Hayden Christensen Opens Up About Leaving Hollywood After 'Star Wars' : 'Success Felt Too Handed to Me'

Hayden Christensen took five years off from acting in part because "in a weird, sort of destructive way, there was something appealing about that to me"

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Before Daisy Ridley and John Boyega became the fresh, young faces of Star Wars, Hayden Christensen was the most famous newcomer in the galaxy.

Like his previously unknown successors, Christensen had never been on a major film set when George Lucas cast him as Anakin Skywalker in 2002 at just 19. The part brought with it so much attention that even Leonardo DiCaprio turned it down, saying he “just didn’t feel ready to take that dive.”

“I guess 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,” the actor, 34, told the Los Angeles Times this fall while promoting his first movie in five years, a faith-based drama called 90 Minutes in Heaven.

“I didn’t want to go through life feeling like I was just riding a wave,” he added.

While Christensen won acclaim for his post-Anakin role as disgraced journalist Stephen Glass in 2003’s Shattered Glass, he recognizes that a five-year hiatus from acting – retreating to farmland he purchased in his native Canada – isn’t easy to overcome.

“You can’t take years off and not have it affect your career,” he admitted. “But I don’t know – in a weird, sort of destructive way, there was something appealing about that to me.”

The self-imposed challenge of earning his accolades without the power of a major franchise was in some ways just what he was looking for.

“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.’ “

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