When we last saw Hayden Christensen, he was armless, legless, and being burned alive in a pit of lava. His wife was about to die in childbirth and his former best friend had left him for dead. Heor at least his best-known character, Anakin Skywalkerwas about to don the black robes of Darth Vader and unleash one of the goofiest bellows in cinematic history, hollering “Nooooooooo!” and shaking his gloved fists at the universe. In short, Skywalker had completed a three-film journey and become one of the galaxy’sand pop culture’smost notorious villains.
But what became of Hayden Christensen?
If you’re looking for him now, you might start in the middle of nowhere. The closest town is a hamlet called Zephyr, which sounds like you need a half-orc guide in order to find it, although it turns out to be just a couple of hours north of Toronto. Christensen’s retreat is a simple brick 19th-century farmhouse with a brand-new wooden deck. (A power saw rests nearby, next to some freshly cut timber.) Two cars sit buried under thick snow. Christensen answers the screen door in slim jeans, stocking feet, and a loose flannel shirt. He has several days’ worth of chin scruff, but, at 26, he still looks like he couldn’t grow a full beard if he tried. Given the buried vehicles and the whiskers, it seems that he’s been camped out here awhile.
He offers me tea. He has quite a selection. Two black potbellied pigs snort underfoot. “That’s Buddy and Petunia,” he says. He got them not long ago. “I’m not a vegetarian, but since I’ve gotten these guys, I can’t eat pork anymore. It’s killing me. I especially love prosciutto.”
Christensen hasn’t, despite the off-the-grid location, gone into hiding, or early retirement. In fact, he’s spent the better part of the past year and a half making the movie he hopes will help the world see beyond Anakin Skywalker. The film is Jumper, about a young man who’s able to teleport anywhere at will. It has traveled a rocky road to theaters. Christensen stepped in to replace the original lead, Tom Sturridge, just two weeks before filming started in August 2006. With a reported budget of $75 million, the production traveled from Tokyo to New York to Paris to Rome, where the crew had unprecedented access to the Colosseum for filming. While in Toronto, one technician was killed and another seriously injured when a piece of a set they were dismantling fell on them. And the cast was repeatedly called back for reshoots, which is typical of director Doug Liman, who’s known in the industry both for delivering quality blockbusters (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) and for helming epically chaotic film sets.
“Everyone was forewarned,” Christensen says. “You’re going to be filming until the day it comes out. His process is uniquely his process.” When I apologize to Christensen for not having seen Jumper yet, he laughs and says, “Don’t worry. Neither have I.”