Hayden Christensen walked away from his career because it was ‘handed’ to him


If you look at Hayden Christensen’s IMDB, you can see that he’s worked somewhat consistently since his big “breakthrough” in Star Wars Episode II. He’s taken a few years off here and there and I wouldn’t say that he’s really in any kind of demand as an actor, but he still gets work and he still accepts roles, on average about three projects every two years. CB reminded me that Hayden bought a farm in Canada and he spends a lot of time there, raising pigs and chickens and what have you. So… sure. But here’s my question: did Hayden walk away from Hollywood or did he just stop getting the kind of roles he wanted, so now he’s trying to play it like it was all his choice? Hayden spoke to the LA Times about becoming famous so early in his life, and how he walked away.

Why he’s “largely retreated from Hollywood”: “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. I didn’t want to go through life feeling like I was just riding a wave.”

How his “time off” affected his career: “You can’t take years off and not have it affect your career. 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.’”

[From LAT]

The only thing I’ve seen Hayden in where I thought he genuinely did a good job was Shattered Glass, the movie he did in between filming Star Wars episodes. It’s not that he blew me away with his amazing talent, but I thought he did a solid job and if he stuck with it, he would end up a talented ensemble player/character actor. The problem, in my mind, is that all of the young guys think they’re going to be leading men. They think they’re going to be action stars, the romantic hero, the big kahuna. And despite what Hayden says now, I bet if he had been offered that kind of work post-Star Wars, he would have taken it. What he should have been doing was just focusing on smaller work, ensemble work, working with interesting people. Then maybe he wouldn’t have to try to convince people that it was his choice to walk away.


Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet, LucasFilm.

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69 Responses to “Hayden Christensen walked away from his career because it was ‘handed’ to him”

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  1. Mia4s says:

    Yeah…no. That sounds like an excuse. Not sure if he’s looking to feel better or look better.

    • Kate says:

      Ask any Star Wars fan, the majority of them hate him as Anakin. Maybe he was too wooden, maybe the script was bland.. Whatever. I’ve always thought that backlash pushed him away from acting , he didn’t want to deal with it.

  2. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    How silly. If something is handed to you, live up to it by being excellent at what you do. Throwing it away is just fear that you can’t hack it.

    • kri says:

      GNAT, that was quite an insight. And you are 100% correct. Good lesson!

    • how dare she says:

      I don’t think he feared that he couldn’t hack it, and I don’t think he really threw it away. He’s still performing in films, after all – that’s better than 99% of people who try acting. I interpreted this as knowing that Star Wars episodes 2 and 3 were failures in the eyes of most and not wanting to trade on a highly profitable film that was a total dud artistically. He knows he could have gotten roles off of it, but they wouldn’t have been better than Anakin, and maybe he wanted to do better than Anakin, so he took a step back so the stench of the prequels wouldn’t be as strong. Which is smart – I loved Shattered Glass and thought he gave a great performance, and that’s what I remember him from today, not the prequels. Bad as the prequels were, it’s still never a good idea to trash one’s past work, so he’s avoiding that neatly here.

    • bettyrose says:

      ITA, but OTOH, if I had the $$ to escape the real world and open a farm (an organic farm/animal sanctuary, I mean) that is exactly what I would do.

      • Dangles says:

        Me too. I heard that once Pete Sampras retired from tennis all he does is go to the gym and hang out with wife and kids. Sounds fantastic to me.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Oh, nothing wrong with that. But just own it, don’t say it was because you felt you hadn’t earned your success.

    • DEEVIA says:

      I can understand that sort of fear actually and may be his personality is a part of it and the reason he is not hustling to be a bigger star (hence the farm stuff). I don’t thinks it’s an excuse (to whom exactly?) as he’s explaining that he likes a somewhat normal and not celebrity-centric life (which definitely would happen if he rode off the gravy train of Star Wars).

  3. heeey says:

    I always thought it was because he 1. Isn’t very good and 2. Noone wanted to cast him.

  4. Jayna says:

    He’s an average actor. Hayden is 34 and has had plenty of time to develop his range in acting, and it’s just not there for Hayden. There’s very few under 35 actors that draw me to a movie because of their talent even despite average reviews of the movie. Jake Gyllenhaal has been one of the rare exceptions. His career keeps astounding me in the career choices he has made in roles I will watch a Jake G. movie just to see his performance. Usually his movies are really good or great, but even the uneven Southpaw was enjoyable because of his great performance. Few actors have that kind of power these days, such respect by movie fans who have grown in number because of his roles and the respect of his peers and critics.

