How Turning Down Anakin Skywalker Saved Leonardo DiCaprio’s Career

Anakin Skywalker was a role that Star Wars fans were aching to see brought to life ever since hearing of his exploits in the original 1977 classic.

The character became an even more intriguing one a few years later when fans were shocked to find out that — SPOILER ALERT — he had not died in the Clone Wars, the victim of evil Jedi apprentice Darth Vader.

He was Darth Vader.

Then Return of the Jedi came, and fans were once again shocked to learn that the good side of Anakin Skywalker was still locked up somewhere in that dark cyborg body.

(Seriously, children of the ’80s still get chills every time they think about Darth Vader’s turn at the end of Jedi.)

When fans found out there were going to be prequels — three new movies that took place before the 1977 Star Wars that would feature Anakin Skywalker in the lead role — it was like a dream come true.

Then The Phantom Menace happened, and they met Jake Lloyd. Then Attack of the Clones happened, and they met Hayden Christensen. Then just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, they were forced to suffer through this.

Now, a new interview from star of The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio, reveals that it might have been the five-time Oscar nominee breathing life into the Anakin Skywalker character.

And for Leo’s sake, turning down the role is likely one that saved his career.

For starters, look at the career trajectories of Lloyd and Christensen. A large segment of the Star Wars Universe hates Lloyd for portraying “Ani” as a whiny kid, which isn’t really his fault since he was written that way.

They then turned on Christensen for “wooden” acting, made doubly worse by two maligned scripts that he had no control over.

Today, some fans actually think the first line of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was Disney’s way of acknowledging fan hatred for the prequels and offering a mea culpa.

To think Leonardo DiCaprio missed all of that, all because he had the foresight to turn down the role.

In the ShortList interview, DiCaprio graciously says that he “wasn’t ready to take that dive” when it came to playing the character.

He also turned down Spider-Man, which eventually went to Tobey Maguire, and Robin in Batman Forever, which became Chris O’Donnell’s.

While the first two Spider-Man films under director Sam Raimi went on to box office and critical success, the third film in that trilogy is often looked at with the same disdain as the Star Wars prequels and Batman Forever.

In turning down the roles, a then fresh-faced Leo having to fight against male audience resentment for his then-Justin Bieber-like face, dodged a few bullets.

He was not blamed with the failures that those franchises would eventually be responsible for, some sooner than others, and he went on to work with Martin Scorsese on Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Under Scorsese’s tutelage, DiCaprio grew from teen idol to seasoned, serious actor. Now, he’s in a position where he could throw his hat in the fantasy-superhero worlds if he wants to without being judged by the standards that killed Lloyd and Christensen’s careers.

Image via The Revenant screen grab
And not to pile on, but he also won two Golden Globe Awards since turning down Anakin Skywalker.

While the Star Wars Universe may wonder how the prequels might have turned out with Leo as Anakin Skywalker, it’s unlikely things would have gone much differently, and it might have killed DiCaprio’s career in the process.

Fortunately, according to the ShortList interview, DiCaprio is starting to rethink his eye for these types of films and it’s entirely possible that you may one day see him don tights or pick up a blaster.

“You never know,” he said when asked of the possibility. “You never know. They’re getting better and better as far as complex characters in these movies. I haven’t yet. But no, I don’t rule out anything.”

Are you glad Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the Anakin Skywalker role, and do you think taking the role would have helped or hurt his career? Sound off in the comments section.

[Image via Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock]