Hayden Christensen Enjoys Your Anakin Memes
'Obi-Wan Kenobi' brings millennial 'Star Wars' nostalgia forward into a new generation
Published Jun 22, 2022Spend a few minutes on Twitter and you're likely to be confronted with the face of a young Hayden Christensen. The Vancouver-born actor was only 19 when he first portrayed Anakin Skywalker in 2002's Attack of the Clones, but that moment lives on thanks to "For the Better, Right?" — one of the most ubiquitous meme formats on the internet.
"That's a very cool thing," Christensen says with a wry smile when I bring the meme up during our Zoom conversation. "I've seen some of those memes, and I got a good chuckle out of a lot of them. I think it just shows the affection that people have for for some of those scenes. What makes something a meme? I don't fully know or understand, but I think it just has to do with how things sort of resonate in our culture."
He's right: the Star Wars prequels, long divisive among fans, continue to resonate two decades later — thanks to memes, and also thanks to the new Disney+ limited series Obi-Wan Kenobi, in which Christensen reprises his role as Anakin Skywalker (now fully transformed into Darth Vader) opposite the returning Ewan McGregor in the title role. (The show's sixth and final episode premieres today.)
Christensen says he thought his journey with Anakin's character was complete after the prequels, and, although he idly imagined what it might be like to return to the role over the years, it was "definitely a surprise" when Star Wars came calling once again.
"Just stepping back onto set with Ewan in those costumes, and looking over at him, it really felt like no time had passed. It just kind of put me back into that mindset again," he reflects.
Toronto-born director Deborah Chow, who helmed all six episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, concurs. "With Hayden, he knows this character so well," she tells Exclaim! "I mean, he's obviously played the character before, but also he's had to live in the public perception as this character for his entire life. I didn't really have to teach him anything. If anything, he was teaching me."
This isn't Chow's first time working within the Star Wars universe, as she previously directed two episodes of The Mandalorian's first season, released in 2019. When directing Obi-Wan Kenobi, she was careful not to "disrespect or break anything that has been set out in the canon." She adds, "I think the two biggest things [were] that I just really did not want to get Darth Vader wrong, and then obviously the young Princess Leia."
Obi-Wan depicts Leia as a precocious young girl who is kidnapped by the Galactic Empire in order to draw Kenobi out of hiding. Sweet and sensitive, but with a biting wit, young actor Vivien Lyra Blair (prior to this, best known for her role in Bird Box) unquestionably nails her portrayal of the Princess's younger self.
Chow explains, "When working with Vivien, the biggest thing I was trying to do ... was just trying to bring it out of her and have her make it her own. I didn't think it would serve anybody well to have her try to imitate Carrie Fisher. So I deliberately told her: don't watch Star Wars, don't try to get into Carrie's legacy. Just react normally as you would."
Obi-Wan Kenobi bridges old and new — both in terms of how it links the plot of the prequels with the original trilogy, and also how it brings some key Star Wars figures back into the fold. For Christensen, who has already been confirmed to return in 2023 for the series Ahsoka, it's understandably been a very nostalgic experience.
"Working with George Lucas was one of the great honours of my acting career, and just getting to watch how he worked and how he crafted his story," Christensen remembers. "I had a front row seat for all of that. And that was an incredible learning experience. Coming back to it, of course, it brings up all those those memories. Just a lot of fun memories."