Why Hayden Christensen turned to the dark side. The ''Shattered Glass'' star talks about playing a lying journalist and the lord of all sci-fi baddies
In ”Shattered Glass” (in theaters), Hayden Christensen (”Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones”) plays Stephen Glass, the real-life reporter who concocted false stories for such esteemed publications as The New Republic, George, and Harper’s during the late ’90s. As Glass, Christensen portrays a master manipulator whose self-deprecating manner fools everyone except his Republic editor Charles Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), who ultimately unravels Glass’ elaborate fictions. Christensen, 22, revealed his true stories to EW.com., explaining what he’d like to ask the real Glass, what we can expect in ”Star Wars: Episode III,” and why being a living doll isn’t all its cracked up to be.
Did you meet the real Glass?
I never got to speak to him, but I talked a little bit to people who worked with him. He was perceived as being this guy who lacked self-confidence and was really self-effacing. I felt I could derive a lot from his pictures, which showed this distant gaze in his eyes. That, coupled with what took place, made me think there was something pathological there.
Did you have any qualms about playing Glass?
I struggled a bit at the beginning. Committing all of someone’s lies from the worst time of their life to film, I wondered, ”Can I really do this with a good conscience?” But you need to be held responsible for your actions. I was able to sympathize with his insecurity. To a certain extent, all actors feel like con men. We’re always wondering if people are buying our bulls—.
So, any desire to meet this guy now that you’ve walked in his shoes, so to speak?
I wouldn’t dread it. But I’m not going to try make an introduction, either. If I saw him at a party? Absolutely. I never got to ask him why he did what he did, and I’m really curious. I’m not saying he’d give me an honest answer, but just any one would do.
So how does playing a big fat liar compare to carrying a big fat sci-fi franchise?
It’s like day and night. With a film like ”Star Wars,” you live in your imagination. For three months you’re in fantasy land. The majority of the film is done in just an entirely blue set, so it’s the exact same environment every day. It’s like ”Groundhog Day,” only you’re saying different lines. When you get to do a film like ”Shattered Glass,” there’s an intimacy in doing that kind of film that doesn’t have anything to do with the size of the budget. When you’re on a big-budget movie that has so many different aspects involved that are digital, the focus is a little scattered at times. They each have their own demons and each their own blessings. I learned the most from the ”Star Wars” films in all honesty. I do feel very privileged to be a part of it just because I don’t think there will be very many other films that are made the way they make those.
So tell the truth: Are you sick of being swarmed by ”Star Wars” fanatics everywhere you go?
When the little ones come up, when you have 10-year-old kids or 9-year-old kids that can’t differentiate between Anakin and the actor who’s playing Anakin, you make their fantasy land tangible. To be a part of that is a privilege.
What do you think of your ”Star Wars” action figure?
I do have the doll. They send you one of everything that’s made in the film, so you get these boxes every few months. But the dolls were something that will stay in the boxes for a while because I had been thinking, Wow, I have my own action figure! That’s the coolest thing! And the thing doesn’t look anything like me.
Critics didn’t give ”The Attack of the Clones” a very warm reception. Do you think the third film will change their minds?
I hope so, yeah. There’s no question that there was an excitement on this film that wasn’t as prominent on the last. George’s approach was much more hands-on this time around as far as how much he wanted to relate and motivate and do all those things actors like to talk about. Just the inherent arc of what Anakin’s journey is is more enthralling than what was in the last film, and there was more for me to sink my teeth into. That final transition is one for the books.