‘Force Awakens’ stars reveal interesting details
LOS ANGELES—The principal actors of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” are tight-lipped about many details of their little film, but we somehow managed to pry some information out of them in separate interviews held recently at the LA Convention Center. Well, except perhaps the irrepressible Carrie Fisher, who was hilariously candid (more about her in a separate column).
JJ Abrams’ cast smiled, laughed or charmed their way to avoid disclosing more than they should. But one thing seems certain, based on those chats—newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega will emerge as stars once this movie comes out.
Excerpts from our interview:
Daisy Ridley (Rey)
I can tell you that she is an incredibly brave young woman who starts off alone and encounters Finn who’s played by John Boyega. They go on an amazing adventure, and she makes relationships she never could have imagined.
To play her is wonderful because although it’s a big action film, the emotional story is wonderful!
She’s braver than I am. She’s aspirational for me, as well as for anyone watching the film. That’s why she is such a brilliant character. Rey’s parents left her at 5. We meet her when she’s in her late teens, early 20s.
For someone to keep hopeful that there’s a better life to come is astounding. Although she starts off alone, she finds her place in a group of people, and that’s lovely.
I would say the most challenging part was having insecurities about myself, 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.
So, on the first few days, I was like, Oh my gosh, I don’t know what I’m doing! On the first day, we stepped into this stunning desert vista that represents Jakku. There were speeders, creatures and everything. It’s exactly what JJ wanted! It was truly amazing.
I remember the first scene we did for the behind-the-scenes thing was they showed me hugging JJ.
Putting on muscle is difficult, because I tend to have to lose weight for roles. But I had to look like I could really look after myself, so there was a lot of eating and weight-lifting. But I loved it!
What’s weird is that Rey’s hair is only like that (like Princess Leia’s) in one scene. The fact that it’s that iconic is crazy. There were many jokes on how to make the hairstyle, so we called them “3 knobs.” So, my hair, makeup and costume were the “3 knobs.”
We tried a variety of things with the costume and hair. When we got the costume right, there was a roomful of people. It felt like when something changes, the atmosphere changes, too.
Then, with the hair, the same thing happened. It felt good to wear the costume. It all combined so well to reflect the desert.
Everything has a purpose and the hair is obviously out of her face while she kicks ass. It took a full hour-and-a-half to do the hair and makeup.
Adam Driver (Kylo Ren)
He’s very…unpolished would be a good word to describe him. It’s obviously 30 years after the original trilogy and… unpolished, unfinished new things are happening, if that makes any sense. JJ did something in pushing it into places that are unconventional.
My character, specifically—a lot of the storytelling for him— is in the costume. It’s banged up, and it has a history to it. There’s nothing perfect about it. The lightsaber isn’t quite right; the helmet is not quite polished. That says a lot about where that character starts, I’d say.
I don’t think my character, Kylo Ren, thinks of himself as bad. I wouldn’t qualify him as Darth Vader necessarily because I guess it all depends on what gets you off. Of course, there are lots of bad people, but nobody that I want to compare to Darth Vader—because in my world, he isn’t such a bad guy, I would say, but there’s plenty of evil out there in the world!
What’s unique about this movie is that to you, Darth Vader is a real person. So, even though it’s a long time ago in a galaxy far away, you have to make it as real as possible. So there were lots of conversations with JJ and talking about the original movies that inspired those movies, going back to Kurosawa, Samurai and the armor. That’s how we started grounding it in something real.
I was more involved in what the costume is, but a lot of it was figured out before I got there by Michael Kaplan (costume designer), who’s a genius.
Physically, the costume was uncomfortable. By the time I put it on, I was pretty pissed (laughs). Then, throughout the day, it was very hot. But also because you’re very nervous, and you can’t see anything… But again, maybe that’s good, because the character himself is uncomfortable. He’s not easy.
When we started, it took like 30, 40 minutes to get into the costume. By the last week, it took 10, 15 minutes to get into it, because we figured out a lot of zippers. It was like four layers of black leather.
Sometimes, I get ready for a scene, then nothing happens.
I probably didn’t want to talk to people sometimes and wanted to hide the fear that was going on underneath the mask. So there are lots of different reasons why I kept it on.
Carrie Fisher (Leia)
I have a new hairstyle very briefly, but it reminds me of a baboon ass, so that is the next level for me.
They keep telling me I (her character) am (passing the baton to Daisy’s Rey) so, yes. Daisy is great! She’s a really good actress, much better than I was, am, will be.
I always think I look like I’m wearing a, what is it called? A gas attendant (uniform)—someone who puts gas in the car. My fashion is a little like high-fashion gas attendant.