    • Ctkat1 says:

      And to your point, Jake G. tried to be a movie star- he got very close to being Spider-Man instead of Tobey Maguire, and did Prince of Persia, which bombed completely.
      He was very smart to pivot from being a movie star (which in today’s Hollywood means a big franchise [Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johannson, Matt Damon, RDJ], or big movies with lots of awards potential [Lawrence again, DiCaprio, Blanchett, etc]) to being a character actor. By choosing a wide range of films that put his performance, rather than a spectacle, at the center, he’s managed to become the most well-respected actor of his cohort. Even when his film doesn’t work, his performance gets praised.

  5. lisa2 says:

    I’ve heard some very BIG stars say that when they HIT it big they made the mistake of taking roles for “Career Maintenance”. They listened to the wrong people. Took roles that they knew they were not right for. We are seeing it more and more with some of these actors that are hitting it big in ONE movie or genre. Then things fall apart when they try to do something solo or outside that box that made or is making them big.

    We are not going to see again those BIG ALIST stars anymore. That time is going; I for one am sad about it. There are some great actors/actresses out there doing great work; but that THING that makes you go gaga is not there. Most of them regardless of talent are just space holders until the next person comes along. I’m looking at the people that will be at the Oscars this year. And it is just MEH on excitement. Great talent; but MEH otherwise. People go on and on about not wanting to know anything about the actors and such except the performance. Well that’s what coming now; and it is going to be Boring as hell.

  6. mom2two says:

    This is probably an unpopular opinion but oh well, I thought he was very good in Revenge of the Sith. But I think the script on him was written after Attack of the Clones, which was not a good movie and his skills were not good enough to overcome that script.

    I also agree that he was not getting the parts after SW, I don’t think he walked away because he felt his career was “handed” to him.

    • Hotpockets says:

      i recently re-watched the prequels and I completely agree with you. Hayden was fine and and played his role well. I think the prequels in general received far too much hate and backlash, because they really were not as bad as people made them out to be. In fact, I really liked Revenge of the Sith. I think George Lucas’s biggest mistake with the prequels was Jar Jar Binks and Natalie Portman. Jar Jar was an unnecessary character, who was unbelievably annoying and Portman was cringe-worthy to watch in every single scene. I found those two things to be the biggest annoyances in the prequels.

      • CG says:

        ITA, Hotpockets. I always wondered why Natalie P. got so much less criticism for horribly wooden acting/line delivery than Hayden C. did when she was IMO so much worse.

      • mom2two says:

        Natalie’s performance was not great in prequels, almost par with her performance in the Thor movies.

        Ewan Mac Gregor was easily the best part of the prequels, maybe because he knew he had the hardest role playing the younger version of an iconic character played by an esteemed actor.

        And the less said about Jar Jar the better. Lucas felt the need to pander to the kiddie audience (just like he did with the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi) when he did not have to, they were already there and didn’t need the cutesy characters to be drawn in.

    • MichLynn says:

      Agree, I thought he was great in Revenge of the Sith. No one but Ewan really rose above the horrible writing and directing. If you watch some behind the scenes docs and see George “directing” Hayden in some scenes, you’ll get why.

      • noway says:

        I know I have said this on other posts, but Episode III Revenge of the Sith is really not a bad movie. I just think people were so disappointed in I and II they didn’t really give it a chance. Maybe it is the fact that this is the movie that creates Darth Vader, but even most critics liked it – look at rotten tomatoes almost 80% fresh.. Now, I know everyone including me loves Episode IV-VI, but even they had their poor moments. The ending of both New Hope and Return of the Jedi is very cheesy. Empire Strikes Back is the only one that ends okay, kind of reminded me of the ending to the new movie a bit, but this was because at this point they knew a sequel was being made. I’ll agree episode I and II have far too many cringeworthy writing and acting moment to make it good, but I think even Hayden and Natalie are much better in Episode III.

        Not sure Hayden is deluding himself or not, because it does seem to me no matter how bad someone is in a blockbuster they get at least one or two big movies to prove they were part of the draw. The reality is those movies did make some dough too. He could very well have turned down other movies and picked a smaller career, but I think with his skill he probably would have just flopped like so many of these actors tied to the blockbuster. It really isn’t about them.

      • Hotpockets says:


        I really liked Revenge of the Sith and so did most critics, but people were quick to assume and disregard it. Hayden was good in it, but by all accounts, Ewan McGregor is the best thing about the prequels. One of the final scenes between Obi-wan and Anakin, after Anakin has completely turned to the dark side is a great scene between both the actors, it was heartfelt and devastating at the same time. Hayden was good in it and I stand by that even after re watching the prequels recently. He really captured the essence of a confused and vulnerable man who transcends into darkness. Portman was awful in all three. I know people will argue she had little to work with, but she doesn’t have any range has an actress. She was ok in Black Swan, but that’s about it.

