Prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Boyega's name was only known to a few for his roles in smaller films, most notably the British sci-fi indie Attack the Block. Now, he's a bonafide leading man. Outside of his role as Finn in Star Wars, he also recently starred in the Netflix original film Imperial Dreams. He has a busy few months coming up as well - outside of the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, he also stars in Kathryn Bigelow's historical drama Detroit and the much anticipated Pacific Rim: Uprising, where he's also credited as a producer, in addition to his role alongside superstars Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in the upcoming film The Circle.
Boyega is fast becoming one of the most recognizable - and bankable - stars working today. As Josh Gad said of Boyega during the panel for The Last Jedi panel at Star Wars Celebration, he's already a cultural icon thanks to his role in Star Wars. As Boyega continues to gain more and more fame for roles outside of Finn, we could be watching the birth of Hollywood's next big star, in the vein of leading men such as Will Smith, Tom Cruise, and George Clooney.
Boyega's got the talent to stand alongside any of these stars, and he should be recognized for that. Attack the Block showed off his capability as a leading man back in 2011. His turn as Moses, a teenager who must stop an alien invasion, was subtle and powerful. His work in the film is a master class in subtlety, especially for the then nineteen-year old's first major role. It would have been easy to turn the role into something showy or flashy, but Boyega reigned it in and delivered a performance that was genuine and powerful in how quiet it was. It was Boyega's work in that film that caught the eye of JJ Abrams, who was rumored to be Boyega's biggest champion during the audition process for The Force Awakens.
Of course, it is impossible to talk about Boyega's blooming career without talking about his turn as the male lead of the biggest franchise of all time. Finn is everything one could hope for in a Star Wars hero: he's charismatic, funny, and above all likable. Boyega showcases an ever greater ability to handle subtle emotions while at the same time delivering a thoroughly engaging heroic performance. His chemistry with co-stars Daisy Ridley and Harrison Ford was phenomenal, and he had the internet going nuts over his character's bromance (or romance) with Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron with humor and charm. Above all else, he was clearly passionate about Star Wars. While most of the newer cast seemed to be casual fans of the series, Boyega proudly stated that he'd be happy to be on stage promoting Star Wars Episode XII (which, in all fairness, will probably be the case).
His post-Force Awakens career choices have all been smartly made, balancing sci-fi with realism. In particular, his choice to take the lead in Bigelow's upcoming film shows a savvy when it comes to choosing roles. Bigelow's work is consistently in the running for best picture, so needless to say her return to film is already generating Oscar buzz. As the film's frontman, Boyega will no doubt receive similar buzz, potentially elevating him to a critical darling as well as box office draw. His decision to launch his own production company, Upper Room Productions, also marks another intelligent career move; Upper Room Productions will also be one of the companies producing Pacific Rim Uprising. Not only does this give Boyega more creative control over his own roles but it also gives him a much more versatile skill set, ensuring he's not relegated solely to work in front fo the camera.
Above all else though, Boyega remains perhaps the most charming member of the new Star Wars cast, a feat which is remarkable given that they are all, for the most part, incredibly charming. His enthusiasm for the franchise has never wavered, even when faced with a ridiculous #BoycottStarWars trend thanks to fandom racism. He frequently interacts with fans on Twitter and Instagram, though not to the degree that Mark Hamill does. Still, Boyega seems thrilled to interact with fans, as evidenced by his recent appearance at Celebration. He also has shown a great deal of enthusiasm for his Pacific Rim fans as well, sharing exclusive first looks at the film and even going live on Instagram from the set. He cares about the fans in a way that isn't patronizing; he earnestly cares about them.
It is that charm that will help him make the leap from character actor to bonafide star. It takes charisma to be a true movie star, and Boyega has that in spades. Videos of him reacting to The Force Awakens's trailer have view counts in the millions. His interviews are, if you'll pardon the fangirl terms, a vortex of charm. Stars such as Smith or Clooney are very charismatic; it's part of their inherent charm. Boyega has enough charisma even at this early point in his career that he could probably hold his own in a film with them. After all, he managed to more than hold his own next to Ford. Is there anything he can't do?
Most importantly, Boyega is a breath of fresh air. He is passionate about his art, and it shows in his performances. Gone are the days of simply coasting to stardom on looks and a role in a big budget franchise. Boyega works hard at his craft and yet is effortlessly charming. He deserves stardom, and in fact seems born for it given the graceful way he's accepted his newfound Star Wars fame. There is no worry about whether or not he'll burn out after Episode IX concludes. Instead, it's become a discussion of whether or not he'll receive his first Oscar nomination by the time he's thirty.
Boyega is only 25; we are at the start of his career. Yet it's easy to see how he can ascend to A-List status through his talent and charisma. Finn will most likely be his most iconic role - if the careers of any previous Star Wars stars is any indication - but it will not be his only big role, nor will he drift into obscurity following the conclusion of the trilogy. Without a doubt, there will be more exciting things to come from him in the future. We can't wait to see what he does next.
- Pacific Rim Uprising (2018) release date: Mar 23, 2018
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019