Leo DiCaprio was in talks to play Anakin Skywalker before Hayden Christensen

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Last week, I read a terrible story about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was terrible because it involved the He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named of the Star Wars franchise, Hayden Christensen. JJ Abrams was actually very interested in trying to unite cast members from Episodes IV-VI, Episodes I-III and the new cast members. Obviously, Abrams got the (spoiler) original triad of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill to come back. Abrams also got Frank Oz (Yoda) and Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan) to do some amazing voice work for one scene (in which Rey is having a vision as she holds Luke’s lightsaber). As it turns out, Abrams also wanted Hayden to come in and do something. And Hayden still might do something for a future film, but they just couldn’t make it work for whatever reason for The Force Awakens. You can read more about it here.

Anyway, that led some people to remember just how awful Hayden was in Episodes I-III. There’s been a contrarian-hipster movement to try to rethink Hayden’s work as Anakin Skywalker, but can we all agree that he was not great? Right? So it is in this moment that Leonardo DiCaprio reminds us that he was actually in talks to play Anakin before George Lucas approached Hayden. This is how Leo says it went down:

Shortlist: There’s a rumour you screen-tested for Robin in Batman Forever…

Leo: I never screen-tested. I had a meeting with Joel Schumacher. It was just one meeting and, no, I didn’t end up doing it.

S: Did you actually want the role?

Leo: Er, I don’t think I did, no (laughs). As I recall I took the meeting, but didn’t want to play the role. Joel Schumacher is a very talented director but I don’t think I was ready for anything like that.

Do you feel like you dodged a bullet?

Leo: (Laughs.)

Were you in talks to play Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels?

Leo: I did have a meeting with George Lucas about that as well, yes.

What happened?

Leo: Same scenario (laughs).

He wanted you, but you didn’t fancy it?

Leo: Um, right. Exactly.

Why?

Leo: Again, just didn’t feel ready to take that dive. At that point.

[From Shortlist]

His whole Shortlist interview is pretty good – you can read the whole piece here. They got him out of his comfort zone of talking endlessly about how difficult The Revenant shoot was. He also says that he was up for the role in Spiderman (the one with Tobey Maguire) but he just didn’t want to play a superhero. And you know what? That’s actually one of things I like best about Leo. He really doesn’t give a crap about the superhero thing and he’s never been looking for the easy money/work of a franchise. Anyway, what could have been… Leo as Anakin Skywalker. I actually think that would have been really interesting. More interesting than Hayden, in any case.

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Photos courtesy of WENN.

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54 Responses to “Leo DiCaprio was in talks to play Anakin Skywalker before Hayden Christensen”

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  1. Sara says:

    Remember the Man in the Iron Mask? Leo in a wig. Sweet teenage memories;

    • Jasmine says:

      This is an old interview though. I remember reading this years ago.

      • perplexed says:

        That’s what I thought too. I thought everybody knew Leo had been considered for Anakin…(or maybe I imagined it, I’m not sure)….

      • Bridget says:

        Just about every young man with a slight build and light brown hair was considered for Anakin at the time.

  2. Jay says:

    Well, he couldn’t have been any worse.

    • susiecue says:

      Definitely.

    • Sarah (another one) says:

      Watch the Honest Trailers for Episodes 11 and 111. They savage Hayden Christiansen, and rightfully so.

      • Ally says:

        Please, the Lucas hash-machine also sucked the charisma out of Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson.

        Google Plinkett & Star Wars. Other than some weird crap in the videos, guy does an incredible rundown of all the ways the prequels manage to eliminate everything that was fun and compelling about the original three films, while adding bloated nonsense. There are also great clips of Lucas non-directing Hayden Christensen in many a restrictive walking+talking green screen scene.

        No actor could have saved that role. Lucas excusing himself from the prequels proves he knows it, too.

  3. EM says:

    He read the script by Lucas and had the sense to decline it.

  4. Mylene - Montreal says:

    i totally see Leo play anakin role ….

  5. Tiffany says:

    After the way he talked about the attention he got after Titanic, I cannot image him accepting a role in a juggernaut like Star Wars. Imagine his privacy level times 20.

    • teacakes says:

      Exactly – he was the last actor in the world who’d have willingly signed on for a franchise and the attendant levels, post-Titanic. He certainly didn’t need it.

  6. Mia4s says:

    Christiansen was terrible, completely terrible. I don’t care who’s fault it was (the dialogue, story, direction…all bad). Fact remains he was horrid and that would taint any appearance.

    Leo might have made the character a bit more bearable but too much else was wrong with those movies overall.