    • amilu says:

      I agree. I’m not a Star Wars fangirl at all, but I liked Revenge of the Sith. And I thought Hayden Christensen’s performance was absolutely fine.

    • theta says:

      I liked Revenge of the Sith too. His acting was very good and he is a much better actor then the new ones I saw in TFA. I personally thought Adam Driver was such a terrible villain and a poor actor. Hayden atleast can play menacing and scary well. Driver looked stupid and ridiculous as a villain with his piss poor acting too.

  7. Loulou says:

    He is consistently the worst part of whatever movie he’s in. Anyone see him in Factory Girl? You could not have picked a worse Dylan.

  8. Sunsetsnow says:

    Okay Hayden, we believe you. Poor thing has probably deluded himself into believing this is true. Not buying it! What I do believe is that after the roles dried up he has quit hustling and works a few roles to support his family.

  9. LAK says:

    If only the other 90% unemployed actors had the privilege of walking away from NOT having to hustle for their careers….

    Ditto the 99% population that hustle everyday to make ends meet at jobs, nevermind careers.

  10. grabbyhands says:

    Oh honey-no one was going to just hand you roles after the prequels. Not when you were one of the worst actors in it. Granted, you had absolutely horrible source material to work with, but still.

  11. Jane says:

    I heard some wild rumors that Leo DiCaprio was offered this role in SW and turned it down for some strange reasons. Am I the only one who has heard of this?

  12. teacakes says:

    well, Mark Hamill didn’t actually become a superstar after Star Wars either – till date, Luke Skywalker is his most iconic role but he’s had a very respectable career as a voice actor.

    If Hayden Christensen chose to walk away, it probably was chickening out to some degree. I mean, it’s not like he hasn’t acted afterwards, but the fact that his big intro to the public eye was in films marked by bad scripts and godawful acting from everyone, has to be a huge stumbling block to any leading man offers (and unlike Natalie Portman, who was also terrible, he didn’t have child actor praise to fall back on). And I guess he came into Hollywood at a stage when no ‘movie star’ would deign to do tv, where he could actually have had those smaller character roles.

    But really, Daisy Ridley is probably the best acting performance to ever come out of Star Wars. The originals weren’t great either, but they were beloved. The prequels are despised, so of course no one particularly cares for an actor whose sole claim to fame is the prequels.

    • Alicia says:

      “But really, Daisy Ridley is probably the best acting performance to ever come out of Star Wars.”

      Whoa, fans of Alec Guinness (who got an Oscar nomination for his performance) may disagree with that.

      • teacakes says:

        oh no, sorry!

        I meant she was the best of the Star Wars LEAD performances – you know, Luke, Leia, Han, Anakin, Padme and even young Obi-wan in the prequels. I love the original trilogy, but even my fangirl eyes can’t claim the acting was good, even if Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford (especially the last of the three) got the job done and looked the part.

    • LAK says:

      Actors starting out in terrible films isn’t new. It’s not the end of the world nor does it mean end of career nor does it mean automatic career death. Exception Elizabeth Berkeley in SHOWGIRLS.

      Michelle Pfeffeir’s big break was the awful GREASE 2.

      George Clooney’s movie break was RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES.

      Sylvester Stallone’s movie break was the truly awful PARTY AT KITTY AND STUD.

      Ben Affleck and Hilary Swank’s movie break was in the same film, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

      • Birdix says:

        Oh my childhood! Grease 2 and Killer Tomatoes were on constant rotation in the early days of cable (at least early days where I was). Will be humming the Tomato theme song to myself all day now.

      • teacakes says:

        I’m not saying that HC doesn’t have major responsibility to bear for how his career turned out, but the prequels were that weird combination of weirdly panned AND hugely visible because of what they were – which none of the other films you named were, or not to the same degree. And because he had zero notable roles before that, the ‘horrible Star Wars prequel actor’ tag was the one that stuck.

        Note, I’m NOT letting him off the hook for being crap as Anakin or not managing his later role choices/branching out more, but I can easily see how it happened.

      • Sochan says:

        Return of the Killer Tomatoes is an awesome movie! It is hilarious and delicious little camp movie. LOVE IT.

