The Untold Truth Of Hayden Christensen

Growing up in Toronto, Hayden Christensen juggled a burgeoning career as a child actor with his passion for sports. Ultimately, he chose acting as a career, and didn't have to wait long to make a splash; Christensen was still a teen when he delivered a "star-making performance" in the 2001 drama "Life as a House," earning a Golden Globe nomination. Shortly after, Christensen was selected from among 1,500 other actors (including Leonardo DiCaprio) to play Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas' "Star Wars" prequel trilogy. Landing the coveted role proved to be a double-edged sword; suddenly, he found himself transformed from a promising young actor to international celebrity, his face appearing on soda cups and t-shirts around the globe. 

In the years that followed, Christensen consciously stayed away from big-budget blockbusters, preferring instead to appear in smaller, character-driven films (which he also produced), very much marching to the beat of his own drum. Christensen came full circle in 2021 when it was confirmed he'd be reprising Anakin for the Disney+ series featuring Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi. "It was such an incredible journey playing Anakin Skywalker," said Christensen in the official announcement, adding, "It feels good to be back."

With Christensen reviving his most iconic screen character, there's no better time to find out just how much there is to learn about this idiosyncratic Canadian actor. For more, read on to discover the untold truth of Hayden Christensen.

He began acting in when was a child

Young Hayden Christensen never had aspirations to be a child actor — it just kind of worked out that way. According to a profile in The New York Times, his sister was already working as an actor when, at age seven, he joined her when she dropped by her agent's office to discuss booking a TV commercial for Pringles. The agent sensed there was something about the youngster, and it wasn't long before he too was cast in commercials for such products as Triaminic cough syrup. He soon began appearing in TV series and films, including the Canadian soap opera "Family Passions," Nickelodeon's "Goosebumps" and John Carpenter's horror flick "In the Mouth of Madness."

Discussing his childhood TV commercials with The Telegraph, grown-up Christensen was dismissive. '"I really had no desire to do anything other than get a couple of days off school," he admitted. In fact, his initial plan was to attend college on a tennis scholarship before being bit by the acting bug.

However, those college plans fell by the wayside when he landed a role in "Higher Ground," a Fox Family Channel series in which he played a drug-abusing teenager having an affair with his stepmother. As he told The New York Times, his decision to take the role and shelve college didn't go over well with his parents. "My father wouldn't really talk to me for a few days,” he said.

He made his theatrical debut alongside Anna Paquin and Jake Gyllenhaal

Given his background as a child actor in TV commercials, it's understandable why Hayden Christensen never amassed a lot of theatrical experience. However, he more than made up for it when he made his stage debut on London's West End in "This Is Our Youth." In the 2002 production — described by The Telegraph as "a small, arty play" — Christensen portrayed "a motormouthed young New York drug dealer" alongside fellow Anna Paquin (a fellow Canadian) and Jake Gyllenhaal. 

Christensen earned solid reviews for "This Is Our Youth," with Variety pointing out that he "triumphantly" rose to the role's challenges, "announcing himself as a rangy and commanding stage presence."

At the time the play premiered, Christensen had already completed his first "Star Wars" movie, but it had yet to be released. This left him in an awkward limbo of awaiting the instant mega-fame that would inevitably explode; his "Star Wars" co-star Ewan McGregor, in fact, advised him to enjoy his few remaining weeks of relative anonymity while he still could. "People ask me if I'm preparing for when 'Star Wars' comes out. But I don't understand how you prepare for fame. My preparation is giving it as little thought as possible," he told the Telegraph. "I don't really have an understanding of it. It doesn't make sense to me. It was never something I sought. I think if you do, you're a little deranged."

He did all his own stunts in Star Wars

Hayden Christensen first appeared as Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones." The role was not without its challenges, particularly when it came to playing the younger version of one of filmdom's most iconic villains. While the movie itself boasted no shortage of CGI enhancements, Christensen told the Orlando Sentinel that he performed all of his own stunts, even the challenging wirework. "Every Anakin you see is always me, never a double," he declared, but did concede that "it could be a digital me; you never know when they do that."

