Landing a coveted role in a massive movie franchise can be an up-and-coming actor's ticket to stardom, providing them with a large platform on which to demonstrate their range of talents. In modern Hollywood, few properties are larger than Star Wars, which has long had a knack for taking unknowns and transforming them into the most sought after performers in the industry. Without the galaxy far, far away, Harrison Ford may never have becoming the cultural icon he is today. His Force Awakens co-star John Boyega is now hoping to use his role in a Star Wars film as a springboard into a great career.
Since winning over audiences as stormtrooper-turned-hero Finn in last year's Episode VII, Boyega's profile has been steadily on the rise. He recently snagged the leading role in Pacific Rim 2 (playing the son of Idris Elba's character from the original), and now he's expanding his horizons beyond the realm of genre entertainment - setting his sights on a project that on-paper sounds like a bona fide Oscar contender.
According to THR, Boyega has landed an unspecified role in director Kathryn Bigelow's (Zero Dark Thirty) upcoming drama about the 1967 Detroit riots, which took place over a period of five days in the summer that year. Bigelow's frequent collaborator Mark Boal is penning the screenplay. There currently is no distributor in place, but Annapurna Pictures is bankrolling the film. The team is targeting a 2017 release date, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the riots.
Bigelow's film is described by THR as an ensemble piece, so it's difficult to say how substantial Boyega's part will be at this juncture. The only real detail available right now is that it will "explore the systematic racism" in Detroit, indicating that it could serve up a timely and poignant piece of social commentary. For those not in the know, the main event leading to the riots was a police raid on an after-hours bar. While authorities attempted to arrest 82 African-American customers at the establishment, a mob formed and started looting, kicking off nearly a week of violence. As tensions boiled over, 43 people were killed, 1,189 were injured, 7,200 arrests took place, and more than 2,000 buildings were destroyed.
There's obviously a lot of potential for a compelling narrative, and the team of Bigelow and Boal should be able to craft a fascinating film out of it. The two have joined forces for war dramas The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, the former of which won Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. The untitled Detroit drama is a bit outside of that wheelhouse, but Bigelow's sensibilities behind-the-camera should lead to pressure-packed sequences that leave viewers fully engrossed in what's happening on screen. And Boal has a keen ability for writing interesting characters that make a lasting impression, which should give Boyega meaty material with which to work.
All in all, this sounds like a daring and brave acting challenge for Boyega to take head-on. Depending on how things shake out, he could find himself in the Best Actor discussion and showcase a whole new side that moviegoers haven't seen yet. Regardless of what happens, he deserves credit for not resting on his laurels and coasting on Star Wars alone. Like Daisy Ridley, Boyega is taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him and many are rooting for him to succeed.
We'll keep you updated on the untitled Detroit riots drama as more information becomes available.