John Boyega Reveals the One Change to Finn He Asked Rian Johnson For in ‘The Last Jedi’
John Boyega loves Star Wars. That is clear from the way his eyes light up when you ask him about his favorite Star Wars toy or the atmosphere on the set, where he would routinely show up on days when he wasn’t shooting just to watch co-stars Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley work. “It was cool seeing Daisy in the rain doing the saber skills, and Mark was there too,” Boyega notes, with what sounds to me like a hint of envy in his voice.
Boyega, Ridley, and Oscar Isaac formed the trio of new heroes that helped revitalize the Star Wars saga with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Now they’re all back for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, joined this time by a new writer and director: Rian Johnson, replacing J.J. Abrams (who’ll be back for Star Wars: Episode IX in a few years). A few weeks before The Last Jedi’s premiere (and before Boyega had seen the film himself), I sat with him in the lobby of a New York hotel for a fun conversation about the state of Star Wars. Along the way, he also revealed the one big change to Finn he requested from Johnson, and noted one major difference between The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. But first, he told me a surprising fact: He’s not exactly the biggest fan of porgs, the Star Wars universe’s newest critters:
So yesterday, a box showed up at my office with a porg inside.
A stuffed one. It wasn’t, like, the corpse of an animal.
Oh, okay. That’s what I was reacting to.
My co-worker squealed with delight when we told her about it.
What was your reaction to seeing these creatures for the first time, and could you anticipate that they would become so popular so quickly?
My first reaction was horror.
Yes. I saw the porgs in the hole in the Millennium Falcon, with tiny smaller ones all bunched together. From then, we always got off on a bad foot.
To be honest, I haven’t seen the movie yet so I don’t know how they play in the film. But I thought there was like a porg infestation on the Falcon! Because they were everywhere! And Chewie — if you’ve seen the trailer — he slaps one off the deck of the ship. So, yeah, it was always itchy times if I saw some porgs. If I saw one porg by itself, in a big size, it’s much better. But if I see a bunch of little critters all together, looking like bugs, it makes me itchy.
I could see that. It does sound a little disturbing when you describe it like that.
Yeah, it’s disturbing. I need to get a fan to draw something for me so I can show people exactly what I’m talking about, how nasty that looks.
How was working with Rian Johnson on Episode VIII different from working with J.J. Abrams on Episode VII?
They’re two different people, and directors’ styles will always be different because of that. But I think one thing that stands pretty consistent with both of them is their professionalism, and their approach to style and story. That’s something we benefit from every day we come on a Star Wars set. Despite knowing your lines, there’s always going to be an expansion to the scene, there’s always going to be improv, there’s going to be fun.
That’s what I think is smart about how Lucasfilm hires these directors. It influences the pictures in a very unique way, which I like.
You mentioned you haven’t seen the movie yet.
Do you think the secrecy is a bit excessive at this point? Could they relax it a little bit?
I did think they were going to relax up a little bit. You know what I mean? Relax up a tad. The important things are evidently important in this film, and I would hold that back. But it’d be good to see a little bit more.
Just a little bit.
Yeah, just a little bit more.
Well you get it. You’re a Star Wars fan. You understand how excited people are.
I get it. And plus I can’t remember the whole film, because I’m not in everything. So there’s so much curiosity about how this all comes together. But there’s a good reason for everything.
Given the level of secrecy, how much freedom do you have to ask questions about your character? Can you say “Hey, what’s going to happen here?” and get an answer?
Because you mention scenes you’re not in. I’ve interviewed members of the Avengers cast, for example, who only got to read the scenes they were in.
Oh yeah, you got to read the full script. But because there’s just so much time between reading the full script and then doing the scenes, and then obviously the cast is split up and you’re not in certain scenes, you lose track of it all and you are curious. There were certain days when I would come to set when I wasn’t filming just to watch Mark and Daisy [Ridley]’s scenes just because I’m a fan.
So I have your thoughts on the porgs. And there are characters from the original trilogy, and there are returning characters, like Finn, from The Force Awakens. In your opinion, who’s the most exciting addition to the cast in The Last Jedi?