  7. Senaber says:

    I think he would’ve been an amazing Skywalker! I love Leo in all his films. I do think that would have put him on a completely different career trajectory.

    Man poor Hayden will never ever live that one down will he?

    • Farhi says:

      I agree. I think Leo would’ve killed it. Also with Leo the transition from the light to the dark side would’ve been more interesting and more believable.

    • LAK says:

      The Oscar for memorably bad he really had to quit acting film part if George Lazenby as James Bond. So bad no one remembers him or which Bond he was in or that he was Bond at all.

      Ironically, the Bond girl in his Bond film is still remembered – Diana Rigg, BUT she already had stellar work going into the film and she’s done stellar work after the film.

      Christian is a valiant runner-up.

      With Brandon Routh close behind.

  8. T.Fanty says:

    Yes, but it would still be terrible, because Natalie Portman was in it. And Lucas wrote the scripts. And the romance was excruciatingly bad. And Jar Jar Binks.

    Leo is a good actor, but he’s good at picking well-scripted roles. He’s not the kind of actor that can polish a turd.

    • Pondering thoughts says:

      @ T.Fanty

      I agree so much with you.
      Leo knows how to pick roles that he can do well. And then he pepares really well and works hard and his talent ensures that it will be great acting.
      But all actors do that. If an actor choses a role he can’t do reasonably well then that hurts both the actor and the movie and the box office performance. So all actors avoid doing parts that “aren’t for them”.
      With Leo I get the impression that he cooperates really well with everybody on set: with his fellow actors and with the crew.

    • perplexed says:

      Yeah, I came away thinking that Natalie Portman was the worst. By comparison, Hayden didn’t seem so bad….

      • Snarky says:

        Hayden was at least trying. Portman was sleepwalking through takes and giving zero craps. I can respect a bad performance better than a lousy attitude and lame professionalism.

  9. Red32 says:

    I really don’t think it would have made a difference, but I also think DiCaprio is overrated.

  10. Squiggisbig says:

    So I think the reason he isn’t doing his insufferable The Passion of the Revenant thing in that interview is I think it might be old as it refers to him as being 35 in the first paragraph….

    • Insomniac says:

      And his “latest project” in the article was “Inception.”

      Which doesn’t change the point that he probably dodged a bullet with Star Wars, Superman, etc.

  11. Murphy says:

    Adam Driver was such a huge breath of relief for me after the frustration that was Hayden Christiansen.

    • teacakes says:

      Seriously.

      (and also. Hot. First time I’ve found myself attracted to a Star Wars character after Luke when I was like, 12)

      • It'sJustBlanche says:

        I loved Adam Driver and I thought he was great in it. He was sort of hot in a kind of dorky, quirky way. I couldn’t stand him in girls. But that might have something to do with Lena Dunham. That show just irks me.

      • Cee says:

        @It’sJustBlanche – he’s hilarious in The F Word/What If.

      • Ellie says:

        @teacakes @It’sJustBlanche Thank you for making me feel not alone. I HATE him in Girls, and I was sort of ashamed of myself for finding him so hot in The Force Awakens. It’s that he doesn’t have facial hair, I think. The goatee and mustache is not a good look for him, and he looks better with his hair a little longer.

      • MarBear says:

        Adam Driver is the only reason I watch Girls tbh. I find his character somewhat creepily endearing. Yes, I thought he and his character were a great addition to TFA. It really annoys me that people give him crap about his looks. So glad to know I’m not the only one who finds him really attractive, one of my friends looked at me strangely when I told her I thought Kylo Ren was hot haha. @Ellie I think long hair with no facial hair really suits him, also makes him look so much younger. If you like that look on him you should watch Hungry Hearts on Netflix.

    • SusanneToo says:

      He was great. Adam, I mean.

  12. Lala says:

    “The He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named of the Star Wars franchise,” really? I would like to hear you say lines like “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.” Let’s see you act that well. He was screwed by awful writing and directing. I feel bad for the guy. Leo would have had the same fate; look at Academy Award winner Natalie Portman. She’s as bad as Hayden Christensen in those.

    • Cee says:

      ITA. The worst part, to me, was the age difference between Amidala/Padme and Anakin. In episode I Anakin is 10 at most? And Amidala/Padme is between 13-15? But Portman looked so much older than him (probably because she IS quite older than Young Anakin).

      When Episode II came out and suddenly these two were together, I was really confused. It seemed unlikely. Anakin should have been older in Episode I or a different actress to portray Amidala/Padme in Ep. I.