I didn’t know I was a general until recently. I really didn’t!
Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron)
He is a pilot for the resistance. He is a little reckless sometimes, but he is very committed to the cause. Part of his journey is finding out how to truly be a hero and leader, and finding his way. That’s what a lot of the themes of these films are about and especially this one—how to find your place within this world, within the galaxy.
For me, hair was the biggest challenge (laughs). There was so much attention to the hair, which was frustrating, because they didn’t accept that I had curly hair. They wanted it somewhere in between.
So there were people constantly running in to make it a little less curly. Then, it’s too perfect and now it has to be a little bit more messy. So, there was something always going on with the hair. When you are doing a take, then suddenly, Kathy Kennedy (producer) is running up and she is fixing your hair (laughs)…
John Boyega (Finn)
My character is known as Finn, or FN287 at the beginning of the movie. He’s just a Stormtrooper. Stormtroopers are no longer clones, so they are bred from birth to fight. So Finn escapes and meets Rey, Poe and BB-8. They all get meshed together in terms of their stories and go on a major adventure. They cross paths with the older generation, Han Solo and General Leia, and that’s how his adventure begins.
What is so great about this movie is that Finn and Han’s relationship mirrors mine and Harrison’s.
Basically, we are best friends. He wouldn’t say that, but we are close. And Finn doesn’t have as much respect for Han’s legacy as everybody else does. Han finds that charming, and they team up and obviously go on a mission together.
It’s just the older dude-younger training son type of relationship. He is casual, and the banter is choppy. The dialogue is pretty funny. It feels like with Han and Finn, Chewie is just enjoying the banter between these two and the friction, but they definitely do have each other’s backs.
I would say definitely the costume… the Stormtrooper gear was a struggle. It chips underneath the armpit and in between the thighs and sometimes in between your glute, which can make it uncomfortable. It’s very snug and fitted. I had to do a lot of running through the desert in it. It took a lot of getting used to it. They modified the costume a few times to make it more comfortable. But obviously, it’s never going to be the most comfortable thing to wear, so that was definitely a challenge.
Harrison Ford (Han Solo)
It’s interesting that the character was written to be consistent with the character that we have met years ago. But he’s like a bigger tree. There are more rings in the trunk, and he has had more experience.
It should be apparent… that he has had experiences that have changed him. It’s the same guy and the same thing–only better.
The Millennium Falcon (spacecraft commanded by Han Solo) never breaks. And you can put it down anywhere. The one that I put on a golf course (last March) was the first airplane that I ever had.
The Millennium Falcon is infallible and the other one disappointed me. The Millennium Falcon is the same except it’s got a hydraulic door, which wasn’t a good idea.
The movies are all about pretending. Oscar Isaac asked me because he knew I was a pilot. He said, “We’ve got to fly this X-Wing thing. What do you think I ought to do?” I said, “You ought to just make s*** up because nobody knows. Just don’t worry about it—you’re going to be fine. That’s what he did.
You will see new things that you have never seen before; and you will also see a lot of old things that you have seen before. But you will see them in a different way.
Technology has changed a lot, so the toys may have the power to lead you to believe in them even more according to the capacity that we now have graphically and physically to represent them.
John Boyega is a distinct individual. He’s got an interesting background—Nigerian—and he is a cartoonist. He’s got a wonderful sensibility for putting ideas into drawings. He is a fascinating guy, and he’s very talented. I think he is going to have a wonderful career.
Let’s not leave the girls out—Daisy Ridley is an incredible find! She has not been in much—a couple of television things. She is extraordinarily powerful onscreen, and she has strength and vulnerability. She is going to have an amazing career, as well. It’s such a delight to work with them! They were really fun to be with.
Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata)
Maz is a pirate who has been alive for a while. She has a colorful past and runs what we would call a watering hole.
Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma)
My character is a member of the first order. She is captain of the Stormtroopers and a member of the Dark Side. That is pretty much everything I can give you, but I’m working on it (laughs).
Kathleen Kennedy (producer)
We are right now shooting “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which is a digital movie, but we pulled all the original Panavision lenses that were used for “Ben-Hur,” and we are using those lenses on Airey cameras to create the look of the film. And in “Episode VIII,” we will go back and do entirely on film as we did on “VII.” This was all on film.
We are doing a release with this film on Dolby (Cinema high) dynamic range. It’s a fascinating and fantastic technology that allows you to actually see an image in a way that comes closer to what the eye actually sees.
JJ Abrams (director)
And in IMAX laser projection, which is that the blacks are absolute blacks and it’s just an incredible experience!
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