Driving Miss Daisy
Star Wars’s Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver dish on the epic franchise and beyond.
Star Wars’s Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver dish on the epic franchise and beyond.
This article originally appeared in V110, on newsstands November 9. Pre-order your copy here.
"I had no sense of what I was getting into. No sense of what was really going to happen," confesses Daisy Ridley of her first-ever role as Rey in 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Currently, Ridley is on location in a remote forest a few hours outside of Montreal for Chaos Walking, a 2019 sci-fi release costarring Tom Holland. But it's this December's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the follow-up to The Force Awakens, that is shining a blinding light-saber-tinged spotlight on Ridley. The Force Awakens was the first movie since 1997's Titanic to sell more than 100 million tickets in the U.S. It isn't typical for a young actress's breakthrough film to have the biggest domestic opening weekend in history, raking in $238 million, but Ridley isn’t all that typical herself. As the face of the nearly $10 billion franchise, Ridley has ushered in a new era of Star Wars. Following Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing last year, Ridley’s character, a fiercely independent heroine, serves as a particularly strong female voice in a galaxy far, far away. However, a far- flung galaxy isn’t Ridley’s only on-screen locale this season. In November, Ridley appears opposite Johnny Depp and an all-star cast in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. The suspenseful tale follows 13 passengers, played by the likes of Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, and Willem Dafoe, stranded on an opulent passenger train with a murderer on the loose. Aside from blockbuster films, Ridley also produced and narrated the documentary The Eagle Huntress, which follows a teenage girl in the mountains of Mongolia as she becomes the first female eagle huntress in the sport’s 2,000-year history. Ahead of The Last Jedi’s release, Ridley catches up with her Star Wars costar (and “bestie”), Adam Driver.
Daisy Ridley Hey Adam, it’s been so long.
Adam Driver Hey Daisy, how are you? When is the last time that I saw you?
DR Well, I don’t know because you don’t come to all the fun things that I go to. [laughs] Last July? It’s been like a year!
AD Oh, yeah, I guess. I’m much taller now.
DR How has your life changed? [laughs]
AD Oh, just in little ways. So, where are you now?
DR I’m in Canada, two hours outside of Montreal in these creepy woods. We feel like we’re going to be killed at any moment in this cabin. We’re shooting a film, Chaos Walking, with Doug Liman, Tom Holland, and Demián Bichir. It’s fucking cool.
AD Did you guys have time to meet each other before? Or did you just kind of jump right in?
DR I had met Tom Holland twice very briefly—for, like, 30 seconds—and I had met Doug Liman once and we spoke a bit, but it was very much feet first, it was super quick.
AD So, is it hard for you to meet people and just kind of go? Or do you prefer it?
DR [laughs] I mean, as we discovered, Adam, we became besties last year, but we had met some years before. It really takes me a while to relax with people. I don’t think I’m very good at meeting people: I feel awfully uncomfortable. So, I find meeting people very stressful. But it gets easier, and I think I’m getting better at being okay with that, you know?
AD Yeah, you always seemed very open, but I feel the same as you. When I meet people, I don’t know how to small talk very well, so it’s always like two back-and-forths of like, “Hey, how are you? How’s the weather?” And then five seconds later, I’m like, “So, what’s your relationship like with your mother?” It always goes really deep really quickly.
DR [laughs] I think you’re really good at it.
AD Oh, thank you. So, this is about Star Wars: If Rey was a color…I’m kidding.
DR No, oh my God. [laughs]
AD What were your initial conversations with J.J. [Abrams] about your character? Did you know the character’s name was Rey?
DR No, no, he told me it was meant to be Keera. And then, when we were already shooting in Abu Dhabi, he told me that he was thinking of going with Rey, which I thought was frickin’ awesome. But because I had to audition so much and everything, I never really had a conversation with J.J. about it until I had read the script. So, I had no sense of what I was getting into. No sense of what was really going to happen or what anything would entail. I hadn’t done a film before, so it was a whole new thing. It’s such a crazy thing the first time around: Even if [J.J. and I] had had a conversation about it, nothing would’ve even made sense at that point anyway. It was unfolding as we went along.
AD Right. When you were initially auditioning, you were just kind of [going with] first impulses, which really seemed to turn out to be right.
DR Yeah. I mean, of course things were said in the moment, but it wasn’t like a deep [conversation] about the character’s journey, or what was going to happen [in the film], or who the relationships were with. When I was auditioning, the sides weren’t even real—the characters on each side weren’t real—so I had no idea. And then obviously, with Rian [Jedi] doing the [Star Wars: The Last Jedi], it becomes a changing story, because different people have different opinions as to what the story is and what the trajectory is.