When it came to inhabiting Darth Vader, Christensen faced a big obstacle due to his height. Certainly not diminutive at six-foot-one, Christensen was still considerably shorter than David Prowse, the six-foot-seven bodybuilder who played Vader in the original trilogy. As a result, Christensen's Vader costume was outfitted with shoe lifts in order to pad his height. The lifts, in fact, weren't the only thing about the outfit that made it unwieldy to wear. "I told George [Lucas] that the costume didn't move quite right and it's a little rigid and it was difficult to walk because I had big lifts in the heels that compensates for the height difference," said Christensen, per Contact Music. "I was concerned how that was going to look and he said, 'It'll look like you've never done it before — and that's what I want.'"

He formed a production company with his brother

Back in the early 2000s, Hayden Christensen partnered with his older brother, Tove, to launch their own production company. Dubbed Forest Park Pictures, Christensen told The New York Times that the goal was to develop passion projects, ideally ”small in scope, character-driven pieces.” 

For the next decade or so, Forest Park Pictures wasn't exactly prolific, but neither was it dormant. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2008, by that point, the company had produced two films, "Shattered Glass" and "Jumper," with Christensen starring in both. 

In 2013, as reported Variety, the brothers launched Glacier Films, announcing an ambitious 11-picture production slate over the following three years, consisting of "six films with budgets in the $10 million range, plus five microbudget titles ranging around $1.5 million each." The first film from the newly minted company was "American Heist," a 2015 remake of the 1959 Steve McQueen flick, "St. Louis Bank Robbery." Naturally, Christensen was attached to star. Glacier Films had some good news to announce in 2014 when the company secured financial backing from Russian producer Vladimir Poliakov, to the tune of $100 million. "We started Glacier with a relatively small amount of money to test the waters and put in about $15m," Poliakov told ScreenDaily. "What happened exceeded my expectations and happened faster than I expected. We want to create a multifaceted film and entertainment fund."

The bad habit that left his father disappointed

While in Australia filming "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones," Hayden Christensen found himself, for the first time in his life, ambushed by paparazzi. "It was just like weird happenings every day: going to the store and having this guy follow you around with a camera," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. "I couldn't get mad at them ... It's what it was, very bizarre and very surreal."

His strategy was simply to ignore the shutterbugs and go on with his life, a tactic that worked until he saw a photo of himself in a newspaper. "I had a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, and that's how my father found out that I was smoking," he told the outlet. "'He was disappointed in me," the actor admitted in a 2002 interview with The Telegraph. "I don't condone smoking. It's stupid. But I still do it."

In fact, smoking is a vice that Christensen continued to embrace for years after that. In 2007, for example, Just Jared posted photos of Christensen "as he puffs away at his cancer stick," describing him as a "chain smoker." Fast forward to 2015, with a Details interview with the actor (via Grantland) noting that he was puffing away while answering questions. A few years later, in 2018, a fan site posted paparazzi photos of Christensen smoking while walking near his home. 

He studied at one of the world's most prestigious acting schools alongside another future Star Wars star

Hayden Christensen initially began acting as a lark when he first began getting cast in TV commercials as a kid. "Growing up it was a means to get a day off of school, and more money than you could earn with a paper route," he told the Los Angeles Times. However, he subsequently came to take the craft of acting seriously. In fact, he's listed among the "notable alumni" of the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, where, as he told the Orlando Sentinel, he "spent two summers studying."

In an odd coincidence, he studied alongside Rosario Dawson, who would go on to join Christensen in the "Star Wars" universe as Jedi Ahsoka Tano in "The Mandalorian." As Dawson told Vanity Fair, when it became clear she planned to pursue a career in acting, her grandmother insisted she study at Strasberg. "And it happened to be that summer when Hayden Christensen was in — we had the same class," she said.

As Dawson recalled, she first wound up working with her former Strasberg Institute classmate when she was cast in his film "Shattered Glass," and she'd "always just thought it was really cool that I knew someone who was not just in 'Star Wars' but played Anakin Skywalker." When she wound up landing "The Mandalorian," she admitted, "it just felt like the Force was at play."

