Actor Harrison Ford and director J.J. Abrams weren’t the only ones with pressure on their shoulders in delivering the goods in “The Force Awakens.”
A cast full of a new hope for the future of the series includes relative new-comers like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega as well as some already acclaimed actors such as Oscar Isaac (previously seen in “Ex-Machina” and “A Most Violent Year”) and Adam Driver (known for his turn in “Girls”).
Isaac, Boyega and Ridley all talked to the Associated Press about their experience filming the latest chapter in the sci-fi saga.
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, the hero fighter pilot
“Poe? He’s got inner song happening all the time.”
Isaac can’t reveal too much about his character, but he did say that he prepared for the role by reading real-life accounts of WWII fighter pilots, who he describes as “the closest thing to superheroes that we have.”
“They soar above all the rest of us at incredible speeds and they have to have so many things clear in their minds,” he said. “There’s so many things happening. So the fact that they can do this and survive and excel gives them a sense of invincibility, a sense of immortality. And some swagger.”
Isaac may need some of that swagger himself when his roles in “Star Wars” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” make him a big-screen hero. He said he’s “not looking forward” to the possibility of big fame, but he is enjoying seeing his image as an action figure.
“I think even more trippy is the Go-Gurt with my face on it. You can drink yogurt out of my head,” he said. “I haven’t done it yet. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it. It might be too meta for me.”
Daisy Ridley as Rey, the pilot protagonist who is mysterious
“The Force Awakens” is Ridley’s film debut.
The hardest thing about the job, Ridley said, was overcoming her own fears.
“It’s one thing for other people to see potential in you and it’s quite another for you to understand that and see it in yourself,” she said. “So of course everyone else being wonderful helps, but there’s a certain level of growth and stuff you have to do as a person... It’s just like life times a million.”
The actress did undergo months of physical training to prepare for her role, a regimen that included weightlifting, climbing and “staff training” — footage shows Rey running and fighting with a staff. How much different could a lightsaber be?
“I had to look like I could look after myself in the desert and drag and scavenging things across sand,” she said.
The youngest of five, Ridley appeared in small roles in medical and crime television dramas in the U.K. before capturing director J.J. Abrams’ attention in her audition for “The Force Awakens.”
One thing the actress isn’t prepared for is the level of fame she’s likely to experience. She tries not to think about it.
“The fame side of things is a weird twist that I’m not kind of interested in,” she said. “If I was going to be recognized for anything, ‘Star Wars’ is all right.”
John Boyega as Finn, the stormtrooper who defects
The British-born actor wasn’t a complete unknown when he was cast, but it was a stratospheric jump to go from the 2011 cult favorite “Attack the Block” to suddenly being one of the key players in launching this new iteration of a multi-billion dollar franchise.
Although he trained and auditioned extensively, he still felt unsure about the future. He didn’t want to burden his fellow veteran cast mates like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill with questions about their experiences and how they handled their light speed ascendancy to otherworldly stardom.
“They’re my co-stars and we were in a working environment,” said Boyega. “It’s not a place for teaching and all that.”
At the time, Boyega’s talent agency, CAA, also represented “Iron Man” star Robert Downey Jr., who is no stranger to this sort of fame. So he sent an email to Downey’s agent saying, essentially, “Hi, I’m John. I’m going to be in ‘Star Wars.’ If he has time, can Robert Downey Jr. mentor me?”
He wasn’t exactly sure that it would result in anything, but figured it was worth a shot. Later, Boyega remembers he was driving in London when he got a call from an unknown number.
“Who’s this?” Boyega demanded.
“It’s Robert,” the voice said.
“Robert who, man?”
“Uh, Robert, Downey Jr.”
“I’m like, oh crap! Iron Man!” Boyega recalled. “I had better park up.”
They talked for two hours that day. It was the start of a true friendship that’s since resulted in more hours-long chats, hang-outs, and even a chicken and waffles date.
“Good lord we get deep,” Boyega said of their conversations. “For the most part it’s definitely private, but in general, his thing has always been inner peace and how to deal with this on a mental level. Taking care of your mental health is something that he talks to me about.”
“He’s really changed my life with his advice.”
Whether it’s Downey’s influence or not, Boyega has been weathering the attention with expert grace — even the ugly stuff. Some dark corners of the Internet have made Boyega’s race somewhat of a thing.
When the first teaser debuted last year and Boyega’s face was the first thing to appear on screen, (hash)blackstormtrooper started trending on Twitter. And it wouldn’t be the last time racism would seep through the generally positive enthusiasm for the film, either.
“I’m a strong individual. That’s what I’ve learned in this process,” Boyega said.