Many aspects of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” remain shrouded in secrecy, from the plot to the character arcs to the location of the press junket which took place this weekend. But it may comfort curious fans to learn that the cast of “Episode VII” is just as oblivious as viewers are in some respects, as the actors admitted during Sunday’s press conference for the highly anticipated sci-fi sequel.
“I didn’t know much going in,” said John Boyega (who plays First Order Stormtrooper-turned-defector Finn), recalling that he had little information about his character except for the vague casting sides that he auditioned with. “I just remember during my time screen-testing, I was like, to Daisy [Ridley], ‘there’s no way that our stories are so simple,’ and we still don’t know! So I’ve still got some conspiracy theories as a fan as to where Finn comes from and I’m still trying to figure that out, but I like that it’s a mystery.”
Following that comment to its logical conclusion, Boyega’s statement seems to imply that we may not get any substantial backstory for Finn or Ridley’s Rey until “Episode VIII” or “IX” — which makes sense, given that we didn’t learn that Darth Vader was Luke’s father until “The Empire Strikes Back,” or that Leia was Luke’s sister until “Return of the Jedi.” Historically, “Star Wars” is used to playing the long con — the only difference is, people had to be more patient in a time before social media and set leaks.
Boyega has kept up with the fan theories about his character, too, admitting that he read one about Finn being related to Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu. “I was at a party and someone behind me just tapped me on the shoulder and was like ‘Yo, black Jedi!’ I turned around and it was Samuel L. Jackson,” Boyega laughed. “He was like, ‘You’re my son!'”
Director J.J. Abrams has admitted that they’ve purposefully withheld Finn and Rey’s last names from the promotional materials for “The Force Awakens,” meaning that there could be a connection between the newcomers and existing “Star Wars” characters, but it sounds like we could be waiting until 2019 to know for sure.
Even Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy doesn’t have all the answers. “We haven’t mapped out every single detail yet,” she said of the plots for the three sequels. “But obviously everybody’s talking to one other and working together … that collaboration is going to guarantee that everybody’s got a say in how we move forward with this.”
She explained that Abrams has “already talked at length” with “Episode VIII” writer/director Rian Johnson, “because Rian’s about to start shooting ‘Episode VIII.’ These guys are getting ready to head over in January,” she added, gesturing to Boyega and (we assume, since she used the plural), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) and Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), who were sitting beside them at the press conference. (Ford was on Kennedy’s other side, for what it’s worth.)
Kennedy added that “Episode IX” director Colin Trevorrow will then start working with Johnson and spend “a lot of time on the set with him” to ensure that the transition between directors is as smooth as possible.
It certainly sounds like Isaac and Christie could be around for the long haul; both praised their collaborative relationship with Abrams in forming their characters.
“I was so heartened that it was a genuine creative experience to work with J.J. about who the character was and to develop that together,” Christie remarked. “And really, without horribly ruining everything for everyone … It’s interesting to see where my character may go,” she trailed off cryptically before laughing, “Isn’t that interesting?”
Isaac agreed that there was “an evolution of the character” between his first meeting with Abrams, Kennedy and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and what ended up on screen, noting that he utilized his Guatemalan heritage in forming the character of Poe. “After we started filming, I was talking a bit about where could Poe have been. At the very end of ‘New Hope,’ the medal ceremony, one of Guatemala’s claims to fame is that that last shot where the ships are leaving, where you see the temples, was shot in Guatemala,” he explained.
“For me, the fact that I was born there and that’s a rebel base and I’m playing a Resistance fighter, maybe Poe was there, that’s where he’s from, and then this comic book comes out in ‘Shattered Empire’ where Poe’s parents ended up going to Yavin 4 and making sweet love,” Isaac laughed. “So that’s an amazing thing, if the first time you’re talking about where your character’s gonna come from, ends up in a comic book … it feels like we’re creating these things together.”
Adam Driver, who plays the villainous Kylo Ren, also offered a few more details about his masked character, who faces off with Rey and Finn in the trailers, wielding that intimidating red crossguard lightsaber.
“He’s a great cook, he’s a Scorpio …” he joked, before adding more seriously, “He’s very unpolished and unfinished.” He noted that Kylo’s “recklessness” is an interesting counterpoint to how we usually picture members of the Dark Side, who seem “organized and very controlled and calm and in command.”
Kasdan agreed, “That’s why we were so excited about Adam playing this part because there’s never been a character like Kylo in the saga. No, he hasn’t got his s— all together, and Adam acts it so beautifully … What you’re getting is all the contradictions and conflict that any one of us can feel at any moment.”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hits theaters on Dec. 18.