The reason he decided to step away from the spotlight

The international fame that came with Hayden Christensen's "Star Wars" role proved to be overwhelming, leading him to step away from the spotlight and retreat to the farm he'd purchased in rural Ontario. Speaking with the Toronto Star in 2008, he revealed he'd been immersing himself in farming. "It's a hobby, but I want to have the appearance of being a proper farmer," he said, sharing his dream of eventually transforming his hobby into a "fully operational farm with livestock and different crops."

During a chat with the Los Angeles Times in 2015, Christensen explained his decision. "I guess I felt like I had this great thing in 'Star Wars' that provided all these opportunities and gave me a career, but it all kind of felt a little too handed to me," Christensen admitted. "I didn't want to go through life feeling like I was just riding a wave."  

He knew he was taking a risk, but was cool with it. "You can't take years off and not have it affect your career," he explained. "But I don't know — in a weird, sort of destructive way, there was something appealing about that to me. There was something in the back of my head that was like, 'If this time away is gonna be damaging to my career, then so be it. If I can come back afterward and claw my way back in, then maybe I'll feel like I earned it."

He gleefully mocked his most embarrassing Star Wars line

Harrison Ford has made no secret of his disdain for George Lucas' skill at writing dialogue, once famously telling the "Star Wars" creator, "You can type this s**t, but you can't say it" (via GQ). Given that Lucas wrote the screenplays for the two "Star Wars" films in which Hayden Christensen appeared, it shouldn't be surprising that he likewise found himself struggling with some of Lucas' notoriously clunky dialogue. In fact, Christensen's most infamous and much-maligned line came in "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones," when he solemnly declares, "I don't like sand. It's coarse, rough, and irritating and it gets everywhere."

Years later, Christensen appeared on "The Stars Wars Show," where he was confronted with a fan question about Anakin's oft-mocked sand soliloquy. "What are your thoughts on sand?" Christensen was asked, causing the actor to laugh out loud as the crowd howled. "Well, you know, it's not very smooth," he deadpanned in response. "It doesn't really stay in one place, so I'm not such a big fan of it myself. 

However, Christensen did offer a caveat: "Although if it leads to the water, I can tolerate it," he explained, "but Anakin came from a desert planet, so I understood his contempt for it." 

He sued a TV network for allegedly ripping off his idea

In 2009, USA Network debuted a new series called "Royal Pains," about a concierge medical practice for the ultra-wealthy. Hayden Christensen had a huge problem with the series, claiming that his production company, Forest Park Pictures, had previously pitched an identical series to the same network.

Christensen and his brother Tove, partners in the production company, filed a 2010 lawsuit, reported The Hollywood Reporter. According to the litigation, the brothers claimed they brought the concept of a doctor running a concierge practice for the wealthy residents of Malibu, titled "Housecall," to Alex Pepiol, who was then USA Network's head of original scripted series programming. "It was understood that Plaintiffs were pitching those ideas with the object of persuading USA Network to purchase those ideas for commercial development, and/or to employ Plaintiffs in the production of those ideas," reads the complaint, which noted they the brothers were never informed about a similar series in development at the network. 

Interestingly, the brothers didn't sue for copyright infringement, but for "breach of implied contract, unfair competition and unjust enrichment," seeking profits from the series in addition to damages "believed to be in the millions of dollars." Two years later, reported THR, a judge reversed an earlier decision and allowed the suit to move forward. In 2013, Universal Television Networks (then the corporate parent of USA Network) settled the case for an undisclosed sum.

He's forever loyal to his beloved Toronto sports teams

Growing up in Toronto, Hayden Christensen was a massive sports fan. Even after leaving his hometown, the actor's allegiance to Toronto's teams remained unwavering. This was particularly true of the city's NHL hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. "I'm a massive Maple Leafs fan. I grew up playing hockey, so hockey's my first love," Christensen told The Intelligencer, admitting he was also "a fan of all things Toronto," which included the Blue Jays baseball team, the Raptors NBA franchise, and the Toronto FC soccer club. "I support them all. I still have that Blue Jays jacket and I wear it out and about," he added.