      • noway says:

        Okay these aren’t the same type of movies. The Star Wars Prequels are closer only much bigger than say the Twilight franchise, etc. Also, even though it is obvious on here and other places a lot of people hated the prequels a lot of people still saw them- they made big bucks that most people would be really happy with-maybe not when you have created the greatest movie trilogy and then create an extremely disappointing trilogy. I don’t think you can compare the number of people who saw Clooney and Pfeiffer’s pre mega stardom performance to the prequels for Star Wars. Considering the hate for the prequels you have to wonder why people aren’t angrier at other actors such as Portman or Macgregor. Portman won an Oscar after it. Maybe this is why it truly is the movie not the actors in these that make them succeed.

      • I Choose Me says:

        Ben Affleck was in the Buffy movie? I’ve seen that movie a bunch of times (thanks to my younger siblings at the time) and don’t recall ever seeing him.

    • mom2two says:

      Neither did Carrie Fisher and Star Wars opened doors for Harrison Ford to other roles but if it was not for CBS refusing to allow Tom Selleck time to film the Indiana Jones series, Harrison Ford would have never been an A List Leading Man…Star Wars got his name out there, Indy made him a star.

      I agree and I did not think I’d be saying this when the promos were going around and Daisy looked underwhelming, she is the best lead performance Star Wars has had (yes, Alec Guiness was supporting) but I’d say Ewan Mac Gregor was second best.

      It will be interesting to see how she and John Boyega handle their careers post SW.

    • Betti says:

      I disagree about Daisy, her performance was passable as best. John Boyega gave one of the best lead performance in the trilogy, with Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford close behind.

      As for Mark Hamill’s post SW career, i think it was a mix of things for him. Some say it was the car accident that ruined things for him but I don’t know, but he found a successful career as a voice actor. Carrie Fisher could have had a great career but she struggled with bipolar and drug/alochol addictions that put the brakes on any success she may have had. She had the talent for it.

      • noway says:

        Carrie also is an amazingly talented writer, and has had pretty good success there as well. Trying to pick who the blockbuster breakout star is from one of these movies is never easy to tell.

      • BeeBee says:

        I wasn’t at all impressed by Daisy or, quite frankly, ANY of the new cast…at all. Big MEH from me.

  13. InvaderTak says:

    *Jimmy Carr laugh* OMG that’s a good one!

  14. Angelica says:

    He did ride a wave….all the way to Jumper, lol. And then we never heard from him again. He’s in my top 5 for most wooden actors ever.

  15. minx says:

    I liked him in Shattered Glass, too, very much. I always watch that movie when it’s on, which isn’t often.

  16. melodycalder says:

    Life as a house is a fantastic, moving, and unsettling movie. It’s been years and I still think about how it made me feel. His character as the son was amazing. I strongly suggest it to everyone! !!

    • DodieTn says:

      Life as a house is a awesome movie. Kevin Kline, Hayden. It was fantastic.

    • Azurea says:

      I agree, melody calder! His performance in that was one of those that is stilll clear in my mind after all these years. He should have won an Oscar for that — seriously.

    • Jayna says:

      I had never seen that movie. So after reading these posts, it was cold and raining heavily here, and I had a cold and didn’t go see Star Wars with the family. So I snuggled up and rented that movie on Amazon and watched. I cried a lot during the movie. I was cursing you guys. LOL I didn’t know what type of movie it was.

      I have to admit that young Hayden did an excellent job as a confused and angry young teen who was so unhappy. I had forgotten how beautiful he was when younger. And Kevin Kline’s performance broke my heart. He’s such a tremendous actor. Kristen Scott Thomas was excellent also.

  17. meg says:

    i love what paul rudd did. he was totally okay with being a character actor and look at all the work he’s done. phillip seymour hoffman was one of the only really talented actors totally fine with being a character actor, even after winning an oscar. everyone else has ego and wants to be the lead. it shows that they got into this field to stroke their ego, not just because they like the work. some people need attention all the time to validate their existence. its why so many hollywood actors are crazy

    • Sochan says:

      I agree. Some actors really know and accept their limitations. They don’t try to be anything more than what they’re established at doing successfully. There’s a kind of gratitude and humility in that which I respect.

    • Farhi says:

      To be fair people in regular jobs also want success and recognition , everyone has an ego. A big part of a managers job is to make sure people get recognized and thanked for their contributions. To most people recognition is just as important as money.

      Lead roles also bring more opportunities and choices, and again, money. It is completely logical to pursue them.

