George Lucas and his casting director, Robin Gurland, looked at almost 1,500 candidates during their search for the perfect Anakin Skywalker, the young Jedi knight who'd go on to become the villainous Darth Vader. In Hayden Christensen, they found him. As soon as Christensen walked in the door, Gurland insisted she knew he was the chosen one.
When Christensen landed the role of the future Sith Lord, he was a relatively unknown 19-year-old, but he wouldn't stay that way. After all, Anakin Skywalker was one of the biggest parts in Hollywood history, and the Star Wars adventure would ensure that Christensen became a household name. But while Christensen is a fine actor (he was nominated for multiple awards for 2001's Life as a House), he had little chemistry with his onscreen girlfriend Natalie Portman, and he couldn't salvage Lucas' trite and wooden dialogue. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith did just fine at the box office—they're still Star Wars, after all—but the poor critical reception didn't do Christensen any favors.
In fact, after a few post-Star Wars projects, Christensen took a break from acting, disappearing from Hollywood for five years. "Star Wars… provided all these opportunities and gave me a career, but it all kind of felt a little too handed to me," Christensen told the Los Angeles Times. Of course, his two post-return projects, 90 Minutes in Heaven and First Kill, failed to make much of an impression, but Christensen wouldn't have it any other way. "So be it," he shrugged. "If I can come back… and claw my way back in, then maybe I'll feel like I earned it."