AD I always admire people who are extremely thoughtful about what they’re doing, aren’t precious with anything, and are able to set it down, walk away, and do other things. Are you someone who kind of keeps replaying it in your mind or are you someone who can put it down and walk away?
DR So, I usually think I can put it away—I don’t sit and mull. I do a lot of thinking before. I feel sort of envious of people like you, I guess, who have a thing that they do in order to really feel connected: There is a way that you feel very connected to what you’re doing. A lot of the time, I feel like a novice because I’m like, I don’t know what I’m doing. Yes, I can sort of do the thing and move on, but then I lay awake at night like, What the fuck did I do?
AD Yeah, right. That’s why you can’t watch anything, because then you remind yourself how bad you are— not you, me. I’m like, Oh, right, there are a bunch of things that I could have done differently.
DR The first few times time I watched [Star Wars: The Force Awakens], because we kept having to watch them, I was like, This is fucking terrible. I cannot believe people are watching this. I was so embarrassed.
AD [laughs] But you always look at it under a microscope. Trust me, it’s brilliant. So, was Star Wars really your first movie? And was Murder on the Orient Express the next thing after Star Wars?
DR Yes and yes. I did that next. I don’t know what it’s like for you, since you’ve done loads of stuff in all different capacities, but weirdly for me—and I guess it’s just because I started with this whole thing—it doesn’t feel like a big thing: Everyone is so nice, it feels much smaller than I thought it would. Then with Orient, it was the same sort of thing. It was technically a big film for a studio, or however people describe it, but it felt intimate and wonderful. And then I [did a film with] a very small studio. But in all three cases, whatever story you’re telling, it’s still a story you’re telling. It’s still not real. And it’s still a film: People still have their jobs, people still have other shit going on. So to me, it doesn’t feel so different from project to project. But maybe I haven’t had enough experience to have a proper sense of that.
AD No, I feel like I talk to actors who are older than me all the time, and that’s the good and bad thing: You always kind of feel like a novice, you never know. It’s always like, Okay, I feel like I have something figured out. And then it just feels like a disaster all over again. And then it’s over.
DR Exactly. When it’s over, if something wasn’t such a great experience, then it’s sort of like, Oh my God, it’s so hard. And then you look back, you think, It wasn’t that hard. We were just playing make-believe. Why did I get so stressed about the whole thing? I’ve just been super lucky that 99% of people I’ve worked with are pretty nice.
AD What a good group of people. I mean, Kenneth Branagh is pretty incredible. Were you a fan of his movies or his acting, or did you see him in theater?
DR I think I’d seen two things [of Branagh’s] this season, and then I got the call to audition and I was like, Fuck. I had to fly back from L.A, and I was jetlagged and felt disgusting. Again, I thought there was no way I got it. When I was told the cast, I couldn’t believe who I was working with. Then, I couldn’t believe how amazing the experience was. Every single cast member, every single crew member was magical.
AD I always wonder about those really big ensemble casts where it seems like everybody is in every scene, all the time. It could go either way, it seems. In old Robert Altman movies, like Nashville, where there are so many personalities and different ways of working, clashing could be kind of a nightmare. But if it’s really good….
DR Yeah. I think it’s no exaggeration to say everyone felt that it was perfect how the film came together. But also, because Ken has done a lot of theater as a director, as a person running a scene, there are a lot of personalities on one stage together. So, in that sense, it never felt like anyone was juggling personalities; it just felt like we as people meshed well. Obviously, some of it was previewed and some of it was just really luck.
AD Right. There are so many things that I want to talk about…The Eagle Huntress: How did that happen?
DR It was incredible timing and luck. I narrated only a tiny bit of it—I had no involvement, except telling everyone how amazing it is. Which it is. Watching it, I was weeping. It’s really beautiful. For the director [Otto Bell], this was properly his passion project—he put all of his savings into it, he put everything on the line to make the film—and the story is beautiful. What they were able to do with the limitations of being in freakin’ Mongolia and also him being a first-time director of a feature film and everything, it’s remarkable.
AD From the diversity of things that you’ve done, from narrating and championing a really small movie, to two huge movies, to now doing Chaos Walking, is there something that you kind of prefer? People ask me this question and it always annoys me—but it doesn’t take much to annoy me. Is there a plan that you have going forward, or are you just kind of like, I’m around and these are the kinds of things I’m interested in, and then you just kind of follow
DR My first lead role was ridiculous and amazing for a first film, and for a film in general. I have an amazing agent. I feel really fucking lucky. I’m a big believer in timing and I didn’t have a job after [Star Wars], and I thought, Oh my God, I thought my life was going to be busier now. I had to take a couple weeks off, and then Orient came up, so that felt perfect. Then I was able to fit in two things easily, both of which I really wanted to do. I thought timing wouldn’t work out, but it did. I don’t have a plan. There are things I want to do that I’m too scared to do currently: I really want to do a play and right now, I feel like I’m barely finding my legs doing film. So, eventually I’ll do that. There is no plan. For the most part, it’s just floating on the breeze.
