Hayden Christensen

Hayden Christensen

Canadian actor Hayden Christensen began appearing on film and television when he was only seven years old, and by his late teens had earned considerable buzz for his emotionally gripping performances in a series of critically acclaimed independent dramas. Following lackluster leads in big budget productions including "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002) and "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2002), the once-promising actor suffered from a string of critically lambasted thrillers while hoping to find a more successful niche to occupy life after life as Anakin Skywalker. Hayden Christensen was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He grew up with two sisters and a brother outside Toronto, Ontario, where he was an accomplished hockey and tennis player. When he was seven, Christensen accompanied his sister to a meeting with a talent agent and was asked if he was also interested in doing some acting. Christensen could not turn down the chance to miss a few days of school and make some extra money, so he began appearing in commercials, though he generally denied his theatrical outings to his athletic buddies. By the age of 12, however, Christensen had a regular role on the daily Canadian soap opera "Family Passions." Christensen became more serious about acting, joining a local dramatic arts program and attending the Actor's Studio during the summer while visiting his grandmother in New York. Commercial auditions led to TV and film auditions, and the handsome new face found extensive work in projects lensed in his home country, including the direct-to-video release "Street Law" (1994), and John Carpenter's thriller "In the Mouth of Madness" (1995). Christensen continued with TV movie work, taking featured roles in the sci-fi satire "Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron" (Showtime, 1995) and the romance "Danielle Steele's 'No Greater Love'" (NBC, 1996). He also racked up credits with guest roles in preteen programming like "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" (Nickelodeon, YTV, 1990-2000) and "The Famous Jett Jackson" (The Disney Channel, 1998-2001). Meanwhile, as Christensen approached his graduation from Unionville High School, he was faced with the decision to either pursue acting or go off to college on a tennis scholarship. He chose acting, and landed a starring role on the Fox Family show "Higher Ground" (2000). The short-lived show earned the actor his first legion of fans, who responded to his strong and emotionally credible performance as a troubled teen. The role also led to Christensen's supporting performance as the glue-sniffing, pill-popping, disaffected teenage son of Kevin Kline in the tearjerker "Life as a House" (2001). His intense performance earned Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. Sofia Coppola was next to tap Christensen's appeal, casting him in her directorial debut "The Virgin Suicides" (2002) as an academic achiever granted permission to escort the lovely but cosseted Lisbon sisters. Christensen built on his reputation for dangerously misunderstood adolescents with a supporting role in "Trapped in a Purple Haze," ABC's horrors-of-heroin addiction telepic. George Lucas was suitably impressed by Christensen's resume of youth-gone-bad roles and his ability to completely change his look from angelic to indecent with a flash of his eyes, so he cast him in the much-coveted role of Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002). Filling the boots of a character as steeped in American popular culture as Darth Vader would be a challenge for any up-and-coming actor, but Christensen's performance was criticized as wooden, whiny, and one-dimensional, although the film reached huge box office numbers anyway and ultimately earned better reviews than the earlier prequel. People magazine included him in their Most Beautiful People issue. But Christensen avoided the pretty-boy in Hollywood route by maintaining his residence in Toronto and launching Forest Park Pictures, along with his brother Tove. The pair's first effort was a marked departure from Christensen's earlier roles. "Shattered Glass" (2003) told the true story of Stephen Glass, a hotshot New Republic journalist who fell from grace following the discovery that his facts, quotes and sometimes his entire stories were fabrications. Christensen returned to the role of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader for "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005). In a break from his most well-known role, he enjoyed a supporting role as a Bob Dylanesque singer in "Factory Girl." George Hickenlooper's fictionalized account of 1960s socialite and aspiring actress Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller) was unfortunately not well-received by critics. Nor was Christensen's follow-up, the thriller "Awake" in which he played a heart transplant patient who overhears a plot to kill him while under poorly-administered anesthesia. "Jumper," the 2008 sci-fi release which starred Christensen as a man able to teleport through space and time, hit number one at the box office but again failed to interest critics, although Christensen did fall in love with co-star Rachel Bilson, with whom he had a daughter, Briar Rose, in 2014. (The couple split in 2017.) After appearing in the anthology film "New York I Love You" (2008), Christensen settled into a steady career of roles in small action films, including "Takers" (2010), "Vanishing on 7th Street" (2010), Nicolas Cage thriller "Outcast" (2014), "American Heist" (2015) and Bruce Willis vehicle "First Kill" (2017). Christensen also starred in Christian drama "90 Minutes in Heaven" (2015), based on the inspirational best seller.