Kathleen Kennedy on bringing Hayden Christensen back to play Darth Vader — ‘we talked about it constantly’

The upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series will star the titular Jedi dealing with the consequences of his greatest defeat, one that directly involves Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader, but that didn’t make the inclusion of actor Hayden Christensen, who portrays the master’s former Padawan, a certainty. 

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy discussed the process that led to bringing back Christensen as Darth Vader:

“The debate around whether we should do that or not carried on for quite some time. Everybody within our creative team has strong opinions, and all of our fans have strong opinions. So when you realize that you’re under that level of scrutiny, certainly a story point like that is going to be scrutinized at a very high level. We talked about it constantly.”

Christensen first played Anakin Skywalker alongside Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan in 2002’s Attack of the Clones, and again in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, but the prequel trilogy movies weren’t well-received. The films have been ripped apart in comparison to the beloved original trilogy by adamant fans with strong opinions, and the fate of the Star Wars film franchise was left undetermined as a result of the backlash. This explains the hesitation about returning to this particular story.

When the series picks up, Obi-Wan will have last seen Darth Vader when they were dueling on the volcanic planet Mustafar. Anakin had been lured by the Dark Side, and despite his master’s valiant attempts, he was not convinced to return to the ways of the Jedi. It ended with Vader being badly burned by the lava river, and Obi-Wan leaving with Vader’s lightsaber.

Though the Star Wars movies Christensen appeared in didn’t garner much praise, Anakin was fleshed out in another medium. Created by Dave Filoni, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series premiered in 2008, and focused on Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin, and Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka Tano. This series was well-received, and restored much of the faith lost by Episodes 1-3. Multiple characters from the series have shown up in The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, including Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson), Bo Katan (Katee Sackhoff), and Cad Bane.

When the news came out that Christensen would be returning to the role of Anakin, the fanbase and McGregor were very excited. With time healing some of those wounds, plus the damage control exerted by Clone Wars, there’s a renewed interest in these two iconic characters sharing the screen again — even if it is under difficult circumstances. Hayden will have another reunion for the ages when he appears in Ahsoka.

Feel the force in Obi-Wan Kenobi when it premieres on Disney Plus May 25.