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Life after ‘Star Wars’

By Susan King, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Life after “Star Wars” has been a mixed bag for the stars of the six out-of-this-world entries in George Lucas’ blockbuster sci-fi franchise.

Granted, several “Star Wars” faces including Alec Guinness, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits and Ewan McGregor were established actors before traveling to a galaxy far, far away. But as far as the “younger” players in the films, only Harrison Ford became a bona fide superstar.

Here’s a look at several “Star Wars” troupe members and how the films catapulted them into the stratosphere -- or landed them a one-way ticket to the Death Star.

 (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Hayden Christensen

Movies: “Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones”; “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith”

Character: Anakin Skywalker -- the man who would become Darth Vader.

Status: The jury is still out on the tall, handsome actor who began his career on TV as a teen. He was quite impressive as a troubled teen in the 2001 film “Life as a House” with Kevin Kline, for which he was nominated for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. However, he ran the gamut of emotions from A to A- in his outings as Anakin -- he had barely any chemistry with costar Natalie Portman -- and he received two Razzie Awards for worst supporting actor for those films.

In between the “Star Wars” vehicles, Christensen made an indelible impression as writer Stephen Glass in the drama “Shattered Glass.” But he was woefully miscast as a Bob Dylan type in 2006’s “Factory Girl.” Even worse was the 2007 thriller “Awake,” which wasn’t even screened for critics. His more recent movies -- “Jumper” (2008), Takers” (2010) and “Vanishing on 7th Street” (2010) -- have all afforded him starring roles, but a breakout film has yet to emerge.

 (Keith Hamshere / Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Natalie Portman

Movies: “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace”; “Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones”; “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith”

Character: Padme, who becomes Queen Amidala -- the wife of Anakin Skywalker and the mother of Luke and Princess Leia.

Report: Portman had been acting in films since she was cast as a street smart young girl who befriends a hired assassin in Luc Besson’s 1994 thriller “The Professional.” The Israeli native turned down the opportunity to do the film “The Horse Whisperer” so she could star on Broadway in the revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Save for her “Star Wars” stints, she turned down other roles so she could go to Harvard University.

She received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for her role in Mike Nichols’ 2004 dark romantic drama “Closer,” for which she shot an explicit nude scene that was left on the cutting room floor. She also scored a hit -- and shaved her hair and learned a British accent -- for the 2005 futuristic thriller “V for Vendetta.” And it may have sounded liked a great idea to work for director Milos Forman and with actor Javier Bardem in “Goya’s Ghosts,” which was released here in the U.S., but the film arrived DOA with critics and audiences alike. Moviegoers also steered clear of “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” with Dustin Hoffman. But her instincts were validated when in 2011, Portman won an Oscar for playing an unbalanced ballerina in “Black Swan.” “Thor,” “Your Highness” and “No Strings Attached” followed, but “Swan” has been a high point.

 (Keith Hamshere / Lucasfilm Ltd.)
Jake Lloyd

Movie: “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace”

Character: Little Anakin Skywalker

Report: The actor has appeared in such films as “Jingle All the Way” and “Unhook the Stars” when he won the role to play young Anakin. But what did Lucas see in him? He has as much charisma as a paper plate. No one could believe that this petulant child would turn into the man in black. He’s acted sporadically since in “Madison,” which was shot in 2001 but released in 2005. (Keith Hamshere / AP)
Ray Park

Movie: “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace”

Character: Darth Maul

Report: The Scotsman added much-needed zip with his flashy martial arts choreography in his role as the villainous Darth Maul. He’s appeared in several action films since “Star Wars” including the role of Toad in “X-Men” and A.J. Ross in “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever” and is filming a TV series called “The Legend of Bruce Lee” in which he plays Mike Huckabee’s best buddy, Chuck Norris. He also played Snakes Eyes in “G.I. Joe” and will again in the sequel “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” (Bill Kaye / AFP)
Ahmed Best

Movies: “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace”; “Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones”; “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith”

Character: Jar Jar Binks

Report: The winner of the Razzie for worst supporting actor for “Star Wars: Episode I” and a nominee for worst new star of the decade. Best was a member of the show “Stomp” before he was cast as the voice actor and body model for Jar Jar Binks, the dimwitted sidekick in the first of the new “Star Wars” films. Thankfully, his role was cut down severely in the next two films. He’s reprised the role on the “Star Wars” themed episode of “Robot Chicken” as well as on an installment of “The Colbert Report.”

Best has worked as a voice-over actor on several projects including “Scarface: The World Is Yours” and “Kangaroo Jack: G’Day USA!” and as a live-action performer on “Alias” and in the films “Open Window” and “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute.” (Lucasfilm Ltd.)
Mark Hamill

Movies: “Stars Wars: Episode IV A New Hope”; “Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back” and “Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi”

Character: Luke Skywalker

Report: Hamill began working on TV as a teenager in the early 1970s -- he played Kent Murray on “General Hospital” -- before being cast as Luke Skywalker -- the naive farm boy who becomes a brave Jedi Knight only to discover that the evil Darth Vader is actually his pops. Shortly after making “Star Wars,” Hamill was in a major car crash -- the injuries altered his facial features.

Hamill appeared in the underrated romantic comedy “Corvette Summer” and in the 1980s appeared on Broadway and on the national tour of “Amadeus.” But mainly he is known for his colorful and prolific body of voice-over work -- such as the Joker on the animated “Batman” series -- and as co-writer of “The Black Pearl,” a comic book miniseries published by Dark Horse Comics. He later directed “Comic Book: The Movie” in 2004, and currently has a recurring role as Skips in Cartoon Network’s “Regular Show.” (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Carrie Fisher

Movies: “Stars Wars: Episode IV A New Hope”; “Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back”; “Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi”

Character: Princess Leia

Report: The daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Fisher made her film debut as a wealthy teenager in 1975’s “Shampoo” before being cast in “Star Wars” at the age of 19. Post-"Star Wars,” Fisher has been cast in supporting roles in films -- usually as the acerbic best friend -- and in various guest spots on TV, most recently on “30 Rock.” Fisher developed a separate career as a bestselling novelist of such thinly disguised autobiographical novels as “Postcards From the Edge.” A well-respected script doctor, she’s even been a writer on the Academy Awards. And her turbulent life -- including drug problems, failed marriages and struggles with bipolar disorder -- has been an open book and even a stage play. Currently, she has a recurring role -- Angela as Mon Mothma -- on “Family Guy.”

 (Damon Winter / Los Angeles Times)
Harrison Ford

Movies: “Stars Wars: Episode IV A New Hope”; “Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back”; “Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi”

Role: Han Solo

Report: Ford had been kicking around Hollywood for over a decade -- he starred in Lucas’ 1973 hit “American Graffiti” -- when he was cast as the swaggering rogue Han Solo, commander of the Millennium Falcon.

Suddenly, this part-time carpenter became not only an overnight sensation, but a sex symbol to boot. Though his film career has taken a hit this decade -- the last “Indiana Jones” adventure was not highly thought of -- Ford is one of cinema’s biggest box office stars. He’ll have another go at his iconic character in “Indiana Jones V,” and recently played another grizzled hero in “Cowboys & Aliens.” Though mainly cast as a two-fisted action hero, he did show his tender side, receiving a best actor Oscar nomination in the process, in the 1985 hit “Witness.” (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)