[This article contains minor SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens]
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a challenge for Disney, Lucasfilm, and J.J. Abrams. Returning to a galaxy far, far away after 10 years and three controversial sequels – minus the input of creator George Lucas – was a gamble. And it paid off in droves. Of course, Episode VII did have a few things going for it, including a director in J.J. Abrams who was already a Star Wars fan, and a hearty understanding of what it takes to make big-screen magic.
One of the unstated Star Wars tropes, especially when starting a new trilogy, is to find a few relatively unknown actors. The Original Trilogy made household names of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), and Harrison Ford (Han Solo), and the prequels brought, for better or worse, Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen (both Anakin) into the fold. Of course, The Force Awakens added John Boyega (Finn) and Daisy Ridley (Rey) into the rich Star Wars Universe. Now, fans looking to see how the new trilogy’s arguably most intriguing new character got her alter ego can watch her audition tape.
In preparation for the upcoming The Force Awakens home media release, Buzzfeed got hold of an exclusive video of the young actress auditioning for the film (likely available on the Blu-ray/DVD upon release). The audition is merely a clip from a making-of featurette, but it includes a fantastic look at the young Ridley reading for the part. The clip shows a precursor to the intense, telepathic moment where Kylo Ren tries to read her thoughts. Abrams explains what he was searching for in the clip:
“What we were looking for was someone new. This character needed to be vulnerable and tough, sweet and terrified. And to find someone that no one knew who could do all these things took a lot of looking. It wasn’t until we found Daisy that we just felt like she was capable of doing all of these things this character required.”
According to Abrams and his co-producer Michelle Rejwan, casting spent a great deal of time looking for their Rey. And Abrams really felt Ridley nailed the part, saying, "she just blew my mind. She’s reaching this depth of struggle, and tears are streaming down her face. I thought, ‘This is unbelievable.'"
From the clip, it’s clear why Ridley got the part. She portrays the role much in the same manner that she does in the film, with the strength and insecurity of someone unsure of their place in the universe, but beginning to discover it. It's moments like this which define the character and lend credence to her sudden abilities – and avoidance of losing her temper – in the face of her powerful but conflicted opponent.
Overall, bringing in unfamiliar actors is always a bit of a gamble for any major franchise. Hollywood often feels that star power speaks louder than acting chops. In the case of TFA, it was worth it, though, because both Boyega and Ridley turned out to be capable and compelling in their own rights. Generally speaking, lesser-known actors are ideal for roles like Rey, as, it could be argued, audiences are more likely to identify with and find fresh faces more believable in coming-of-age roles than they are celebrity actors, whose onscreen performances are often colored by their public personas. And Ridley’s turn as Rey not only intrigued many longtime fans, but pulled a whole new generation of young women and men into the Star Wars universe.
Naturally, there are still a lot of questions surrounding Rey. Who are her parents? Where did she come from (originally)? And of course, will she bring balance to the Force? Hopefully, many of these things will be revealed upon Episode VIII’s arrival next year, and the rest will come with Episode IX’s arrival in 2019.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is coming home on Digital HD April 1 and Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on April 5.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.