Daisy Ridley is living the dream of so many aspiring actors who hope to find a role that helps pay the rent and gives them the kind of exposure that leads to more work down the road. However, never did she dare imagine that her first major film role would see her become part of the Star Wars film franchise and one of the greatest sagas in movie history.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, much of the intrigue centres around the meeting between Rey and Luke Skywalker. Much to her surprise, Luke is not at all happy to see her nor is he thrilled to be getting his lightsabre back.
“She thinks there’s going to be a warm welcome. But Luke went to this island to get away and he doesn’t want to be disturbed,” Ridley explained. But Luke takes a tremendous journey from the beginning of the relationship to ultimately where they end up in the film.”
Directed and written by Rian Johnson (Looper), The Last Jedi stars Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, and Benicio Del Toro.
Though she’s not allowed to reveal too many of The Last Jedi’s closely guarded plot details, she had offered this interesting insight into the tantalising relationship between her character Rey and that of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren: “What you should pay attention to is that The Last Jedi is putting out the message that things might not always be so clearly black-and-white,” said Ridley. “The dividing line between good and evil is becoming more and more ambiguous, and you could say that the relationship between Rey and Kylo symbolizes that.”
Added Ridley: “Kylo actually believes that his own actions are correct. What about Rey?” Ridley said. “Will she make the right choice? Through such multifaceted characters, [the movie] brings out truths that have never been seen before. The ideas that Johnson has are really amazing!”
Daisy Ridley grew up in the west part of London and is the youngest of five sisters. Her father is a professional photographer while her mother works as a communications officer for a major London bank. Though it wasn’t a decisive factor in her becoming an actress, her uncle Arnold Ridley was once a popular British actor. As a teenager, she trained mainly as a dancer and singer at a performance arts school before a theatre coach inspired her to shift her ambitions towards acting.
In person, the 25-year-old Ridley carries herself with the determined and happy-go-lucky air of a young woman in the midst of a burgeoning career. Waving to her legions of admirers looking ultra-chic in her Paco Rabane suit, Ridley is now basking in the attention that comes with her new status as Star Wars’s preeminent heroine. In addition to the upcoming The Last Jedi, she can currently be seen in Kenneth Branagh’s critical and box-office smash, Murder on the Orient Express.
Q: Daisy, how much has your life changed since your big breakthrough in Star Wars: The Force Awakens two years ago?
RIDLEY: It’s only changed professionally: I have greater access to roles that I would never have been offered before. After the first Star Wars I didn’t work for a year because I couldn’t find a project with a dynamic female role. So I waited. I’m not interested in playing someone’s girlfriend, the female character whose only purpose is to support the man, unless there is a solid story behind it.
But as far as my private life is concerned, it’s all the same. I live in the same apartment, I have the same friends, and I try to see my family as often as possible. The only difference is that it’s more difficult to do simple things, like getting out for a coffee without being recognized. But please don’t misunderstand me, I’m grateful for the success I have, even though I’ll never be the kind of person who craves celebrity attention.
Was it easier or harder to play Rey the second time out in The Last Jedi?
It might seem strange to say, but there was more pressure doing this one. I might have felt more comfortable on a big set and accustomed to working with a large crew and so many outstanding actors, but I felt the responsibility that comes with not wanting to let audiences down.
Rey had a big impact on people in The Force Awakens and especially on young women, so I felt the weight of taking the character forward and being very conscious of representing women in a strong and positive way.
Do you still worry about how audiences will react to The Last Jedi now that they are already familiar with your character?
I try not to think too much about expectations or, otherwise, I think it would drive me crazy. The biggest stress for me has been to overcome my nerves. We all want people to respond to the story and like it and hopefully audiences will enjoy it.
It’s been nearly a year since Carrie Fisher passed away, only a few weeks after completing her work on The Last Jedi. What are your thoughts about her?
I miss her and we’re all going to miss her. But this film is beautiful and it’s also a beautiful tribute to her. So we will have to carry on without her, although we know it will be difficult not to have her with us anymore.
Have your thoughts about being part of the Star Wars franchise changed at all after completing the second movie?
Every day I feel that I’m appreciating more about the saga. I feel that I’m evolving with the story and it’s great to see the devotion that it generates in so many people.
Looking back, how did you handle the initial challenge of becoming part of the Star Wars family?
Everyone helped me in the process when it all started happening. It was a lot for me to deal with. When you sign up to be part of a film like that, you can’t possibly realize the impact that Star Wars would have on you. There were many things that came with it—being recognized all the time, having people come up to you in the street—that I did not know would be part of all this and it was a bit overwhelming for me as a 22 year old girl…
But in the last few years I’ve become much more comfortable with everything and now I’m really enjoying taking it all on.
What is it about Rey that makes her an exceptional woman?
She’s an ordinary girl who finds herself in extraordinary situations and she’s the embodiment of a strong and independent woman. Rey gets pushed beyond her limits and meets people and gets drawn into this great journey where she exceeds her own expectations and wants to do the right thing.
She’s afraid at times but she learns to overcome her fear and face up to some very difficult challenges. Audiences relate to her more in terms of her overall human qualities and character than her femininity.
Are you proud of playing a strong female character in a major film franchise like this which millions of young women will be seeing?
It’s important that more films are made where women are shown telling their own stories and that neither the female character nor her story is dependent on the male character. We need to have more films where you have the female lead responsible for her own journey and where you see the story told more from her perspective.
You first studied acting at the prestigious Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. Was acting always your dream?
Actually, it was my mother Louise, the woman I admire most in the world, who enrolled me in that school because I had too much energy. As a child I was very active and boisterous. I didn’t like studying—I preferred to run and roll around in the sand instead of playing with dolls.
Your great uncle Arnold Ridley was a prominent actor, wasn’t he?
Yes. He was in ‘Dad’s Army’…It was a hugely popular show in England. My dad also acted when he was younger, and both my parents are very creative. …So there must be something of that in me.
Star Wars has obviously changed your life. But it’s ironic in a way that you were never a big Star Wars fan yourself?
I had seen the films as a child but I wasn’t a massive fan. I remember seeing Episode III in cinema and ever since Star Wars has been a part of my subconscious. Growing up I was always aware of the mythology surrounding Star Wars because it’s such a pop-culture phenomenon.
Do you still remember what it felt like when you first found out that you were going to be playing Rey and become part of film history?
It was the greatest day of my life. I did five auditions over a period of seven months and I never dared let myself believe that I was going to get the part. I didn’t feel that I had been doing a good job during the auditions but at some point I had the feeling that I might be in the running but I didn’t want to let myself get my hopes up. But a few days after my final audition, which was the first time I got to read a scene from the film, J.J. (Abrams) called and told me that I had the part.
I was so happy, but also terrified. It was the kind of thing where you feel it’s not real and I spent the next few months worried and thinking, “Oh, no, they’re going to discover that I’m a fraud!” It was like riding a rollercoaster.
Cviva press 2017