  18. paolanqar says:

    The only actor that seemed to give an actual fuck in the prequels was Ewan McGregor. Not even Liam Neeson knew what he was up to and couldn’t deliver due to a bad direction and a horrible script. Qui-Gonn had it better than us when he was killed off.
    I rewatched the prequels not long ago and Anakin is such a whiny bitch.
    ‘It was Obi-wan that made me kill her! I swear ! It was him! IT REALLY WAS!! bwaaaaah’. Not very believable in my opinion that such a whiny man becomes Darth Vader.

    Even the Kamino people were more expressive than Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman.
    Natalie Portman especially is only slightly less dull because of her amazing costumes but other than that she was terrible.
    If Hayden Christensen walked away from his career is because he knows he’s not good at acting and I couldn’t agree more with him.

  19. Sochan says:

    I think he found the life that he truly loves, but he needs movie money to keep it running. That’s my take on it. So as long as he can still get roles and bring in a paycheck every couple of years, I think he’ll keep acting and then stay on his farm in between roles. Bless his heart. I don’t know much about the guy, I’m not a SW fan, but I have a lot of respect for people who love to work the land. It really is something that is inside you — you either have a calling for it or you don’t, and I think he really does. It might be the thing he’s actually really good at. Acting certainly isn’t his talent or calling. He was great in Shattered Glass, so if he can keep at that level he might be able to make a minor career for several more years.

  20. Betti says:

    I feel for him – he was young and inexperienced with he took Star Wars, i think he found the fame and circus that came with it hard to deal with.

    Out of the new cast – Daisy Ridley is the one that will struggle career wise. I saw the movie was Rey was the only character that i did not get emotionally invested with, it wasnt the character, it was the actress. I found her performance to be average at best, the only thing she had going for her was her chemistry with John Boyega. I really wish they had gone with an experienced actress, the character at least deserved that as she could have been \more’.

  21. MollyO says:

    Thank you for reminding us about “Shattered Glass,” which was, I think, quite excellent. He was very convincing. I like to think it’s preventative medicine for plagiarists. :)

  22. MichLynn says:

    Unpopular opinion: but I hope he comes back as a “force ghost” in the next Star Wars. I’d like to see him as Anakin with better directing and writing. And I also think he did a good job in Shattered Glass and Life as a House.

  23. Rachel Jarling says:

    Life as a house was an AMAZING movie! I will always be a Hayden advocate because of that movie! I am going to watch it now….

  24. Caz says:

    Too many actors, not enough movies. They can’t all have solid non-stop acting careers.

    Wondering if Bilson & Christensen have enough money to live on for the rest of their lives. What do actors who can’t get work do for money?

    • theta says:

      He made 17 milion from SW I think. Rachel Bilson comes from family of millionaires anyways. I know she is a terrible actress but these 2 have enough money.

  25. Katie says:

    He’s cracked the top 10 on IMDB this week and it reminded me that he even existed.

  26. FF says:

    I’m pretty sure George hired a ‘character wrangler’ for ep III because of the complaints that Portman and Christensen had zero chemistry and were painfully wooden. This was a particular problem in II, where some ‘epic’ romance was supposed to bloom and it just did not reach the screen.

    But like I’ve said before George isn’t great with directing actors’ performances. And the lack of chemistry and other things caused problems.

    As for what Christensen is saying: well isn’t this just a variation on what KStew did sabotaging her career because is was becoming too ‘easy’.

    This is a personality type lots of people have, they hold themselves back for various reasons. It could be he felt that kind of life had no depth for him or because on some level he’s scornful of what being a Hollywood star represents and therefore wants to keep a distance from it. I think he’s being honest – to a point – in the sense that he didn’t try to salvage any lost career momentum when he took time off.

    A lot of these actors are slotted into a kind of machine geared to put them across in a particular way, and I guess some feel like it’s disconnected from them entirely, so they kind of torch it.

    I guess that kind of destructiveness does come with a degree of privilege though but tbh if he made good career moves tomorrow, people casting would quite likely take him back. It would pick up near enough where he left off because he’s a type the industry is happy packaging and selling, frankly.

    Same thing with KStew.

  27. Katija says:

    This makes… zero sense. I think he’s compensating for a career that cooled. If you consider a big break “having a career handed to you,” then that’s literally every actor ever. Jennifer Lawrence was a mostly unheard of indie actress before “Hunger Games.” I don’t consider her someone who had her career “handed to her,” she just got a big break that launched her into the mainstream.

  28. Notrachelbilson says:

    I don’t have anything to contribute, I don’t remember ever seeing any if his work but I do see him, Rachel and baby at the local health store. He’s taller than you would expect!

  29. BasicBitch says:

    I just watched him in american heist and he was so handsome with dark hair. I didn’t even realize it was him. Ha!