The M Interview: Daisy Ridley thought she ruined her Star Wars auditions
New Star Wars star Daisy Ridley on snagging the coveted roles and working with superstars
In keeping with a Star Wars tradition that unknown young actors are cast as leads, director JJ Abrams plucked 23-year-old British actress Daisy Ridley out of relative obscurity - and handed her the keys to the kingdom.
She plays female protagonist Rey in the hotly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens (and she is signed on for the next one as well).
On the official poster displayed at last week's press junket, hers was the biggest picture among the collage of characters, positioned right in the middle holding a lightsaber.
We are at the Los Angeles Convention Center and in person, Ridley looks like a young Keira Knightley, with boundless energy even at the end of a very long press day.
She scrunches up her eyes when she smiles widely, which she does often, adding to her already appealing persona, making it easy to see why she bagged this plummest of plum roles.
Since the auditions were held for unknowns, Ridley managed to get one, but it was far from smooth sailing. "I kind of thought I'd ruined the first few auditions, but (Abrams) saw some potential, I guess. I was allowed to go back and read again, and then I finally got the role a year-and-a-half ago now," she says.
She goes on to reveal what little she can tell about her character.
"I can tell you that she is an incredibly brave young woman who starts off alone and encounters Finn (John Boyega) and they go on an amazing adventure.
"She makes relationships she never could have imagined and she sees things she never could have imagined. Though it is a big action film, the emotional story is wonderful and I think that shines through."
Daisy Ridley with co-star John Boyega
Is she like Rey at all?
"She is braver than I am. She is aspirational for me as well as anyone watching the film.
"Her parents left her at five and we meet her when she is like late teens, early 20s.
"For someone to keep hopeful that there is a better life to come is astounding and to be so open to what is going on and so open to the relationships that she is building and the people she is meeting, I think that is wonderful.
"Though she starts off alone, she very much finds her place in a group of people."
Any young girl would be daunted by the prospect of playing this part, and Ridley - whose favourite film of the Star Wars series is Return Of The Jedi because she loves the Ewoks and favourite character Yoda because "he is funny and cool" - was no different.
Her biggest challenge was dealing with her own insecurities because "to be believed in by many other people is a wonderful thing, but to be unsure as to why they're believing in you is a totally different thing, a hurdle to cross".
She admits: "The first few days I was really like, 'Omigosh, I don't know what I'm doing.'"
Actually, Abrams thought her acting was wooden on Day One and there were reports that he made her cry.
Ridley hastens to disabuse us of the notion.
"No, no, no. We were on set and he was, like, 'Oh, it's a little bit wooden'. That was literally it. And to be honest, I was struggling at that point.
"But now looking back, looking at the film even though it was weird to watch myself, he definitely brought out the best I could have possibly given and he did not make me cry," she says.Her family, comprising two sisters and two half-sisters, have been supportive and she speaks fondly of them.
"All (my mum) wanted was for me to be working in something I wanted to do. Since (my parents are) not so immersed in that world, I'm not living a dream that they kind of wanted. I'm just their child embarking on this thing that makes me happy so yeah, they're, like, great."
The M Interview: John Boyega is set for sci-fi stardom
For a man whose world is going to be turned upside down, John Boyega seems unfazed as he strolls into the Los Angeles Convention Center dressed in jeans and leather jacket.
For this 23-year-old Briton, there was no long road to success. From his breakout role in Attack The Block (2011), he was singled out to lead the world's biggest franchise into the future as Stormtrooper Finn.
Boyega displays a sense of humour, banters with journalists and doesn't seem pressured in the least.
COOL: John Boyega (above, as Finn) is set for sci-fi stardom in the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens . PHOTOS: WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
What was the audition process?
I went through seven months of auditioning. It was back-to-back auditions with the casting director, and then I met with JJ (Abrams)... It was like they were just dangling the opportunity in front of my face and saying (makes a snatching back gesture), 'Oh, you don't have it yet.' I was always being called back, and then I had chemistry reads with Oscar (Isaac) and Daisy (Ridley). My last screen test, I had it with Chewbacca, in full costume and everything, which was fun.
What was your first reaction?
The main feeling I got was relief because it was such a long process.
Tell us what you can about Finn.
Stormtroopers are no longer clones, and they are bred from birth to fight under the First Order and the rule of Kylo Ren. And he decides he is not too sure of their policies in terms of conditions, so he escapes and meets Rey and (Dameron) Poe and (new droid) BB-8 and they all... go on a major adventure. And then obviously they cross paths with the older generation, Han Solo and Princess Leia, and that is how his adventure begins.
What was it like working with the famously grumpy Harrison Ford?
Finn and Han's relationship kind of mirrors mine and Harrison's. Basically we are best friends. He wouldn't say that, but we are. We are close. (Said totally tongue-in-cheek.)
Did he give you any advice?
I didn't have many serious conversations with Harrison. We were just talking about nonsense, and we were just bantering, cussing each other, and it was like, 'Harrison, are you my best friend?' 'No.' 'Why?' 'I don't like you, kid.' It's Harrison and that is how he says he really loves you, okay? I understand my best friend.
What about onscreen interaction?
Finn doesn't have as much respect for his legacy as everybody else does. And Han finds that a bit charming, and they team up. It is the older dude and younger son type of relationship.
What do you think of the Finn (Lego) figure?
I was going to send an official e-mail to Lego because I saw the hair and it looked permed. I was like, no man, that is an afro. Make it right... As soon as they got rid of the quiff, I was like, okay cool, he looks black.
What was most challenging part?
The costume, the Stormtrooper gear was a struggle. It chips underneath the armpits and in between the thighs and sometimes at your glutes, which can kind of make it a bit uncomfortable. And it is very snug.
What is your favourite Star Wars movie and character?
I like The Empire Strikes Back (and) Han Solo... I love characters who'd do what I'd do in that circumstance, what most humans would do, which is run away and survive. Like Han Solo, he is just trying to make a quick buck.. So I like the human in these kinds of space operas.
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