      • Farhi says:

        I think that story line would have never made sense with any actors, and it didn’t. It is just a sloppy work on Lucas’s part.

        For me it was also the worst part, it was simply not believable from the beginning to end.

    • Bridget says:

      I’ve always thought it was pretty clear that Lucas also directed them to awful performances. He pretty intentionally made Anakin unbearaby whiney.

  13. Jc says:

    Christiansen was only terrible in Episode II-III. Jake Lloyd was the terrible one in Episode I! I know he was a kid, but he was terrible too. I think Portman was definitely awful in I-III. To me only McGregor elevated himself above the clunky dialogue in those movies.

    • tracking says:

      ITA about Jake Lloyd. Completely unconvincing as the “chosen one” on any level. I know kids his age who have more gravitas and would have been much more interesting in the part.

  14. JeanGray says:

    Hayden was not in episode 1, only 2 & 3. I think he did the best he could with that dialogue. He was supposed to be an adolescent in the films and we know how moody, emo and annoying teens/young adults can be around that time (I have a 16yr old, I know). So he at least played that aspect well. I’m sure even the “chosen one” can still go through growing pains. But Ewan McGregor made a great Obi Wan. He was the best part of that franchise.

    • Pondering thoughts says:

      I thought that Christensen was okay. Just pairing him with Portman was too much. She usually plays rather intellectual and/or high-nerves parts and her playing a queen-politician-active-rebel just wasn’t convincing.

      • MichLynn says:

        I liked Hayden. They should have cast Padme with an unknown actress like they did with Rey. Hayden/ Natalie chemistry was awful. Bad casting and bad dialogue.

      • Pondering thoughts says:

        @ MichLynn
        Exactly!!!
        Portman acted more like Hayden’s mother in the movie. Sure I know Hayden’s character was a child when he first met Portman’s character. But somehow he didn’t seem to grow up and when he did then Portman pushed him back into the little-boy-act.

  15. Cee says:

    I’m glad he stayed away from episodes II and III but can’t help but wonder how different Anakin would have been if he had been portrayed by a great actor and had decent dialogue. Everyone loves to sh!t on Hayden but let’s not forget the infamous sand line and how terrible the dialogue was for all three episodes.

  16. NN says:

    He was good in the third one imo

    • Christine says:

      I agree, he was good in the 3rd one

    • MichLynn says:

      Agree. I loved him in that one. Don’t get the hate. He was great in the duels, especially the Anakin/Obi one. He couldn’t help the crap dialogue. I hope he shows up in the next movies.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Leo as Anakin might have made the prequels watchable.

  18. Josefina says:

    Hayden was awful and there’s no denying that, but I don’t think Leo would’ve made the movie much better. I’ve always thought the same about Leo, he’s a good actor, but his true talent is he really knows how to spot a good script. The dialogue and direction elevate Leo’s performance, not the other way round.

  19. Caz says:

    The only good thing about the prequels were the scenes with kenobi, the fetts & clone troopers. my memory has been wiped of Ep I.

  20. Nouveau says:

    “Again, just didn’t feel ready to take that dive. At that point.”

    Classic way to avoid saying he didn’t want the roles. I love watching and reading Leo interviews; they are masterclasses in HW actorly PR. He is VERY smooth in interviews but never comes off as fake. He’s pretty genuine without offending anyone. Isn’t he glad he avoided the mess that was the prequels.

    The problem is that George Lucas wrote a story and stuffed some characters into them for the prequels. Force Awakens does not have much substance plot-wise but it’s all about the characters and for something like SW, that’s what works.

    I feel sad whenever I see Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson. They’re only in their early or mid 30s and they have that ‘I’m a has been’ energy about them. Aside, Rachel is extremely terrible on social media; she needs a marketing person to give her some advice. Her Instagram is horribly out of pitch and plain boring at times. In contrast, I think Daisy Ridley had a marketing consultant assigned to her for her instagram from the get-go. Kristen Bell and January Jones are also very good at social media.

  21. serena says:

    HELL NO.
    Sure Hayden wasn’t great but not bad. Now imagine Anakin with a big chipmunck head.. yeah, nope.

    Actually, I hope Hayden will have some kind of role in the next movies.. Same with Ewan McGregor (damn, let Obi Wan revive!).

  22. Nonny says:

    Anyone remember Leo in Growing Pains?

    That boy has the darkness inside him.

    If anyone could have pulled off a young Darth Vader, it would have been him.

    Thank you, Hollywood, for all the wasted opportunities and wasted money.