Swinging a lightsaber in the name of the Jedi Republic is one thing, but donning the iconic mask of the Dark Lord of the Sith is in a league of its own. And for Hayden Christensen, the chance to slip into the robe of Darth Vader was five long years in the making.
"From the moment I got the part, this is what I've been looking forward to," said Christensen, who was handpicked by director George Lucas to star as Anakin Skywalker back in 2000. The Canadian actor reportedly beat out 400 other actors for the coveted role of the young Darth Vader, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Phillippe. Set three years after "Episode II - Attack of the Clones," "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" tracks the young Jedi's crossover into pop culture's ultimate villain.
"It was so cool putting on that Darth Vader suit. It's hard to describe it. Every emotion you could imagine was just overwhelming, thrilling, empowering and saddening because it meant real closure for me. It meant my task was complete," said the 24-year-old, who was cast at 19. "As an actor, it's always very freeing to be able to act behind a mask, but to be the face of Darth Vader is like no other experience."
Christensen painstakingly studied the mannerisms of the dark rogue, everything from the simple folding of his arms to his sluggish body movements. The 6-foot-1-inch actor even had to wear lifts to compensate for the height difference he had with his larger-than-life character. He also spent three months in Sydney, Australia, prior to production to practice the infamous lightsaber duel between Anakin and his onetime mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).
For Lucas, it was a satisfying moment to finally be able to see the young Jedi fulfill his malevolent destiny. "There are a lot of things I had been holding back with Hayden," the director said. "He was basically hired to be Darth Vader, and here he was playing a petulant teenager [in 'Episode II']. But in this film, you get all the satisfaction of seeing [that transformation]. You can actually see the emperor turn into the emperor."
Director Kevin Smith, who caught a sneak peek of the final prequel, said Christensen's performance as Anakin crossing over into Darth Vader will "silence naysayers who wrote him off as too whiney in '[Attack of the] Clones' " (see "Kevin Smith on 'Sith': 'Quite Simply ... Awesome' ").
"It has been a privilege to be a part of George Lucas' world. It was more than I could have ever dreamed of," Christensen said. The actor acknowledges that there isn't much Lucas has left untapped: "Sith" finally ties up all the loose ends, achieving the resolution the director has been working toward for nearly three decades. "This is a generational story of Anakin and his son, and unless they want to have Luke knock up some girl and tell that story, there's not much else to do."
With his Skywalker days behind him, the young actor is poised to move on to other projects. He is currently filming "The Decameron" with Mischa Barton in Italy. The film, adapted from Giovanni Boccaccio's famous novellas, is a period piece set in the 15th century about a group of youths trying to escape the Black Plague in Florence. Despite the somber subject matter, Christensen says the film is a comedy.
And with "Star Wars" mania set to heat up the summer, Christensen is still a bit unnerved at seeing his own mug plastered on the front of a cereal box. "It's weird to see your face on a bag of potato chips or a packet of M&Ms, but the action figures I get a kick out of," he said. And as for the whereabouts of that infamous lightsaber he wields so impressively?
"I keep it in my closet," Christensen said. "I don't do much of anything with it usually, but [sometimes] I'll take it out and give it a twirl."
Check out everything we've got on "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."
Visit MTV Movies for more from Hollywood, including news, interviews, trailers and more.