Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones. In addition to sporting a memorble rattail hairdo in the film, and playing a—spoiler alert—young Darth Vader, arguably one of the most widely-known villains in filmic history, he soon after took on a different type of evil as the unethical journalist Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass This Friday, a little over 15 years after the release of the second Star Wars prequel, Christensen will bless our eyes and the big screen once again as he stars alongside Bruce Willis in First Kill.
The thriller features Christensen as a Wall Street executive named Will on a quest to reconnect with his son; their hunting trip turns south as they become involved with a gang of bank-robbing, murderous criminals.
Episode II — Attack of the Clones, this year-old Canadian has explored the moral ambivalence and nuanced darkness that lurk in the hearts and minds of complicated young men. This month Christensen continues this streak with his portrayal of real-life reporter and fabulist Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass. Here, Christensen weighs in from the Australia set of the next Star Wars film. Tell me a little bit about your new movie, Shattered Glass.
Stephen was so driven by his desire to succeed that his moral infrastructure became questionable. He wound up fabricating all or part of the facts behind more than half his stories. It ultimately led to his being fired from the magazine.
I understand you and your brother, Tove, were actively involved in developing the film [through their production company, Forest Park Pictures]. Just the subject matter in general—journalism. You have to earn that. Which is in a lot of ways what this story is about—honesty, ethics, and whether we can believe what other people tell us.
It was, how does someone get to the point of being driven to do this? Do you see something larger at work here, though? Not just in journalism necessarily, but in other professions as well? I think the underlying moral of the story is that this behavior exists, in everything from journalism to athletics. Tell me what crossed your mind when, eight months after Shattered Glass finished shooting, the Jayson Blair scandal broke. Do you see any similarities between Stephen and Jayson?
They were both people who obviously sought the spotlight. Do you look at journalists different now than you used to? I still have a great respect for journalists, which is why I was enticed by his story in the first place.
In fact, one of the strengths of Shattered Glass is that what Glass did, and why he did it, is juxtaposed with the novelty of the profession. You and I are both in our 20s, as Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair were when they made up their stories. Is this a generational trend, in which the desire for fame supersedes the process to achievement for a lot of younger people?
Yeah, I think a part of it is fueled by a desire for fame and success. Trying to get yourself a level of recognition has become more of a priority for people in their 20s nowadays. Are you more cynical now when it comes to the news?
I try to get a feel for how much of his own bias a journalist instills into his story. In much the same way an actor decides to play a character, a certain amount of projection on the part of writer is inevitable.
Journalism is just the art of capturing behavior. They are similar lines of work: Both rely on observation. I think that was why I could relate to Stephen—it made me think, I might not know much about journalism, but I can still understand how his story evolved and what was behind those misdeeds.
It made me feel like this story was universal. In journalism, one knows where to look for the truth. In terms of Stephen, we sought his involvement, but he wanted nothing to do with the film. In general, though, I think I do approach acting with some of the same integrity as a good journalist. What do you think about the fact that Glass is a lawyer now, and has even been offered a writing assignment from a magazine?
It blows me away that anyone would trust him to report again. Would you ever hire him as your lawyer? Were you wary of glorifying him or turning him into a sympathetic figure? I was afraid of glorifying him, but I was also afraid of villainizing him.
Let me ask you about another aspect of my profession—celebrity journalism, of which you are increasingly a subject. You were 19 and virtually unknown when you were cast in the Star Wars movies. Was it a baptism by fire with the press? More or less, yes. Yet there was a lot of gossip about you and Natalie [Portman] dating during the filming of the previous Star Wars.
You both denied it, but still rumors persisted. Did you have any early ambitions before you knew you wanted to be an actor? I was competitively involved in hockey from a very early age, but then I started playing tennis pretty seriously.
How did acting enter the picture? From that point on I did one or two a year. I was a great excuse to get a day off from school. When they aired I denied that I was ever involved with them, because I was almost embarrassed by it.
You were the envy of nearly every young actor in Hollywood when you were chosen for Star Wars. What was that like for you? And I had never been outside of North America at that time, so flying to Australia and going on location around Europe was very exciting.
Can you gives us a preview of the next Star Wars? It is darker—a lot darker. But it is still intended for the same audience.
We all know your character, Anakin Skywalker, eventually becomes Darth Vader, who is pretty much the be-all and end-all of villains. It seems, at least on the surface, that you often play dark characters. I like to take things as they come and, as much as possible, not force anything. I think I could wind up somewhere completely different five years from now, something completely removed from acting—I could be perfectly content studying photography or English literature.