The people loved him, literally. He was named in People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People Of The Year, as well as Teen People’s 25 Hottest Stars Under 25.

In between filming Star Wars Episodes II and III, Hayden landed the lead role in 2003’s Shattered Glass, the biographical story of controversial reporter Stephen Glass.

However, after stepping into the shoes of one of pop culture’s most recognizable villains, Hayden opted to take some time off the Hollywood sets. A decision that many would argue irrevocably hurt his career.

Hayden is on record saying that he felt that the fame he was experiencing as a result of his role as Anakin was unearned. He felt that it was simply handed to him overnight and he did not like the feeling. So, Christensen took some time off.

Life After Star Wars

Hayden Christensen never fully retired after playing Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the Stars Wars saga.

He starred, alongside bombshell Sienna Miller and Guy Pierce, in Factory Girl. Factory Girl was a critically reviled biographical film about Andy Warhol’s muse, Edie Sedgwick.

This was the beginning of a professional decline for Hayden. It seemed that every movie he was in after Factory Girl was either hated by critics or the moviegoing public.

Around this time he would go on to star in Awake, a suspenseful thriller in which he played a billionaire in need of a heart transplant. Awake also starred the gorgeous Jessica Alba, but it fell flat at the box office.

Soon after he joined the cast of Virgin Territory, an insipid comedy about the Decameron, of all things. Virgin Territory went straight to DVD in most markets.

Hayden Christensen at the IFC awards

In 2008, Hayden again tried his luck in the Sci-Fi action-adventure film Jumper, in which he played a man who has the unexplainable power to teleport anywhere in the world. Jumper, while a personal favorite of mine, was critically panned by most critics. A pattern was starting to emerge. 

It is worth noting that during the filming of Jumper, Hayden met and fell in love with the future mother of his child, Rachel Bilson. I guess every cloud does have a silver lining.

It seems that ever since Hayden has been struggling to successfully find his footing in Hollywood. Between 2009 and 2019, he would go on to star in 10 films, none of which was a critical success. None of these roles gave him anywhere near the amount of fame that he received from playing Anakin in the Star Wars movies.

Some notable roles during this period include Takers, Outcast, American Heist, and First Kill. These were movies with big names attached. Names such as Idris Elba, Adrian Brodie, Nicolas Cage, and Bruce Willis. Yet the fame of his past kept eluding Hayden.

His last film to date is an Argentine production called The Last Man. Here, Hayden plays a war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who establishes a dubious relationship with a street prophet who believes he is the Messiah.

In a cruel twist of fate, Hayden’s last film is also arguably his most hated. I don’t know a single person who enjoyed that mess.

A Return To Darth Vader?

When Hayden was asked by Canadian showbiz mag ETalk, about his Star Wars legacy, he said the following:  

“Being part of that world was a great challenge for me, and it was four or five fantastic years of my life. I have great memories and friendships from that time in my life. If one day they called me, I would sign without thinking.

It wasn’t a surprise then, that when rumors started circulating about his potential return to the franchise, the fan base went nuts!

For the longest time, it was rumored that Christensen would return to the Star Wars Franchise with 2019’s Episode IX, directed by J.J. Abrams. And he did…in a way. Hayden Christensen’s name does appear in the credits of the last Star Wars film, but only as a voice-over cameo. 

So What Happened To Hayden Christensen After Star Wars?

Thankfully, the Anakin Skywalker actor Hayden Christensen has returned to Star Wars, reprising his role as the Sith Lord Darth Vader in the new Obi-Wan Kenobi show.

In December 2020, executives of the ultra-successful streaming service Disney+ revealed that Hayden Christensen would once again return to the Star Wars universe, and reprise his role as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader alongside a young Obi-Wan Kenobi played once again by a fantastic Ewan McGregor.

The new TV series titled Kenobi has already been released on the streaming platform in 2022. The limited series will take place between the events of Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope and follows Jedi in hiding Obi-Wan Kenobi in the days following the execution of Order 66.

When not on the big screen, the actor whose blood runs Danish, Swedish, and Italian, spends his free time at his farm in Canada, playing tennis and hockey. He also avidly follows the goings-on of the Manchester United football club. And every once in a while, Hayden will pop in for a Con or two.

But with him reprising his legendary role in the Kenobi series, we can no doubt expect to see a lot more of him soon.

“If one day they called me, I would sign without thinking about it.”