Daisy Ridley sprung to stardom after her performance as Rey in the seventh Star Wars film ‘The Force Awakens’, with her character’s backstory becoming one of the most-debated in the long-running franchise’s history.
After starring mainly in short films and TV series in the UK such as Silent Witness, Toast of London and Mr Selfridge, Ridley auditioned for the ‘third’ and final Star Wars trilogy as a relative unknown.
It harked back to the first Star Wars movies, when George Lucas gave lead roles to the then unknown Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. What worked for Lucas, also went well for J.J. Abrams as his movie became the fastest ever to gross $1bn worldwide.
Ridley appeared again in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ in 2017, and now returns as Rey for the final instalment of Star Wars in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, where the surviving Resistance face the First Order for the last time.
The 27-year-old is an actress who leaves it all out there, while avoiding the trappings of fame, making for a refreshing and authentic mix. RSNG spoke to her and discovered how she was shocked by the Star Wars trailer, why she avoids photographers, and why she wants to play the most dangerous spy in WWII…
RSNG You seem to be maintaining a film star lifestyle without it having adversely affected your image?
DAISY RIDLEY, ACTOR ‘The press only seem interested in me to an extent, and that’s fine. I think what works for me is that I’ll come in, do some work, the disappear off again for a while.’
‘I don’t like to court press attention and I live quite a simple, honest life. I’m not trying to endorse products here and there and I’d rather stay away from photographers rather than parade around in front of them.’
‘I tend to find the more you invite it the more it invites itself, and that’s not really me.’
RSNG Has it all been a bit of a whirlwind considering it’s the last time you’re seen playing Rey?
DR ‘Yeah, a little bit. What is most standing out is the fact that I have been extremely fortunate to have been playing Rey at all, as well as working to J. J. (Abrams) and it’s made me feel so good about myself doing it.’
‘I can only hope that this may open other doors to playing female characters like Rey in the future. But also, to be able to work with the excellent and amazing cast and crew like we have had on these new Star Wars trilogy films over the last five years or so.’
‘When we see her with that red lightsaber, is she going to the Dark Side?’
RSNG How much are you looking forward to everyone seeing it?
DR ‘I have been so excited since day one and that includes, filming it, being on set, waking up every morning and seeing new theories about what people are expecting, or making predictions about, then when I watched the trailer in the summer and the last trailer just recently. To see how excited everyone is about it, that makes me so glad and happy.’
‘It was so good to be somewhere near the centre of what fans were really excited to react to, as in the past I have been only on the periphery. But now, when we see her with that red lightsaber, is she going to the Dark Side? Well, stayed tuned to find out more, haha! I just can’t believe that that bit went out in a trailer…’
‘The other thing is that all the promotion of the film is brilliant and fun and just the best thing in the world. But then, when you stop to think that once all of the promotion is over, then that’s literally it.’
‘The film will be out, everyone will know what’s going to happen, the inevitable will happen and none of us will be together as a team. So, that’s a bit sad.’
‘But what was so bittersweet was that it was very sad when the filming ended on set, it genuinely was. However, the energy had been completely sapped from my mind, body and soul and I honestly don’t think that I could have picked myself up and gone again.’
RSNG As it is going to be the end of the Star Wars saga, do you feel that the fans will be happy with how it’s going to be wrapped up?
DR ‘Yes, I honestly do think that they will be happy with how it ends and it’s not just about that, but also about the fact that they didn’t know what the focus of the film is and now that they do, they are well in tune and they now just seem eager to see it.’
‘For me, I was crying an incredible amount once I knew that it was the last shot. When J.J. wrapped me up, I can’t even remember what he said or what I said, except for the fact that I was crying down the mic and saying: “I am so sorry, but I just want you and everyone to know that I have had such a great time!”'
RSNG You’ve said that the best acting you’ve ever done was quite an emotional and not just that, but it was also in front of your parents?
DR ‘Actually, it happened on two different occasions. So, I was in a film version of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet called Ophelia which focuses on the rebellious and motherless child, who is taken in by Queen Gertrude.
‘When I was filming it, my parents were there on set at the time and it was the scene where Ophelia finds her father Polonius dying. Because my dad was there at the time, I found that quite weird.’
‘They were also on the set of Chaos Walking where I was filming another scene and this time, you’ve guessed it, I was talking about the death of both of my parents.’
‘That was really upsetting when I was thinking about it – as it obviously would be. But they cut it out and I felt that it was the best acting that I had ever done, because it was almost method acting.’
‘The funniest thing is that my dad was happy to see some “proper acting”, which confused me a little! My mum hadn’t even stayed around in Prague during the Ophelia filming, she had gone back to the hotel.’
‘The story of Virginia Hall, the most dangerous spy of the Second World War should be made into a film’
RSNG What happens for you after this?
DR ‘Well, I have a few things I am working on or have recently finished. But as my life and work has been so regimented and structured, with regards to working and training and promoting the film and then that cycle again.’
‘Also, because there were three films in this relative short space of time, when you know get towards the end of this whole huge project, it is beginning to dawn on me how strange all of this will be once the movie is released and then that will be it. Nothing.’
‘I have been reading a lot of books over the last few years, in between filming, and there are a number that I’ve thought should be made into films. One in particular that I read is the story about Virginia Hall, who is known as the most dangerous spy of the Second World War. The book is called A Woman of No Importance. So, maybe something like that?
‘But the first thing I will be doing is having a nice relaxing break somewhere.’
RSNG Are you excited?
DR ‘I'm trying to be very calm and patient when it comes to looking at offers and considering which kinds of roles I would like to play, because you know that expectations will be very high and you don't want to waste this kind of opportunity to do interesting work.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Daisy Ridley in the IMAX trailer for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.