AD It’s Chaos Walking.
DR Exactly. Do you have a plan, Adam?
AD No, I think it’s the exact same. There are things you want to do, but then there is reality. You can want to work with everybody—or specific things you want to work on—as much as you want. But if nothing is going on or you don’t get the opportunity, I completely agree with you: Luck has a lot to do with it. But I think your personality, work ethic, and face have a lot to do with it. [laughs] I get a lot of Quasimodo roles that I have to turn down or just pick one I am going to do. I would love to see you do a play. Is there a play that you would want to do?
DR When we were finishing, Penélope [Cruz] and I were doing a scene in Orient and Ken mentioned The House of Bernarda Alba, and I was like, “That would be amazing, but terrifying.” Literally. My stage fright, even on film sets, is so great that the thought of it is genuinely paralyzing. I was talking to Demián today, one of the actors in [Chaos Walking], and he said, “You know, it just has to be something you love so much,” because everything about it is terrifying. Saying the same thing night after night, people coming to see you and expecting something, it’s so alien to what I know. But I would eventually like to do Shakespeare.
AD Is there an aspect of working on Star Wars—it could be anything from the light saber battles, the travel, the catering, to getting to see me every day and do my hair—that was your favorite part?
DR I don’t know if I’ve ever properly thought about it. I love coming into the makeup trailer—everyone is there, you say good morning, and you get a little cuddle from people. I like the structure of that, of really being part of something for the duration of the day. The second [Star Wars], it’s so weird, because in my mind, they’re very separated. I just felt so distant. My head was so fucked after the first one came out. It was strange getting back into it, and it felt familiar and comforting. I suddenly felt really seen in a way [after the first Star Wars], which was so weird. Then, back at work, you’re just you and it’s not a big deal. You’re just at work: You’re doing your job and everyone else is doing their job. It’s just me being me. I just really liked being part of something where you’re one of a whole. When filming, you’re always part of a thing. Becoming besties with you was the best thing.
AD That’s a lie, but we will make sure that’s printed.
AD When we did the press tour for the first one, every country we went to, you seemed to be fluent in the language in like five seconds. Where does that come from? We went to South Korea, we went to Japan, well, London, you were pretty fluent, but every kind of place that we went to, you were speaking the language. What is it? Do you have an ear for language or you’re just like, “Oh, yeah. I just kind of dabble in everything and I’m really good at it immediately?”
DR [laughs] Let’s not exaggerate. I learned how to say, “May the force be with you” and “Thank you” in Korean and Japanese, and that was it.
AD I drilled that shit for like hours.
DR But you had been working all year. I had been sitting at home for a year doing nothing except cleaning up after my dog who is old and kept pooing in the house [laughs], so my brain had room for that. I’m not even exaggerating. For a year, that’s what I had been doing. I only learned one thing in two languages and on this film—because everyone is French-Canadian, or a lot of people are—I’m trying to learn French.
AD Yeah, of course you are, because that’s just obnoxious to be fluent in French.
DR No, because the worst thing is I keep asking words and people have jobs to do and they’re like, “Stop fucking asking me. Go and look in the French-English dictionary.” [laughs]
AD Do you remember that time we were in Japan and I didn’t see when you guys arrived, but they pulled the car right up on the red carpet? And you got out of the car, and they were projecting it on the jumbotron thing, and all of the press were kind of dressed in costumes, like Princess Leia? I remember going on the stage, but they had this boy band-esque set-up where we were all going to be on the stage and we were going to rise up from the ground, but we were all too tall. So, we had to crouch down and pretend we were shorter when the stage started to lift, like we were standing the whole time. Do you remember that, or am I just telling this random story?
DR I do remember.
AD Right, and there were four Stormtroopers to my left and four Stormtroopers on your right, and you, myself, John Boyega, and J.J., and 10 Stormtroopers were all squatting on the stage, waiting for them to push the button so we could pretend that we were rising up from [below]. There is no question here. I just wanted to say, “Did you remember that?” [laughs]
DR [laughs] I had forgotten that, but I am so glad you reminded me. I remember we had to stand really awkwardly on the stage for a really excessive amount of time. I’m really glad that you shared it.
AD Alright, well, thanks, Daisy. I think you’re brilliant.