Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Hollywood Won't Cast Hayden Christensen Anymore

Right around the turn of the 21st century, it looked like Hollywood had a future reliable, bankable, and even award-winning superstar in its clutches. After building up a resume with appearances as a teen on TV shows like The Famous Jett Jackson, Goosebumps, and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Hayden Christensen dazzled audiences with breakout roles in the films The Virgin Suicides and Life as a House. Then he received just about the biggest break an actor can get on the way to potential fame and fortune: George Lucas selected Christensen to star as the young adult version of Anakin Skywalker, the future Darth Vader in the second two parts of his Star Wars prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Those movies were seen by millions and earned a lot of money, seemingly setting Christensen on a path filled with many high-profile film roles for many years to come. But then, not long after he brought Darth Vader's origin story to a conclusion, he pretty much disappeared. Where did Hayden Christensen go, and why doesn't he appear in more projects?

Star Wars didn't do him any favors

After Disney and filmmaker J.J. Abrams took over the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas and continued it with three mega-blockbuster films in the 2010s, Hollywood and filmgoers were all about Star Wars all over again. But in the early 2000s, the franchise was far from its Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi days, with Lucas' prequel trilogy coolly received by critics and hardcore fans alike. Hayden Christensen, an unproven leading man barely 20 years old when he first portrayed Anakin Skywalker (the man who would evolve into Darth Vader) in 2002's Attack of the Clones, was singled out for scorn. New York Times critic A.O. Scott called Christensen's performance "timid and stiff" and comparable to something one might see on Dawson's Creek. After the prequel trilogy ended with Revenge of the Sith in 2005, Christensen had won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor for his work in both Star Wars movies. That wasn't a good jumping-off point to post-space opera roles.

His post-Star Wars movies weren't hits

Hayden Christensen wasn't widely commended for his work as Anakin Skywalker, a character slowly descending into evil and power lust in the Star Wars prequels, but in a cruel twist of irony and fate, the public didn't seem to care much for the actor in his post-Vader roles either. In the late 2000s, Christensen starred in one flop after anotherFactory Girl, a biopic about Andy Warhol associate Edie Sedgwick, grossed just $1.6 million, while Awake, co-starring Jessica Alba, took in $14 million in North America and earned the duo a Razzie nomination for Worst Screen Couple. The 2008 Black Plague-set sex comedy Virgin Territory (co-starring Christensen's fellow early-2000s next-big-thing Mischa Barton) went directly to home video in the U.S. Christensen's only major box office success of this era: the confusing sci-fi epic Jumper, which earned a respectable $80 million at the domestic box office... but a woeful 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Star Wars ruined his street cred

Before Attack of the Clones hit theaters in 2002 and made Hayden Christensen the backbone of one of the world's most lucrative and culturally impactful franchises, the actor was among the most promising young Hollywood talents. Much of that reputation and goodwill came from his performance in the 2001 drama Life as a House, in which he played a teenager reconnecting with his father after the latter receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. Christensen's performance as the deeply troubled Sam Monroe even propelled him into awards chatter, with recognition by the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes, both of which who nominated him in the supporting actor category. A subsequent Oscar nomination didn't happen, but it proved Christensen had some chops, as did his portrayal of disgraced, article-fabricating journalist Stephen Glass in the 2003 drama Shattered Glass. Unfortunately, Christensen didn't have much of a chance to show off his skills or stretch his acting muscles after his perceived-as-lackluster work in Star Wars, which only hurt his career prospects.

He decided to be a family man

While Hayden Christensen experienced some dramatic turns in his professional life in the 2000s, his personal life was a bit more secure and harmonious, at least after a couple of bumps. One positive effect of the actor's time making the 2007 movie Jumper: It's where he met The O.C. star Rachel Bilson, and before long, they were a couple, according to E! News. By the end of 2008 they were engaged, but then called off the wedding in 2010, broke up, and then reunited within a couple of months. In 2014, the pair had their first child together, a daughter named Briar Rose Christensen. Things didn't work out, however, and once again Christensen and Bilson split, this time for good, in September 2017. While neither domestic bliss nor a tumultuous relationship may necessarily affect an actor's career, both things can certainly occupy a lot of time that would otherwise be spent pursuing or shooting film roles, and that seems to have been the case for Christensen.

He walked away from fame

From 2001 to 2013, Hayden Christensen didn't appear in a single movie. In 2015, he revealed that his disappearance was deliberate. After wrapping Star Wars, he bought a piece of farmland and left Hollywood behind to think over his next move. "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 told the Los Angeles Times. "I didn't want to go through life feeling like I was just riding a wave."

Purposely leaving one's career behind is certainly an effective way to make sure casting agents don't call anymore, but Christensen was well aware of the consequences of his decision."You can't take years off and not have it affect your career," he said. "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.'"

After he decided to actively pursue roles again, Christensen paid his dues. His return to the big screen, the faith-based drama 90 Minutes in Heaven, grossed just $4.8 million and earned scathing reviews. Christensen has barely worked since that 2015 release, starring in barely noticed stuff like the police thriller First Kill, the streaming rom-com Little Italy, and the sci-fi drama The Last Man.

What's next for Hayden Christensen?

He's been through a lot of ups and downs over the course of his Hollywood career, and now that the dust has settled, Hayden Christensen seems to be enjoying having the luxury of choosing parts that truly interest him — he only acts in about one movie a year, and doesn't seem to be in any rush to pad his list of screen credits. But perhaps everything will come full circle for Christensen, and he'll return to the popular cinematic universe that made him a famous and prominent performer in the first place... and which then made him question his entire career. In 2019, Christensen provided a brief, voice-only cameo as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth entry in the saga where he was once prominently featured. As the Star Wars franchise continues to grow, there just might be a spot for the guy who played Darth Vader before he adorned that famous black helmet.