John Boyega: New ‘Star Wars’ Is ‘Darker, Bigger’ Than ‘Force Awakens’

John Boyega Bel Powley
Courtesy of Chopard

CANNES — “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” breakout John Boyega and “Diary of a Teenage Girl” star Bel Powley made their debut at Cannes last night, receiving this year’s Chopard Trophy from from the hands of Juliette Binoche and Variety Vice President and Executive Editor Steven Gaydos.

The pair, who had never met, said they immediately clicked, and it showed when they started joshing around at the cocktail, which gathered high-profile guests, including Cannes President Pierre Lescure; Cannes jury members Kirsten Dunst, Mads Mikkelsen and Laszlo Nemes; Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele; and producer Elizabeth Karlsen. The duo sat down with Variety following the ceremony to talk about their blossoming careers.

Variety: So it’s your first time in Cannes and you got here 12 hours ago. Have you had any interesting encounters?

Boyega: We met each other and that’s already great! Our paths have always crossed, but we’ve never had an official conversation.

Powley: We’ve been at the same places but we’ve never actually conversed.

So maybe one day you can star in a movie together. So tell me, you’re shooting the next “Star Wars” installment?

Boyega: Yes, I’m in the thick of it now so it’s nice to be here, see the view and then go back.

And then, straight back into the shoot?

Boyega: Yes, straight back.

I loved the developing romance between your character, Finn and Rey in “The Force Awakens.” How is that romance evolving in the next chapter?

Boyega: I mean, we didn’t establish a romance in seven; we never played it that way. Daisy and I, we’re friends.

So there’s no romance?

Boyega: Yes, Finn and Rey – they’re just friends. Finn is a storm trooper, so he doesn’t really know what’s going on. So the romance thing is something that’s going to be interesting in the next installment. It’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to go.

And how is it working with Rian Johnson after having worked with J.J. Abrams?

Boyega: It’s very easy. Rian Johnson is great. It’s a different take, darker, bigger. Someone will say: “How do you get bigger than ‘Force Awakens?'” But it’s crazy.

Does your character get darker?

Boyega: My skin color does because of the heat on the job! That’s me dodging your question because Disney has spies everywhere. If I answer this, I get killed, and I’m not in episode nine.

Fair enough! What about you Bel? Seems like you’ve got a lot of projects on your plate.

Powley: Yes, I just shot four movies back to back.

What’s the one you just wrapped?

Powley: I just wrapped a movie called “Storm in the Stars” by an amazing director Haifaa al-Mansour, she made “Wadjda,” which was sent to the Oscars by Saudi Arabia.

I saw that “Wadjda” did really well in the U.S.

Powley: Oh my God, yes. I just shot her second movie, which is a bit of a departure from “Wadjda.” It’s about Mary Shelley and her sister Claire Clairmont in the years before Mary wrote “Frankenstein.” So it’s kind of a feminist take on what it means to be a woman in the late 1800s. Elle Fanning plays Mary Shelley and I play Claire. It’s a crazy story.

So it’s character-driven?

Powley: Very character-driven and feminist again.

So those are the types of movies you’re looking for?

Powley: Yes, I’m open to any kind of role. Just like last four movies, I’ve shot a comedy, an elevated horror thriller, and two period movies. So as long as the female character is well grounded and 3D. I’m not going to play someone’s girlfriend.

You want leading roles?

Powley: That’s the plan. Of course, supporting roles are amazing as well. I want to play strong woman no matter what. People need to write more movies about women. I’m very supportive of that.

Would you be open to play in a movie like “Star Wars”?

Powley: Well, now I know that he doesn’t have a love interest in “Star Wars,” I’m like kind of. It’s a possibility. It’s an option.

Boyega: Sounds good! Like a “Star Wars” spinoff.

What about you? I know you’re doing a play.

Boyega: Yes, that starts in January. “Woyzeck” at the Old Vic. It’s a German play, it’s strange to go back to theater. I haven’t been back since I started. There’s a lot of secrecy around it, but it’s an interesting take on the play. And then I shot “The Circle” with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. I did that between 7 and 8. I think we’re coming with “Imperial Dreams” later this year.

What’s the next indie movie that you’re going to shoot?

Boyega: Well, I’m going back to “Star Wars” and after that I’m going to take a break. For like two weeks.

