One of the most explosive stories to come out of the rumors leading up to the release of the new Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series is the fact that Hayden Christensen will be returning to Star Wars to reprise his role as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. It’s exciting to see the actor return to the role that he is best known for as Christensen has been portraying the character for twenty years now. But how many times has Hayden Christensen played Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader on the screen?
Hayden Christensen first appeared as Anakin Skywalker in 2002 in Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones. He replaced Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker marking his first appearance in the franchise.
That appearance, along with the one in the sequel, Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, are Christensen’s two most famous times in the role. In Revenge of the Sith, Hayden Christensen portrayed the character as both Anakin Skywalker and as Darth Vader. Even when the character was eventually put in Vader’s life support suit, it was still Christensen who was in the costume, though at that point in the movie, the voice was being dubbed by James Earl Jones to better connect the prequel trilogy to the original one. Between these two movies however, Christensen made another surprise appearance as Anakin Skywalker.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker gazes into the forest to see the force ghosts of his mentors Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, and the force ghost of his father. When the movie was released in 1983, the force ghost of Anakin Skywalker was played by an actor named Sebastian Shaw, however in 2004, the original Star Wars trilogy was released on DVD, with some updates. One of the updates to the DVD version of the movie was replacing Sebastian Shaw’s final shot with one of Hayden Christensen standing alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan. Interestingly, Shaw still remained in the film as the unmasked Darth Vader, but was removed from that final shot. The change was actually done without Hayden Christensen’s knowledge as the image of Anakin Skywalker was pulled from stock footage. Still because the DVD’s were released in 2004, that technically makes Revenge of the Sith, the third appearance of Hayden Christensen in a Star Wars movie.
Hayden Christensen wouldn’t make another appearance in a Star Wars movie until 2019 with the release of The Rise of Skywalker. In the climactic final scene of the film, Rey hears the voices of all the Jedi that have come before her, including a redeemed Anakin Skywalker. Hayden Christensen returned to voice the brief role, telling Rey, “Rey. Bring back the balance, Rey, as I did. The Force surrounds you, Rey. Let it lift you.” As this scene involves almost every actor who had ever played a Jedi up to that point, it is obvious that Anakin would need to be there, but his inclusion is a nice reminder that Anakin did find redemption end the end, and it was exciting to hear Christensen return to the role with new dialogue, even if it was only for a few seconds.
Christensen’s next appearance in Star Wars was once again the result of archival footage being repurposed for something new. The final season of The Clone Wars was released in 2020, and much of it takes place concurrently with the events of Revenge of the Sith. In the next to last episode of the series, Ahsoka senses Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, and in that moment hears the conversation taking place that we were witness to when watching Revenge of the Sith. Even though Anakin was voiced by a different actor throughout The Clone Wars animated series, the show elected to use archival audio recordings from the movie in order to more fully tie these moments together. This means that for this episode, Hayden Christensen is the voice of Anakin, making this his only appearance in one of the Star Wars animated series.
This makes a total of five times that Hayden Christensen has appeared as either Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker. However, that number is about to go up. Christensen is expected to reprise the role in a few months in the upcoming Obi-Wan limited series. And beyond that, he is expected to appear in the Ahsoka tv series as well. Though we don’t have a release date for that one, it’s exciting to think about all of the appearances we’ll get of the character in the near future, and where we might go from here.
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