Just in this film?
Just in this film.
[pause] Oh, DJ. Benicio Del Toro. And Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose. I’m really excited to see those two. I just remember how much time, when the camera wasn’t on me, I spent cracking up, especially at Benicio. Because he just has a way of creating these unique characters. And I think it’s great to see him really delve into a kind of like comedic but dodgy guy. He kind of reminds me of Lando Calrissian and that kind of vibe.
The Force Awakens was so much fun, and it did a great job of taking this old franchise that people loved and updating it to 2017. And that’s something a lot of studios are doing these days; taking things people are nostalgic about and remaking them or sequelizing them — often with much less success. Why do you think Star Wars has been so successful making that transition to a new series?
I think, to be honest, Star Wars has a pretty good foot to step off of. The original films were such a big hit. It was a cultural phenomenon previously. I think they’re just consistent in the formula of it all. And now I think it’s about going opposite that, actually. With Rian coming in, with his unique mind and his unique sense of sci-fi, that takes us in another direction than we know. So when I have my marathon, and I watch all the episodes, I’m seeing a time in not only the Star Wars universe, but in our world too. These Star Wars movies are reflective of what’s now. And I think that’s great.
Tell me about your first meeting with Rian. Did he have the job by that point?
Oh yeah, he had the job. It was great. I went in and we just spoke about the character, spoke about the scenes. It was actually a real casual conversation about what he was planning to do. I asked for a much more cool-looking costume. I wanted to look way more Resistance than I did in VII.
And he obliged?
And is the script written by the time you have that meeting?
The script was written and everything was done. It was just a matter of having these creative talks. And rehearsals — we got rehearsals. Like it was a play; like, it was real rehearsals, where normally that’s not something that you get with movies. So it was good to have that time.
How do you rehearse a Star Wars movies when so much of these films are about effects and creatures and props?
It’s actually not. It’s dialogue heavy. You work with dialogue, and effects and all that kind of stuff comes after. What we work on is character and dialogue. You’ve got these dialogue scenes, people talking, moving the story forward. So we’d be in a room and read the same way you’d read if you came in to audition for Star Wars. There was a lot to read. There was a lot to say.
Star Wars is a mix of script and improv. The audience forgets that. We’re learning these lines to perform to you guys. Rian approaching it in that style of theater, for me, was pretty surprising and pretty cool.
Would you say there’s more dialogue in The Last Jedi than The Force Awakens?
Yeah, definitely. Definitely a lot more talking, because everybody’s trying to figure themselves out, figure out what’s happening. They’ve got to communicate. They’ve got to all communicate this time.
What was the hardest part of The Force Awakens to keep secret before the movie came out?
No secret is hard for me. In terms of stories, it’s pretty easy to keep a secret. It’s like, if I watch the movie and my boys are like “How do you think it was?” I’d say “It’s good, but you should go watch it for yourself.” It’s that kind of thing, wanting people to go in and experience it for themselves.
So with things you are a fan of, or when you were a fan of Star Wars in the past, you wouldn’t look at a spoiler. You want to experience fresh?
Oh with Star Wars, I’m seeking out all the spoilers.
With Star Wars, I’ll take them all. I want to know what’s happening with the spinoffs, I want to know what’s happening with everything. With other franchises, where I’m merely an audience member, I just want to experience it.
In your professional opinion, as both a Star Wars fan and a member of the Star Wars universe, what is the best Star Wars toy ever made?
I own a Millennium Falcon from the ’80s.
The Kenner one?
Yup. I own it. All boxed up. Came in fresh. Was hard to get it, but I do own it and I’m proud of it.
And that’s the number one?
And what makes that one the best?
Because it’s highly detailed.
The paint job is amazing! [laughs] It is! You hold it, it’s great. Even the light in the back, man … you know how they used to just stick on the lights on action figures back in the day? It just reminds me of my childhood, you know?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi open in theaters on Friday, December 15.
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