Having nabbed one of Young Hollywood's most coveted roles — he'll play Anakin Skywalker in the next two Star Wars flicks — Hayden Christensen knows his destiny is forever linked to Darth Vader's. Still, the level-headed 20-year-old hasn't gotten carried away by the celebrity that came with joining the "Dark Side."

"You need to give it the credence it deserves — which is not too much," says Christensen, who also co-stars with Kevin Kline in Life as a House (opening Friday). "I just don't take it too seriously. As long as I leave my ambitions where they were before all of this, it'll be alright."

As a relative newcomer to Tinseltown, the Canadian-born actor's anonymity was a key factor in landing his plum role, which he almost didn't audition for! "When I was told I had been accepted in the auditioning process," he says, "it just seemed so far-fetched that I just said, 'Oh, I can't really make it out for that. Sorry.'" Later, he passed on yet another opportunity to meet director George Lucas, due to a scheduling conflict.

Just when he thought he'd blown his chances, Christensen learned that the Star Wars creator still was willing to meet him — if he could pay his own way to Lucas's home base in Northern California. "I got myself over to the Skywalker Ranch, which is a pretty amazing place," he recalls. "We didn't talk much about Star Wars. It was just a meeting about my experience with acting. It went well, I guess."

Though very modest, he can't mask his enthusiasm about life on the set of Star Wars: Episode II &#150 Attack of the Clones, due out in May 2002. "The coolest thing was getting to wear the cloak," he marvels. "That cape is pretty empowering. The saber was very cool, too."

Indeed, wielding Anakin's hallowed lightsaber was a surreal thrill for Christensen, who admits he went a bit goofy until co-star Ewan McGregor — that's Obi-Wan Kenobi himself — stepped in with some advice:

"Whenever we'd be fighting, I'd be making all the [lightsaber] noises, like, 'Mmwoww, mmwoww, mmwoww,'" he laughs. "When Ewan was doing Episode I, he did the same thing at first. So his advice to me was not to do that... because they can add those noises afterwards."