Hayden Christensen made headlines in the spring of 2000, when director George Lucas announced that the 19-year-old actor would play the much-coveted role of Anakin Skywalker in Episode II and Episode III of the venerable Star Wars franchise. Born in Vancouver but raised in Toronto, Canada, Christensen became involved with Canadian television productions at a young age and carried his skills over to American TV movies and series in the late '90s. Though he would appear briefly in 1999's The Virgin Suicides for director Sofia Coppola -- a family friend of Lucas' -- it was Christensen's work in the Fox Family Channel's drama series Higher Ground which convinced Lucas to give the actor a reading. Adamant in his desire to find new talent for the role, Lucas passed over such potential adolescent Anakins as Ryan Phillippe, Jonathon Jackson, and even Leonardo DiCaprio in favor of Christensen. It remains to be seen whether the young actor will survive the typecasting that a similarly unknown Mark Hamill suffered some two and a half decades prior, in Episode IV.
Before Episode II made it to the screen, Christensen won accolades -- including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor -- playing a troubled goth teen in the family melodrama Life as a House. The stage thus set for his blockbuster debut, Christensen would be omnipresent on magazine covers and talk shows in the months leading up to Attack of the Clones' release. The media blitz was not enough, however, to quell some critics' responses to the film and its star, citing Lucas for his simplistic dialogue and singling out Christensen for an impudent, one-note performance. Though the detractors weren't enough to prevent the film from grossing more than 300 million dollars stateside, Episode II still didn't perform to predictions, as both the nascent Spider-Man and Lord of the Rings franchises stole a little luster from Lucas' crown jewel, and heartthrobs the likes of Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom quickly eclipsed Christensen's "it"-boy status.