Finding fame can seem awfully like acquiring Midas’ touch, what with all its trappings from a loss of privacy to increased public scrutiny. John Boyega should be intimately familiar with this – despite landing his first major acting gig starring in Joe Cornish’s cult hit Attack the Block in 2011, his meteoric rise to fame came only four years later with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which saw him playing Finn, a stormtrooper-turned-rebel.
Directed by JJ Abrams, The Force Awakens marked the start of the franchise’s sequel trilogy, which extended the main Star Wars saga with “episodes” seven to nine. It was a critical and commercial success, and established Boyega as a leading man who could hold his own – even in large-scale Hollywood-esque productions. With that came superstardom, of course, but there was still more to come.
Boyega reprised his role in the film’s 2017 sequel The Last Jedi. It was well-received by critics and audiences, but saw backlash from parts of the Star Wars fan base, which levelled criticism – vitriol, even – at director Rian Johnson’s treatment of the material. Much was made of how the plot points that Abrams had left behind for him to expand upon were seemingly disregarded, and newly introduced characters such as Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran.
Despite this, The Last Jedi confirmed Boyega’s status as a Hollywood star while cementing his legacy in the Star Wars universe via his character, Finn. Its ending also set the stage for The Rise of Skywalker, which will mark Boyega’s third outing in the series and the conclusion to the Star Wars saga – at least for now. The movie will be released worldwide in December this year.
How does it feel to be a part of the end of the Star Wars franchise? It’s quite historic, no?
Yeah, it is. I don’t know man, I just can’t believe it. It kind of feels so surreal to be a part of something that just goes back generations. I don’t even think I was a thought in my dad’s head when it all started in 1977, so to come and be a part of it is just crazy to me.
What can you tell us about this final Star Wars movie?
Ah man, you’re talking to the person that has struggled over the years with all these secrets and stuff. It’s important to me not to reveal anything because the shock value is so important for this one.
You obviously can’t say much, but is the upcoming film going to be very different from the previous one? The Last Jedi had pretty good reviews but…
…it split the fans, yeah.
And now [director] JJ Abrams is back?
Yeah, which is good, but I also feel that with this movie, you’ll understand why there was such an about-turn in [The Last Jedi]. Sometimes, life gets in the way, and I think that was just what happened to the characters, what with them splitting apart, suffering, and having so little hope of winning. I think that’s good, because the next movie wraps things up in a way that makes sense of all that.
What was it like on the last day on set? Did you cry?
You’ve got to watch the film to see it. Oh yeah, I was finished. (laughs) It was a struggle for the characters, but also for the actors. That was cool, because there’s vulnerability in being separated, and that was required for the film. But to be back as an ensemble just felt so good, especially because of all the crazy stunts that we needed to do – to not have someone else going through the same fear would have made it even more challenging, so I appreciated having the rest of them around.
Will you miss Star Wars now that it’s over?
Yeah, but then again, I feel like the filmmaking process is always going to be the same – rehearsals, filming, then wrap – so I don’t really differentiate between the movies. It’s the people that I’m going to miss. I’ll miss chilling with Daisy [Ridley]. She’s known me since I was auditioning.
(From: The Interview People; Additional words: Jamie Tan; Photos: Bryan Adams; Grooming: Darren Evans and Mandy Coakley)