Now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released, more and more details have come out regarding the project's development. As is the case with most films on this grand a scale, the Force Awakens story underwent a number of revisions as the creative team fine tuned the narrative. As fun as it is to watch the end result, it's almost just as interesting to explore what was left on the cutting room floor.
One idea director J.J. Abrams toyed with was the return of Force ghosts. The recently release book The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens showcased concept art featuring Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker as a spirit that flowed between the Light and Dark sides of the Force. It's a fascinating concept, but after Christensen's maligned portrayal of the fallen Jedi in the final two Star Wars prequels, many fans were happy to not see him in the new film. As it turns out, Christensen may not have been up to return even if Abrams wanted him.
In an interview with the LA Times, Christensen talked about how his quick rise to fame following his casting in Star Wars affected him personally, a feeling that caused him to go down a different career path from what many expected back in the early 2000s:
“I felt like I had this great thing in Star Wars that provided all these opportunities and gave me a career, but it all kind of felt a little too handed to me. I didn’t want to go through life feeling like I was just riding a wave.”
One has to wonder what his sentiments would be had the prequels became just as beloved as the original trilogy. When the first Star Wars film was a huge success in 1977, Harrison Ford (who's had a love-hate relationship with the franchise over the years) stated that now he could get to work, suggesting he saw Star Wars as a means of launching an acting career. Arguably, Christensen's sudden fade into obscurity was two-fold. Yes, his thinking he hadn't earned his place on the A-list may have played a part in his choices in the years following Revenge of the Sith, but it's safe to say casting directors were not knocking down his door with offers either. After Christensen's poor reception, few were envisioning him as a leading man.
But Christensen doesn't appear too concerned about that. He's at peace with the state of his career and doesn't mind the fact he's not in the spotlight anymore:
"You can’t take years off and not have it affect your career. But I don’t know — in a weird, sort of destructive way, there was something appealing about that to me. There was something in the back of my head that was like, ‘If this time away is gonna be damaging to my career, then so be it. If I can come back afterward and claw my way back in, then maybe I’ll feel like I earned it.’”
From the sound of it, Christensen doesn't appear to be too willing to return to Star Wars. If he feels his role in Attack of the Clones was handed to him (after earning it in auditions), then he probably wouldn't be up for a brief cameo in Episode VIII. It would appear he's done with the galaxy far, far away, which is understandable. He's probably aware of the prequels' reception and just wants to move on and leave it behind. Besides, there's a nobility to admire in his statements, since he expresses a desire to put in the hard work to get back on top. Whether that day ever comes is a discussion for another day.
Fortunately, Christensen's apparent reluctance to grab a quick paycheck shouldn't have that much of an impact on the future of Star Wars films. There's so much to unpack in Episode VIII that an Anakin ghost may come across as forced (no pun), and an appearance by Darth Vader in Rogue One could feature anyone in the costume (James Earl Jones is the irreplaceable one in that case). Lucasfilm may have though about giving Christensen a shot at redemption, but he'd rather go for it himself, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode 8 on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode 9 is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: LA Times