The middle chapter of the prequel trilogy, Star Wars: Attack of the Clonesarrived May 16, 2002. To celebrate 20 years of the filmand anniversary, StarWars.com presents Clone at 20, a special series of interviews, editorials, etc.
Turns out the first person to duel Anakin Skywalker wasn’t a Sith Lord, weird alien, or other powerful villain. Rather, it was someone from our own galaxy.
“I remember when I got the phone call saying I got the part,” Hayden Christensen said. “I was still in bed, actually, in my apartment in Vancouver at the time. I remember walking out after hanging up the phone, just a little stunned and in disbelief at the news, walking into the living room where my roommate. He knew I was expecting this call, he saw my smile and immediately knew there was good news. My response was, I lit an imaginary lightsaber. He was a great star wars fan too, and he had the episode I soundtrack. He put the star wars soundtrack, and we had this whole imaginary lightsaber duel around our apartment, jumping all over the furniture and screaming like dazed little kids.
Christensen smiles as he tells the story in a Zoom chat with StarWars.com, marking the 20and birthday Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. In the film, Christensen would be tasked with playing a maturing Anakin Skywalker – and stepping into the central role of the prequel trilogy, if not the entirety. star wars saga.
“For me, trying to develop the character of Anakin, I could take a lot of things. There was a lot of source material. I was playing a role that had been done before me, as well as after me. It was a character who had a family, children who had grown up. You had all of those elements, and where he was at in his life and what that life was like, and how all of that would have affected him. There were a lot of elements that had to be consistent,” he says. “And for me, one of the aspects of star wars what I found really compelling was the generational aspect of it. I really wanted it to feel authentic and have as much continuity as possible. I was very aware of the performance that Jake Lloyd gave [in Episode I], and wanting to make it look like it was really just an older version of that kid, to some of the nuances and ways of Darth Vader, wanting that transition to have some context as well, and to his kids, Luke and Leia, and for that bloodline to feel compelling. So I had a lot of things to draw on, and of course, everything he goes through in the story.
Anakin from Episode II is not yet a Jedi, but a Padawan for Obi-Wan Kenobi. He can be kind, impatient, arrogant, insecure, warm and hot-tempered. In other words, he really is a teenager. Like the story of attack of the clones develops, Anakin falls in a forbidden love with Padmé by Natalie Portman Amidala, but he also suffers from premonitions surrounding his mother, Shmi. Desperate, he disobeys orders and returns to his home planet of Tatooine to find her. Anakin travels the desert world, eventually finding Shmi captive in a Tusken camp; only he arrives too late, and she dies in his arms. Enraged, Anakin goes on a rampage, slaughtering the Tuskens in an act of revenge.
In a crucial scene – and which I mark as one of my favorites – after the massacre, Anakin confesses everything to Padmé and breaks down. Christensen impressively pours out every aspect of Anakin’s personality and emotions here, as the young Jedi tries to make sense of what he’s done. The sequence would prove important not only to Anakin’s journey, but to Christensen’s as well.
“We all understood that this was an important scene for this character and for his arc,” Christensen recalls. “When we rehearsed it, we tried it in different ways. I had conversations with George [Lucas] about the degree of his anguish and emotional state, and trying to find it. We tried it one way, and I didn’t really feel like I connected to it. George approached me and we had a very nice heart-to-heart conversation. I felt that scene was pivotal in my relationship with him as well, in terms of how we talked about the work and the character. We really opened up our dialogue, which then continued in Episode III. But yes, this scene was important.
attack of the clones represented many firsts for Christensen. He had never been outside North America before shooting Episode II, which took him to Tunisia, Australia, Italy and Spain. It was obviously his big break as an actor. And it also introduced Christensen to Ewan McGregor, who played Skywalker’s master Obi-Wan Kenobi. The two would form a bond on and off screen. “I was the newcomer to the neighborhood and he went out of his way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I remember the first time we met, he gave me a big hug and we kind of hit it off right from the start. I think our relationship, in many ways, kind of mirrored the relationship of our characters at that time as well,” he says. They gathered to Obi Wan Kenobi, the limited series that kicks off May 27 on Disney+, which seems to be especially important to Christensen. “We were very close and remain close. We just hadn’t seen each other in a while. But we got together before we started filming, just to catch up, and it was so nice to reconnect with him,” he says. “I love the man so much.”
Christensen recently reviewed the prequels in preparation for Obi Wan Kenobigiving him a chance to reflect on the experience and the movies themselves.
“Watching them again as a whole, I was really struck by the quality and depth of storytelling and George’s vision for it all. It’s so nuanced and complex and layered,” he says. “Really remarkable.
attack of the clones released on May 16, 2002, making Christensen a household name. The love for the film – and the prequels in general – has only grown over time. Christensen noticed it.
“It’s as if these movies had a gestation period, where they needed a bit of time to ferment in the public psyche,” he says. “The reception the movies are having now is very heartwarming.”
Dan Brooks is a writer and editor at StarWars.com. He likes star wars, ELO and the New York Rangers, Jets, Yankees and Knicks. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks.
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