SCREEN DAILY – “It’s a really fucking scary time to be alive,” comments Star Wars’ leading lady Daisy Ridley about the first days of Donald Trump being president of the US. The actress recently attended the anti-Trump women’s march in London, calling it “an incredible show of democracy”.
Ridley is deeply passionate about tales of female empowerment; from her breakthrough role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens to the her latest film, the Bafta-nominated documentary The Eagle Huntress, which she narrates and exec produced.
Screen sat down with Ridley to discuss the doc, which is the story of a 13-year-old girl in Mongolia who is attempting to become the first female eagle hunter in her country. She also updated on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, talked having to audition for Murder On The Orient Express, and had her say on Piers Morgan’s recent spat with Ewan McGregor.
Screen: How did you get involved in The Eagle Huntress?
Daisy Ridley: Morgan Spurlock came on as a producer after Otto [Bell, director] had done the initial shoot. He got in touch with my agent and said he wanted me to watch it. I watched it, was blown away and said I’d love to be involved somehow. I came on as exec producer and then – Otto initially had title cards in it but wanted to narrate it for younger kids – so I then narrated it too.
What did being executive producer involve?
I mean it’s a glorified spokesperson. I am taking credit for something I really haven’t had much to do with. It has been my pleasure, basically, to spread the news.
Do you see yourself using your star power in the future to help out smaller films like this?
When I came on, I wasn’t like ‘Hey, let ME make this a big thing’. It would have done amazingly with or without my help. I don’t plan. If something else came along that touched me in the same way and I could be involved in it, then great.
What did you love about the film?
It was mainly the relationship between Aisholpan [the film’s subject] and her father. The world we’re living in is terrifying and [it’s great] to watch something that for an hour and a half takes you out of yourself and shows you something about somewhere that none of us really knows. It’s incredible how everything is so divisive at the moment – what colour your skin is, what religion you are – and to watch a film that’s set in the back end of Mongolia, that made me think: ‘oh my God, her dad reminds me of my dad’.
Did you meet Aisholpan?
I met her at a screening in LA and she’s super sweet. She’s quite quiet, not very verbal, so she just stands there with this gorgeous smile taking everything in.
Was she star-struck when she met you?
No! I don’t know if they had watched it [Star Wars]. It was more the other way round. I play a character, and she [in real life] at 13 broke a record that had been held for hundreds of years.
You have a lot of projects lined up [Ridley is currently filming Murder On The Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh]. Did the phone suddenly start ringing after you got great reviews for Star Wars?
I auditioned for this [Murder On The Orient Express]. I’m aware that I have a lot to prove and I’m very excited that I’ve been given the chance to prove it. I was speaking to Ken [Branagh] and actually said to him ‘did they tell you that you had to cast certain people?’ and he was like ‘absolutely not’. It’s a nice thing to hear because you have moments of doubt where you think ‘oh my God is this only happening because of this one thing and do people actually rate me?’
What’s it been like filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi?
JJ [Abrams] and Rian [Johnson, the director] are different people and have a different kind of energy, different ideas. Rian is able to branch off a little bit more because JJ had the job of bringing in the new and maintaining what had gone before. I’m really lucky to be able to do the Star Wars thing from different people’s point of view. I never thought I’d be able to be in one film, let alone three films playing a character that I really love. Also the character changes. It’s the same character but different circumstances in the three films.
What did you think of the anti-Trump women’s march?
I was at the women’s march in London. Of course I was. I actually feel sick when I think about what’s happened in three days [of Donald Trump being president]. I feel a bit teary… I mean it’s horrific. What I think is incredible is that amongst all the name calling, millions of women across the world came together in a peaceful way. At the march in London everyone was so wonderful and so kind, everything was positive, it was an incredible show of democracy and I felt very special being there.
But I feel it’s genuinely a very scary time. You talk about America, but also the NHS is being sold off, and there are thousands if not millions of people who live below the poverty line in England and they are just being forgotten. It’s both a really exciting time to be alive and a really fucking scary time to be alive.
Some people, for example Piers Morgan, said people only went on the march because they were annoyed Clinton lost. What would you say to that?
I think it’s silly. Look what happened to Ewan McGregor, he has a choice about whether to give an interview or not. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but Piers Morgan calls people names. I shouldn’t say this because I’ll start a war with him! Don’t be mean, be kind, it’s not that difficult. Calling names is massively immature. Also grouping people together. Piers Morgan is a journalist, you don’t group all journalists together [and say] all journalists invade your privacy. In the same way that not all women are protesting because [Clinton] didn’t win. I think in the past few days we can see why those marches happened, because it’s really scary.
It’s interesting that you don’t mind sharing political opinions, even though you’re the star of the biggest movie franchise in the world…
It’s weird because I’ve never really had this conversation with anyone and I was actually thinking ‘oh my God I could be banned from going to America for speaking out against what’s going on!’. Nothing I do is vetted. I know [Disney CEO] Bob Iger had a meeting with Trump and everyone is trying to make the best of the situation and maybe I’d feel different if I didn’t just hear about Planned Parenthood and Dakota Access Pipeline and stuff like that. We’re all human. Piers Morgan said; ‘oh Ewan McGregor is just an actor’, no, we’re all humans and we all have feelings.
What did you think of Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump Golden Globe speech?
I think anyone is allowed to have an opinion on anything, whether you’re a bin man, a barman or the director of a company. So actors aren’t supposed to have an opinion? I’m not going to run for politics but I still know the stuff that matters to me.