Actor Gets the Force

09/18/1998 at 12:00 AM EDT

After a week of is he?, isn't he? -- and what does George Lucas say? -- it is now official: Canadian actor Hayden Christensen, 19, has been cast to play Anakin Skywalker in Episodes II and III of the "Star Wars" franchise. According to the official "Star Wars" Web site, Hayden says that one of the first people he called with the good news was his mother. "My roommate started blaring the 'Star Wars' soundtrack in the background," he said. "I didn't want to tell my mom right off, but of course she heard the music and started flipping out." Hayden, who starred on cable's "Higher Ground" and can be seen in the new "Virgin Suicides," "did a great screen test with Natalie (Portman) last weekend," said producer George Lucas, who starts shooting the saga next month in Australia. "He has the physical and emotional attributes to play Anakin Skywalker at perhaps the most complex stage of Anakin's life." For his part, the future Darth Vader claims he's excited about working with his costars. "And," he said, "I get to use light sabers."

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