John Boyega breaks out in 'The Force Awakens'
NEW YORK — Even John Boyega is surprised about what he gets to do as a Star Wars rookie.
“I am the most favored,” the British actor states proudly. “You know why? I get to hold a lightsaber, I get to wear a Stormtrooper suit, (and) I get to be part of the rebels for a bit. It doesn’t get more interesting than that.”
Best known for his role as a teen gang leader in the 2011 cult alien-invasion action comedy Attack the Block, Boyega, 23, takes his place in a galaxy far, far away as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (in theaters Friday). Some celebrities might like Star Wars, but he LOVES Star Wars, sharing Instagram videos while watching trailers and showcasing couch-jumping skills that would make Tom Cruise envious.
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The entire process has been one very long pinch-me moment. “You have intervals of ‘Is this real?’ but, yeah,” Boyega says, pausing before pinching his left forearm. “It’s reality.”
Director J.J. Abrams has infused The Force Awakens with familiar sights as well as new material, and Boyega’s Finn is a mix of both. “You go, ‘This is Star Wars, this is doing the thing I know that Star Wars does,’ but at the same time you go, ‘I’ve never seen that happen before in Star Wars.’ So Finn’s story is one of those elements," he says.
A clone army in George Lucas' prequel trilogy gave way to legions of non-clone Imperial Stormtroopers, helmeted cannon fodder who couldn't shoot straight in the original three films. In The Force Awakens, the villainous First Order features the next generation of Stormtroopers. With Finn, fans finally see a man underneath the armor who wants more out of life than evil.
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“Finn is very real about how he feels. Straight to the point. He doesn’t waffle — actually, waffles a bit. Lies a tad bit,” Boyega says, laughing but trying not to give too much plot away. “He’s basically Han Solo’s younger cousin.
“He has a rogue past as a Stormtrooper. That comes with its influences, but he is also the funny dude, the dude who says what everybody’s thinking.”
Finn goes on a journey with new friends Rey (Daisy Ridley) and droid BB-8 but also finds travel companions in a pair of familiar faces — at least to movie fans — Han (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
Boyega says Finn and Han’s relationship mirrors that of his and Ford's.
“First of all, Harrison’s my best friend — he won’t admit it but he is. And second of all, it’s a very choppy, undertoned kind of disrespect,” Boyega say with a chuckle. “Like that old dude who you have no respect for, that you don’t care about: ‘I literally don’t care if you saved the galaxy.’ And he in return doesn’t care that you’re a Stormtrooper who doesn’t care. It provides a choppy banter between the two that really, really works.”
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The London-born actor has kept all Star Wars secrets so far but now he’s ready to unburden himself. “Before, I found it easy to hold it back. Now I’m like, ‘Can they just release the movie?’ ”
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Boyega plans to sneak into nine London theaters this week that he frequented as a child. There he'll gauge the crowd response to The Force Awakens.
“I just want to see how people feel,” Boyega says. “I might just wear a hat and just go, ‘Hey, man, what did you think of the film?’ ‘I thought it was rubbish! I thought it was wack!’ ‘OK, well, that’s not true.’
“This is the first time that I will be introduced to the world in a Star Wars movie, so I’m definitely going to soak it in.”