In the second part of our cover story, John Boyega reflects more about the impact Star Wars has had on him and his career. Read part one here.
When the curtain falls on the Star Wars trilogy, John Boyega can finally close the chapter in his professional career that started when he was just 22, and work on other projects. It isn’t that he hasn’t been keeping busy between the Star Wars movies – the 27-year-old Londoner has been involved in various film, television, and stage productions, from starring in the Pacific Rim sequel to lending his voice acting talents to the animated series Watership Down. Rather, it’s the freedom to work uninterrupted that he looks forward to.
Boyega’s involvement in the Star Wars franchise has undoubtedly opened many doors for him. A less careful man could have let fame get to his head – he was only 22 when he first landed the Star Wars gig, after all – but the actor remains firmly grounded. The authenticity is obvious from the easy candour with which he answers questions and the insights that you glean from his responses. Boyega’s Instagram feed mirrors this, with carefully curated posts promoting his work mixed with spontaneous ones of him hanging out with the mates he grew up with. Clearly, he’s adjusted well. Just a little older and wiser, perhaps.
How have you changed as a person over the course of making the star wars films?
I think I’ve matured, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the films – it’s just because I was 22 when I started. From my perspective there’s just been a lot of growth, in how I deal with things, in my habits, and in my personality.
Can you give some examples of growth?
Things like listening more to the family, because this fame thing sometimes puts you in a position where you have to lead and guide people, or to be a good example for someone else. Proactive support for friends is something else I’ve really learnt. There’s communication, too – it’s a major thing for all of us. I’ve said something to a person once, had the conversation go south, and thought to myself, “I could have articulated myself better.” It’s the self-reflection, and other little things like that.
Do you look at your friends’ lives and think you may be missing out on things because you’re now famous?
Absolutely, but I think it’s about not getting to be spontaneous, and not about fame. I feel like fame is harder to handle if you’ve had a very active social life before, because when it comes you’re the outgoing party animal who can’t be as active as you were before. But I’m the guy who’s always home. If I want to party, I invite people over for something more intimate, so the transition hasn’t been difficult. What I miss are the little things like going to the shopping centre with my friends whenever we want. Those were the good days. Then again, I can still do that, so I’m not missing much.
You were very vocal in defending [co-star] Daisy [Ridley] when she was attacked by Star Wars fans on social media. How do you view that now?
The same way.
Don’t people have the right to say what they think?
You have the right to say what you want, and I do recognise that a lot of what fans express comes from their love for the project, but they need to understand some things, like how Hollywood works. Some of them ask stupid things like, ‘John, why did you cast this person?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not a casting director.’ (laughs) But fundamentally, I still feel the same way: if you engage in any type of online bullying, you’re just weak, man.
Do you get afraid to say things out loud, in case it prompts even more comments?
No. I don’t think you can ever judge a celebrity based on their social media, or what the media reports. I feel like I look up to famous individuals in the healthiest way: I know that I don’t really know you. I don’t get why people are so passionate about celebrities online. Just get onto the Internet, have fun with people you support, ignore those that you don’t, and enjoy your life. On another level, I don’t get too troubled by this too because I know that if those critics were in my shoes, someone else would take issue with them.
Was this an attitude you reinforced when you met the stars of the Star Wars saga?
You mean like Harrison [Ford] and Carrie [Fisher]? They didn’t do Star Wars in the age of social media – we are the first to. It was a different time for them, so although they could advise us on other things, this social media thing was something that was specific to us. Anyway, I also understand that sometimes these people don’t mean much harm – they’re commenting because they’re bored, and they’ll forget what they have written within the next five minutes, so I don’t get worked up.
Of the characters from the original trilogy that you’ve met, who made you the most emotional?
I wasn’t emotional. When meeting people like that, all I would love to have is the opportunity to chill with you like we’re normal people. That in itself creates a memory. There’s a difference between, “I met Will Smith at the premiere for a movie” and “I met Will Smith at my house and he told me he wanted a chicken drumstick and some rice, so we had dinner together.” I prefer the latter.
Which you did with Harrison Ford?
Hell yeah. I straight up asked him out for dinner and he was like, “Fine.” He wanted really good food that was spicy and well-seasoned, and I happened to know just where I could take him for that. By the time we were done, he was dozing off, and we climbed over each other to exchange seats so he had more leg room to sleep. It was chill. He was cool.
What do you think it is about Star Wars that sets the franchise apart from other space sci-fi movies?
The timing definitely helped, you know, because 1977 was a very different time to introduce the world to such a thing – they were practically the first to create such a sci-fi epic. There’s also a nostalgia that comes with memories, and Star Wars is like a part of some people’s lives that spanned generations. Plus everybody likes a good-versus-evil story that just keeps on going.
Does it worry you that many actors from the original Star Wars trilogy found it difficult to “escape” their characters?
I understand that fear but it’s quite a different time now, and although Star Wars is the biggest thing I’m known for, it’s not the only thing I’m known for. If I hadn’t done anything before Star Wars, or in between the three Star Wars films, I’d be genuinely concerned. But I’ve just done a movie in New York called A Naked Singularity, and I’m involved in various other things next year which I can’t talk about yet.
I’d say Star Wars is like a luxury prison because you look out from behind your golden bars and see everyone else doing these really profound films, which makes you want to go out there and be a part of. But you also know that Star Wars takes six to seven months to film, so it’s a sacrifice. Obviously, I’m not done – I want to read absolutely every script and make my choices, because I feel like I can do the vast majority of these projects.
(From: The Interview People; Additional words: Jamie Tan; Photos: Bryan Adams; Grooming: Darren Evans and Mandy Coakley)