Anakin Skywalker, in many ways, is the central character of Star Wars. Before the franchise was sold to Disney and the sequel movies were made, the six-episode saga told the story of the fall and redemption of the character as its main throughline. But a story told, out of order, over four different decades, can only be pulled off with the contribution of many people, so more than one person has helped bring the character to life. These are the actors who have played the character of Anakin Skywalker.
The first person to ever play the role of Anakin Skywalker on-screen was Sebastian Shaw. Although David Prowse had played the role of Darth Vader behind a mask for three movies, when it came time for Vader to be unmasked at the end of Return of the Jedi, a different actor was chosen to play the face of Anakin Skywalker.
Shaw, was cast as the redeemed Jedi in the final moments of his life, as well as playing the Force ghost of the character in the last moments of the trilogy.
After a decade and a half, the next appearance of Anakin Skywalker was as a young boy in The Phantom Menace. Jake Lloyd, who had previously appeared in Jingle All The Way as the son of Arnold Schwarzenegger, skyrocketed to fame with the announcement that he would be playing a nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker.
He was heavily featured in the promotion of the film with perhaps the most famous poster for the movie featuring Jake Lloyd on Tatooine casting a shadow in the shape of a Darth Vader silhouette. Though Lloyd only appeared as Anakin in one movie, he did voice the character in six different video games between 1999 and 2002.
When the next prequel came out, the role of Anakin was handed over to a new actor. Because Episode II takes place 10 years after Episode I, yet was released just three years later, a new actor had to be cast to play the role of a now 19-year-old Jedi Padawan.
Like before, Hayden Christensen was chosen for the role from a massive crowd of possibilities. In this case, the casting director reportedly looked at over1,500 candidates for the role. Christensen was eventually selected and would play the character in the next two Star Wars movies, completing the character’s fall to the Dark Side. George Lucas has spoken about casting Hayden Christensen due to his ability to bridge the gap between the young boy we see in The Phantom Menace, and the eventual Sith Lord that we know he will become in the original trilogy.
While these three actors have all played Anakin Skywalker in live-action performances, at least two different actors have voiced the character in animated form. Star Wars fans know that there are two different animated series that take place between Episode II and Episode III, both depicting events in The Clone Wars. One series was released between the two episodes in 2003 and called Star Wars: Clone Wars. The other, more famous series began in 2008, and had its final season in 2020 and was titled Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Confusing? Well that’s not all. In both cases, the actor who played Anakin was named Matt.
Matt Lucas voiced the character in Star Wars: Clone Wars, while Matt Lanter voiced the character in Star Wars: The Clone Wars five years later.
Star Wars: Clone Wars also featured a younger version of Anakin Skywalker in a vision sequence in an episode that was voiced by former actor Frankie Ryan Manriquez, making him the only person to voice the Jake Lloyd version of the character (other than, obviously, Jake Lloyd himself).
We have likely not seen the last performance of Anakin Skywalker. He is one of the most central characters in the Star Wars saga, and even though we’ve seen him grow from a nine-year-old boy all the way to his death, Hayden Christensen’s return in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series proves that there are still stories left to tell with the character.
Someday someone else will likely join the list of actors who have portrayed Anakin Skywalker, though they will have some big boots to fill.
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