“Is there maybe another role?”: Hayden Christensen Was Afraid to Take Darth Vader Role After Toxic Fans Mercilessly Bullied 9 Year Old Actor Into Retirement

Hayden Christensen Was Afraid to Take Darth Vader Role After Toxic Fans Mercilessly Bullied 9 Year Old Actor Into Retirement
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With how passionate Star Wars fans tend to be, it is no shocker to learn of Hayden Christensen’s initial reluctance to portray Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. In most fanbases, we often see that the line between deriving enjoyment from something and slipping into outright obsession is thin. At times, vehement passion can translate into a behavior that reflects poorly on the rest of the community.

How certain fans have given the Star Wars fandom a bad reputation
The deplorable nature of some Star Wars fans

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The Star Wars fanbase is no stranger to such affairs. One of the biggest instances of how such toxic functioning can harm others is best seen with the example of Jake Lloyd. The now 34-year-old retired actor once starred in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace as the child version of Anakin Skywalker. The way 9-year-old Lloyd was treated following the release of the 1999 film was nothing short of egregious, to put it mildly.


Hayden Christensen Was Intimidated By His Star Wars Role

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker

The legacy that follows a character like Darth Vader is immeasurable. His existence has shaped decades of popular culture. His uber-iconic voice, courtesy of James Earl Jones, will forever be etched into our memories. Before stepping into the character, Hayden Christensen knew what he was signing up for. The actor had a legacy to match up to. Yet, the intimidation that followed throughout his auditioning process was a reminder of the responsibility surrounding the role.

A single mistake, and you’d witness overly enthusiastic fans clamoring from all corners of the world.

The following quote highlights Hayden Christensen’s reluctance to commit to the role while going through the auditioning process:


“I started auditioning for it [the role of Anakin Skywalker] when I was 18. I remember, you know, hearing about the part, and I was actually like, ‘Is there maybe another role that, maybe, is a little more attainable that I could read for?’ Because it just felt so big. And that was kind of my attitude through the whole audition process.”

Darth Vader's iconic pop culture stature
Darth Vader’s iconic pop culture stature

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Embodying the role of one of the most iconic fictional villains ever created does appear to be a daunting task. Striving to align with its previous portrayal and honoring its legendary stature evokes a certain level of apprehension. Alas, what worked in everyone’s disfavor was the prevailing consensus about the Prequel Trilogy. Simply put, fans despised it.

However, Hayden Christensen managed to navigate the backlash that most people directed at his portrayal of the villain. This was something that, unfortunately, Jake Lloyd couldn’t achieve. Considering he was just a child, the widespread bullying campaigns aimed at him were bound to have an impact on his psyche.


Fans’ Abhorrent Treatment Of Jake Lloyd Was Disheartening

Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker
Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker

Jake Lloyd’s performance as the child version of Anakin Skywalker was subjected to intense disapproval. After starring in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, the reaction from the media and the bullying he encountered in school led him to step away from acting. He retired in 2001. One of the world’s largest fanbases at the time became responsible for Lloyd’s anguish.

Unlike Hayden Christensen, Jake Lloyd’s life underwent significant turbulence due to the overwhelming backlash. There are limitations to how much one can endure before the effects of bullying become overwhelming. Enduring harassment from a few individuals is already challenging, but in this case, the 9-year-old child was subjected to criticism from the entire world!

Jake Lloyd recounted the various instances of the torment he experienced in an old interview:


“My entire school life was a living hell – and I had to do up to 60 interviews a day. Other children were really mean to me. They would make the sound of the lightsaber every time they saw me. College has been similar…”

The continued harassment of Jake Lloyd
The continued harassment of Jake Lloyd

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We can infer from the above statement that even after his retirement, life wasn’t easy. Lloyd remained a target of ridicule and scorn. The former actor had also mentioned that he disposed of his Star Wars memorabilia and couldn’t bring himself to watch The Phantom Menace again, describing the experience as “creepy.”

The subsequent years of his post-retirement life would entail legal troubles for Jake Lloyd. More recently, in a statement issued by his mother in 2020, it was revealed that the 34-year-old former actor had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.


From Jake Lloyd’s story, we can discern the negative consequences that often come with fame. This situation highlights a major problem that is frequently attributed to several fandoms and their toxic attitude. Having affection for something should not automatically translate to fixation. Nor should it result in harassment when situations don’t unfold as anticipated.

When criticism escalates into widespread, unjustified bullying, it prompts the following question: at what point should we draw the line? We cannot change what happened in the past, but we do have the capacity to ensure that no other individual will have to endure a similar fate.

Source: BBC Radio 1 & Daily Mail


Written by Debdipta Bhattacharya

Articles Published: 659

Debdipta Bhattacharya is a content writer at FandomWire, where she has written more than 500 articles on various topics of interest. She possesses a sincere passion for popular culture, anime, film production, and the evolving world of YouTube and streaming culture which has allowed her to be a devoted and well-informed writer. Debdipta holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication. She has honed her skills and expertise in content writing with over two years of experience and strives to learn and grow daily.