Star Wars: The Force Awakens was officially released on Dec. 18, where we saw some familiar faces and met young scavenger Rey, hotshot pilot Dameron and Finn, the stormtrooper with a conscience, winningly played by actor John Boyega.
That night, Boyega spoke at the Apple Store in Soho, perhaps the first time the actor was able to pubicly talk about his role without worrying about the revenge of Disney’s non-disclosure agreement. In a chat moderated by Jordan Hoffman, Boyega answered questions about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Here’s what we learned:
On developing the character of Finn.
The casting description was kept to a bare minimum. Originally, Boyega said, Finn was described as “Boy 1: Charming, funny, hero.” But Boyega ultimately put his own spin on the role. “Finn has more comedic values and is only brave because he needs to be, not necessarily because he wants to.”
Boyega, who is a Londoner, originally played Finn with an English accent. “It doesn’t work. I sound sexy like this just because it’s me. As Finn, it doesn’t work in terms of the pace, the tone, the energy ... And I did it American, and I felt comfortable doing it that way. There was an energy that the accent gave him, especially the comedy. It made him more grounded as a character. ... It felt like a natural good choice.”
It took seven months for Bodega to be cast as Finn. “I aged during the process, I got kids, grandkids. It was a long process. I understand why [it was] so long. If I bought a company for $4 billion, I’d make sure these kids audition for three years, trying to make that money back.”
He had instant chemistry with co-star Oscar Isaac.
Boyega said of Isaac, “It’s hard looking away from his face. Good lord, is he handsome.
“[Isaac is a] cool guy, very laid-back, and we had a natural relationship when we met during the casting process. [First, the characters meet, and] the next second they’re in danger. There was time to feel like these guys have been brothers for years. That was something I definitely wanted to portray.”
The fact that Daisy Ridley was a newcomer to acting was never a problem.
“She was so fresh and new and would always ask questions, and there was a raw humility to her,” said Boyega.
When Boyega and Ridley filmed the Jakku scenes in Abu Dhabi, he spent much of his time walking in the desert. Meanwhile, Ridley was filming dialogue and stunt fights in the heat. Boyega said, “I’d come into Daisy’s set with a tropical drink. ‘Good work, love!’”
Working with the original cast was “fantastic.”
“I met Harrison [Ford] for the first time while in stunt training with Adam [Driver, who plays Kylo Ren]. You know when celebrities do this thing: ‘Hey. I'm Harrison Ford.’ ‘I know!’ It was really charming and surreal to see him there …
“I met Carrie [Fisher] and Mark [Hamill], and they [and Ford] met in a corner at a table, and they embraced each other. And I was like, ‘Snapchat!’ It was nice to see them bonding. …
"They embraced us on this journey. We felt this was an ensemble cast. It was fantastic.”
He appreciates J.J. Abrams’ style of directing.
“I always like a director with a good balance: enough vision and enough freedom for the actors to be able to do their jobs. I love to be the character. I like to become it—not in a method way, but I like to watch a scene back and I can’t remember that stuff. I can’t remember making the decision to [make a particular choice] because there was instinct and freedom. … Improv really makes way for magical moments,” said Boyega.
It seems there was a lot of improv, too.
In the scene where Finn holds a gun on Phasma and says, “I’m in charge,” Boyega said, “That was one version of 15 versions, where I was just talking smack to this silver thing.”
And the moment where Han pointed at Rey using only his chin, much to Finn’s confusion: “We tried 26 versions for one moment.” But Boyega's was his favorite moment of the entire film. “That was the line I found most fun.”
Boyega’s last shot in the entire film was …
Boyega said, “I had to hold BB-8. … That was the last shot I shot during production. ... I’m expecting my last shot to be a lightsaber and snow and wind. No, I was holding BB-8.”
What he had to say about the upcoming Star Wars: VIII:
“I have read a script." Boyega laughed and nodded his head. "Yeah, man. Two years. Another two years. Gosh, I’m going to go crazy.”