Daisy Ridley 'wasn't surprised' fans hated 'Last Jedi,' teases 'emotional' Star Wars ending
NEW YORK – What's more frightening than the impending return of Emperor Palpatine?
For "Star Wars" breakout Daisy Ridley, it's the highly anticipated release of "The Rise of Skywalker" (in theaters Dec. 20), which wraps her three-movie arc as Force-wielding heroine Rey.
"It feels scary," says Ridley, 27, perched on a couch in USA TODAY's office. "I've had a secure job for the past few years, but come January, it's going to be like, 'What now?' "
For the time being, the answer is "Ophelia" (now playing in select theaters, expanding throughout July; available Tuesday on digital platforms), a feminist re-imagining of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" that puts the mad prince's doomed love interest at the front and center of her own story.
Based on Lisa Klein's 2006 young-adult novel, the film follows Ophelia as she becomes a headstrong lady-in-waiting to Hamlet's mother, the vain Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), and falls for the moody prince (George MacKay). But she grows weary of the relationship as Hamlet becomes obsessed with avenging his father's murder, eventually taking her fate into her own hands and getting the happy ending she deserves.
"Ophelia needed to be a character who has a moral compass to her, but not in an old-school way," director Claire McCarthy says. "Daisy brings such self-determination and resilience to her. We wanted her to feel like she would survive this situation, as opposed to being undone by it, like in the original."
We chat with Ridley about revisionist Shakespeare, "Star Wars: Episode IX" and why she understands the intense online backlash to 2017's "The Last Jedi."
Question: Aside from its added female perspective, why did "Ophelia" feel like a story worth telling?
Daisy Ridley: I read somewhere that (Naomi Watts' character) Gertrude is more interesting because she's more mixed up, but it's a weird thing to assume that people have to be all dramatic for them to be interesting characters. Ophelia has a clear moral conscience that doesn't change. She knows the way that people live in the palace is wrong. Hamlet has bloodlust on his mind and she's not going to wait for him to change it. She’s just quietly doing her thing. She doesn't scream and shout and tell everyone that they’re wrong – she's just doing the best thing for herself. It’s exciting to be good.
Q: "The Force Awakens" was a familiar, fun reintroduction to the "Star Wars" universe, while "The Last Jedi" was a darker, riskier installment. How does "The Rise of Skywalker" compare?
Ridley: Genre-wise, it’s different from the other two, which will become clear when the film comes out. It's quite emotional. There's a different drive than the previous two films, but there's a lot of fun. I really missed John (Boyega) during the last one, but we're back together and now Oscar (Isaac) is part of it. To me, it felt like kids going on an adventure.
Q: There's been an intense obsession with Rey's parents, and many fans were dissatisfied when they were revealed to be "nobodies" in "The Last Jedi." Is there more to their story in the new film?
Ridley: (Director J.J. Abrams) did say the question is answered. So at the end of the film, you do know what the dealio is.
Q: People lost their minds for Rey's backflip over a TIE fighter in the "Rise of Skywalker" trailer. How much of that was actually you?
Ridley: I had learnt a version of it, but there was a risk of breaking ankles so I couldn't do the full thing. But there’s a bit in the film where you see me upside down. It's funny because I did 95% of my (stunts), but that's the one thing I didn't fully do. People are like, "Oh, that’s so cool," and I’m like, "Ugh."
Q: Are there any "Episode IX" fan theories that you find particularly amusing?
Ridley: I haven’t seen much this time, but last time I found it pretty hilarious because people were talking about time travel and that Kylo Ren was a baby. It was nuts. The one thing (with "Skywalker") was my agent’s son said, "I bet you the title is going to be blue," and I was like, "How’d you know that?"
Q: Writer/director Rian Johnson received a ton of backlash online after "The Last Jedi," with many fans petitioning to remake the film and redeem Luke Skywalker's character. Were you surprised at all by the controversy?
Ridley: I wasn't surprised, no. It’s just a different thing. Everyone’s going to have an opinion now anyway on the internet, but I also think it’s fair. If people hold something incredibly dear and think they know how it should be and it's not like that, it’s fair for people to think they were done wrong. It doesn’t mean they were – ultimately, Rian’s a filmmaker and one person can’t dictate how a film is supposed to be – but freedom of expression, sure.