Christensen was able to demonstrate his fandom for his hometown MLB franchise when he threw the first pitch at a 2018 Toronto Blue Jays game. Perhaps not surprisingly, given his background as a teenage athlete, his pitch was a perfect "dart," landing right in the catcher's glove while sailing over home plate.

It's not just Toronto's sports teams that have enchanted Christensen, who also professed to be a huge booster of the city. "I'm a proud Canadian and I love Toronto..." he explained. "I also feel the global perception has gone up so much. I think people are aware that this is one of the world's greatest cities."

Hayden Christensen's career has never been about chasing big paychecks

Given that Hayden Christensen played a key character in one of filmdom's most successful movie franchises, it would be reasonable to assume that he would make a few bucks along the way. In fact, Celebrity Net Worth estimated his wealth at $12 million — certainly not chump change, but also not as stratospheric as beginning one's career by portraying young Darth Vader in "Star Wars" would portend. Then again, it's also understandable when considering, as Forbes pointed out, his two "Star Wars" films account for a whopping 79 percent of Christensen's career box office revenue. 

To be fair, Christensen has never been the kind of actor to chase big-budget projects and big paydays. "I don't really think about my career because the idea of a career is not something I can put a lot of thought into," Christensen said in a 2008 interview with the Toronto Star. "I do the work that appeals to me and I pass on films that would probably benefit my career."

One of the indulgences he's been able to afford has been his farm in rural Ontario. "It's my sanctuary," he told the Toronto Star, revealing that he was learning how to use his tractor and excavator in order to undertake projects on his own. At the time, he was also taking flying lessons. "My ultimate dream is getting a float plane and exploring parts of Canada I've never been to," he revealed.

Hayden Christensen has had a complicated relationship with ex Rachel Bilson

It was in 2008 that Hayden Christensen starred in the trippy sci-fi teleportation thriller "Jumper" alongside Rachel Bilson. The two began dating, and after a whirlwind courtship, the pair announced their engagement that same year. "They're so excited," an alleged friend of Bilson told People of the engagement. "They're a great couple. Rachel seems thrilled beyond belief." Just two years later, however, they canceled the engagement, their relationship apparently complicated by the fact that they were living in two different countries. "Yes, the engagement is off," Bilson's rep confirmed to People, while a source divulged, "It just wasn't working." 

They subsequently got back together, and in 2014 confirmed they were expecting a baby. That October, reported Us Weekly, they became parents. "Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson welcome their daughter Briar Rose Christensen born on October 29, 2014," Bilson's rep said in a statement. "Both mother and baby are healthy and doing well. They are asking for privacy and subscribe to the No Kids Policy."

Sadly, domestic bliss did not seem to be in the cards for the couple. In 2017, Us Weekly reported that they had split up, this time apparently for good. "She's full-time back in L.A. He's in Toronto," a so-called "insider" told the magazine. "They've been on the outs for a couple of months." This time, there was no reconciliation.

Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson set aside their differences to co-parent their daughter

Since Hayden Christensen's 2017 split from Rachel Bilson, the exes have successfully navigated the often-complicated dynamics in co-parenting their daughter Briar Rose. However, Bilson confessed in a 2018 interview with People, it hasn't always been smooth sailing. "We're still kind of trying to figure it out," she said at the time, describing their efforts as a "work in progress." She also admitted that co-parenting with an ex was unexplored territory for her. "It's a tricky one. And I don't know that there is any right way, necessarily," she said. 

Circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic added another layer of complexity to their co-parenting plans; however, it helped that both exes were on the same page when it came to observing pandemic restrictions. Speaking with the "Betches Moms" podcast, Bilson explained that they "have to trust each other" during the pandemic. "Luckily, [he] is pretty hardcore with [the COVID restrictions]," she said of Christensen, noting that he tended to remain "bubbled up" when he was in Los Angeles. 

Staying more-or-less housebound, she added, became a bit easier for their daughter "because she's had the opportunity to have another house to go and not be stuck in our house the entire time," Bilson explained. "So I'm grateful for that and we've just handled it. Survival mode."