How many “Star Wars” did you commit to?

Boyega: We’re doing a trilogy (7, 8, 9).

And then you can go back to your career and do other stuff?

Boyega: Well, I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been able to run away and do different things.

You’re not afraid of being stereotyped in a certain role? Your role in “Star Wars” is all over the world and people might associate your character with you.

Boyega: They will, for the rest of my life, but it’s no big deal.

What about you, Bel, would you consider doing a TV drama again — to make an ambitious drama?

Powley: Yes definitely, I’m always open to anything. Right now, I’m committed to doing film and theater, but as you say, things are more character driven. TV scares me a little because I feel like my attention span isn’t very long. I like making movies because it’s a piece of art that stands alone in time whereas TV scares me. But one day, yes, definitely.

So what’s going to be the next thing you’re going to shoot?

Powley: I’m currently shooting a WWII drama called “Ashes in the Snow”. Based on this book, a period movie, not a comedy. It’s about a girl in 1941 Lithuania who gets sent to a Gulag in the Laptev sea. It’s a true story, the woman is still alive. I met her and I’ve spoken to her about it. The book is called “Between shades of grey”. The book was written before “Fifty Shades of Grey” but we can’t call the movie that now. It’s myself and Lisa Loven Kongsli who was at Cannes with “Force Majeure” a few years ago. It’s a female driven cast. Lot of movies about Stalin, Hitler, genocide but not a lot of movies have been made through the female gaze.

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  1. cadavra says:

    Dear Bel,

    Mary Shelley died in 1851. You meant the early 1800s.

    People Who Paid Attention In School

  2. VBlaster_W211 says:

    Tired about hearing shows getting ” darker”. Whatever it is, don’t get dull and lifeless by going ” darker” like BvS.

    Keep to the Star Wars theme. TFA was nice as it is.

  3. Bill B. says:

    It needs to be darker. TFA was a nice nostalgic trip that worked, but it needs to get more imaginative and inventive. I would say that most don’t want to see the same thing over and over again, but I might be wrong considering the repetitious hits that keep getting pumped out of Hollywood. .

  4. Sam says:

    My guess is that it will be Empire Strikes Back redone, just like 7 was Star Wars redone.

  5. Bea says:

    This article is about *two* people, why does the headline only reference the male. Come on now Variety… You can do better.

  6. Alex says:

    They’ve started the buzz already.

  7. Joel says:

    “Darker?” What’s darker than patricide — of arguably cinema’s most beloved character?

  8. Alexander says:

    “Developing romance”? Way to miss the trolley, Variety. The only indication of romantic interest was Finn asking if Rey maybe had a cute boyfriend. Besides, if Rey is going to be a Jedi, that’s kind of out of the question anyway. You know what happens when Jedi get romantically involved? Natalie Portman dies.

  9. R.C. Gianni says:

    I disagree Jake, I thought that Finn and Rey were cute together and took it that they had somewhat of a kids-crush on one another.

    I think that Finn and Poe thing is wishful thinking from SJW.

    • Alexander says:

      I agree with you, R.C. There was nothing super deep, romance-wise, between Finn and Rey (see my post above). As for Finn and Poe, I think you nailed it with the SJW thing. Speaking as someone who has been thought dead by one’s friends only to be seen alive (yes, that has happened), Finn and Poe’s embrace is nothing beyond fraternal. Making them gay would just be pandering to the 1% for no logical reason whatsoever.

  10. Jake Pirat says:

    I thought the budding romance in The Force Awakens was between Finn and Poe Dameron, not between Finn and Rey. Wasn’t that rather obvious? At the very least, the question about Rey and Finn seems based an assumption nowhere supported in the film.

    • lfire1 says:

      If some see Finn/Rey and others see Finn/Poe, and some see none at all, then no, it wasn’t obvious. It’s all in the eye of the beholder at this stage. To be fair the assumption of Finn/Rey is based on more than Finn/Poe in terms of interaction, but in the end there were plenty of hugs and mutual admiration to go around.

    • Malcolm says:

      Way more than one percent of the population is gay/not straight somehow, WAY more. That said, i don’t actually think Poe/Finn was being intentionally set up.It is wishful thinking, but it wouldn’t be pandering whatsoever.

  11. Jimmy says:

    I’m looking forward to episode 8. I want a more original story this time.

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