Two words: The prequels. Even if his performance was award-winning—spoiler alert: it wasn’t—just the association with the universally panned Star Wars Trilogy: Episodes 1-3 would have been enough to stain Hayden Christensen’s resume. Just ask Natalie Portman.
Christensen was actually doing some of the best work of his career in between shooting the prequels, like his moving performance in Life as a House (2001) and his emotionally complex portrayal as disgraced reporter Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass (2003), but nobody cared about any of that after listening to Anakin Skywalker whine about how much he hates sand. When his turn to the dark side was complete, Christensen’s string of duds began.
After three years of eviscerating reviews and even worse box office results, Christensen pulled the plug, bought a farm, got married, and had a kid. To his credit, he told the Los Angeles Times that he felt he owed too much of his stardom to the Star Wars movies and that he knew the potential career risks of taking time off, but he did it anyway to see if he could “come back afterward and claw [his] way back in.” After five years, he made his return with 90 Minutes in Heaven (2015), which currently sits at a 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and has a box office return of just under its $5 million budget. Does that farm Christensen bought have any sort of claw sharpening equipment? Because he’s going to need it.