Celeb Spotlight: Hayden Christensen
05/19/2005 AT 06:00 AM EDT
Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
Current gig: Reprising his role as Anakin Skywalker in a little film called Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
He didn't grow up on Star Wars
When he beat out 350 actors to star in 2002's Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Christensen was a relative newbie to the franchise. "I wasn't really a fan as a kid," he says. "I wasn't even born when the first one came out (in 1977)." But the Vancouver-born, Toronto-raised actor, whose previous credits included The Virgin Suicides and the short-lived Fox Family series Higher Ground, caught director George Lucas's eye. "He's got a certain edge to him – the same kind that James Dean and Marlon Brando had," Lucas says.
He's still getting used to all the attention
Although he's worked to avoid typecasting – between Star Wars films he made the indies Life As a House and Shattered Glass – Christensen knows he'll never escape the specter of Vader. Even at the supermarket, he's surrounded by promotional Star Wars chips and soda. "Your choices are limited when you go to get snack food," he says. "Aagghh! My face is everywhere." But Christensen got an early lesson in the magnitude of it all. "For Star Wars: Episode II, we went to Spain to do a day of filming," he recalls. "This was prior to me appearing in any film. Thousands upon thousands of people showed up, and they were all chanting my name."
The best part of filming Revenge of the Sith? Practicing the climactic light-saber battle with costar Ewan McGregor ("It was great fun," Christensen says). The 6'2" actor has always loved a good contest. He and his brother Tove, 32, a champion long-distance runner, competed on the 2003 Discovery Channel reality show Eco-challenge: Fiji Islands, which he's called "the most physically and mentally challenging thing I've ever done." And on the set of Shattered Glass, Christensen, who was a top tennis and hockey player in high school and now snowboards and rides dirt-bikes, bonded with costar Peter Sarsgaard over some friendly competition. "I beat Peter at Ping-Pong," he says. "He beat me at chess."
He's tight with his family
He's filming his next flick, the period drama The Decameron with Mischa Barton, in Italy, but Christensen prefers to stay close to home. He divides his time between Toronto, L.A. and London, and runs a production company, Forest Park Pictures, with Tove (they co-produced Shattered Glass and are reportedly developing a reality show for FX that will follow a young artist's rise to fame). And his family, including mom Alie and dad David, a communications executive, are his biggest supporters. "Dad wanted me to go to university on a tennis scholarship," Christensen told Entertainment Weekly. "When I got the part (of Anakin), he sent me a card that said, 'Some things are bigger than a tennis scholarship to Harvard.'"