THE ECONOMIST – There has been a lot of discussion about women in film recently, and although it is glaringly obvious that the industry still has a problem with gender equality and diversity, I’ve been so fortunate that my experience has been very different.
What I have noticed is the lack of female talent in technical roles on set. Although film sets have a wonderful mix of brilliant men and women behind the camera—in costume, hair and make-up departments in particular—in areas like cinematography there are incredibly limited numbers of women. In fact, in 2015, only 3% of cinematographers on the top 100 films were women.
As a young woman starting my film career, I know I’m fortunate to be doing so now. I’m lucky to be surrounded by brilliant women, both personally and professionally, and to be part of a franchise that continues to break down barriers of gender and race in front of the camera. The fight for gender equality rages on but things are changing, little by little.
The Walt Disney Company has, for example, put some great incentives in place to bolster equality and diversity behind the camera. The British Film Institute is encouraging young, diverse talent with grants and training schemes, and independent production companies are setting up their own programmes to help create a more diverse industry. I hope that, in 2017, those young women who may once have been dissuaded from working in (up until this point) typically “male” positions are encouraged to train and take apprenticeships in these brilliant roles.
YAHOO – When The Eagle Huntress premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 24, one of Hollywood’s biggest breakout stars was quietly plotting to use her newfound fame to help make it soar. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was still burning up the box office, but Daisy Ridley had turned her attention to Otto Bell’s subtle yet gorgeous and moving documentary about a teenage girl in a remote Mongolian village who bucks generations of tradition and becomes her community’s first female eagle hunter.
By the time the film hit international film festivals over the summer, explanatory title cards had been replaced by narration from Ridley, who also signed on as an executive producer. The 24-year-old Brit knew that fandom she earned for her revelatory turn as Rey, the face of the rebooted Star Wars universe, could help bring attention to a remarkable real-life, 13-year-old Kazakh heroine named Aishoplan Nurgaiv. Ridley was right. For evidence, look no further than the very interview you’re reading…
It’s very cool to see you get your Morgan Freeman on as the narrator of The Eagle Huntress.
Thank you so much. I’ll never have a voice like that, though, but it’s nice to try.
You’re also an executive producer on the film. How’d you get involved?
Morgan Spurlock [who’s also an executive producer on the film] shares my agency, and my agent had gotten a hold of the film somehow. This was like a week before Sundance. So I watched it and was blown away, and said I wanted to be a part of it. So we all got on a call — me, Otto, and Morgan — the night before the Sundance premiere. I came on as executive producer, hoping that if I was a part of it, it would reach more people, because it’s such an amazing story. And then they brought up narration, which I jumped at the chance to do. So we [recorded] that in the springtime.
What was it about the film that blew you away?
The main thing for me was the relationship between Aishoplan and her father. I’m super-close to my dad, and my parents have always been really encouraging to all of us, not in an overt, “This is what we’re doing” way, but just because they’re bringing us up to be the best people we can be, in the same way that Aishoplan’s parents are. Her mom seems great, too, but the relationship that’s depicted in this film in particular between those two I thought was unbelievable. And then her kind of quiet determination… She’s not trying to change the world, she just wants to take on this competition, she just wants to train an eagle. And she does that, which I found very moving.Continue Reading (…)
LENNY – In the frigid steppe, generations of Mongolia’s Kazakh minority have been training eagles to help them hunt. These eagle hunters have always been men, until now: Thirteen-year-old Aisholpan is changing all that. Aisholpan’s father believes she can do anything her brothers can do, even though there’s been pushback from the older generation of hunters about her groundbreaking skill.
The documentary The Eagle Huntress follows Aisholpan as she captures and trains an eagle and travels to the Golden Eagle Festival to compete against exclusively male hunters. The film is narrated by the actress Daisy Ridley, of Star Wars fame, who spoke to Aisholpan for Lenny about why she wanted to be an eagle hunter, what it was like to be the first girl at the festival, and her dreams for the future.
Daisy Ridley: Why did you want to be an eagle hunter?
Aisholpan: From a very small age, I wanted to do this. Because I was helping my father when he was training his eagle, and I loved to go with him in the mountains when he was hunting eagles.
DR: Did anyone else at the school that you went to while the film was being shot want to be an eagle hunter?
A: After I became an eagle hunter, everyone thought it was really cool, and they asked me if they could be eagle hunters too. They want to know how they can keep eagles at home, what they eat.
DR: How was it when you first caught the eagle? How did it feel?
A: I was sure I could get the eagle on the first time because my father was an expert and we were watching it so closely. We knew the exact time we could catch it.
DR: Is your eagle a female? Because I’ve heard that female eagles are easier to catch than males — is that true?
A: Usually females are bigger and more aggressive and stronger, so that’s why we only hunt female eagles.Continue Reading (…)
COLLIDER – One of the perks with being the lead in a Star Wars movie is you can help a small independent film get seen by more people. The fact is Otto Bell’s great documentary, The Eagle Huntress, would have a tough time getting press in mainstream publications even though it’s a fantastic story. But with Daisy Ridley narrating and executive producing the film and willing to get out there and do press to promote it, you have a lot more people willing to cover the film and thus greater exposure.
If you’re not familiar with the story, The Eagle Huntress follows a 13-year-old girl named Aisholpan as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter. In addition to her quest, she has to take on the close-minded elders who believe women should not be involved in their ancient tradition. But with the help of her father, Nurgaiv, who believes a girl can do anything a boy can, she sets out to take on the establishment and compete in the Golden Eagle Festival, where she faces off against 70 of the greatest Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia.
During my interview with Daisy Ridley, we talked about how she got involved in the film, what it feels like to know her involvement will help The Eagle Huntress be seen by more people, how the bond between Aisholpan and her father meant a lot to her, auditioning for Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, the Star Wars toys backlash when Rey was missing from a lot of the early Force Awakens toys, how Hasbro is fixing their mistakes, working with Rian Johnson on Star Wars: Episode VIII, and a lot more. Check out what she had to say below.
Collider: Let’s start with the most important thing, can you still go food shopping or is it all gone?
RIDLEY: Yeah, yeah. I can still do that.
So you have the best of both worlds.
RIDLEY: For sure.
RIDLEY: Yeah. When people stop me they’re very nice, it doesn’t happen that often. Usually I’m so confused as to why they’re stopping me, it takes me a couple of seconds to get over it. So I probably look something like, “What have I done!?” But it’s all good.
I think if people heard you talk though…
RIDLEY: Usually it’s either when I laugh or when I talk that people are like, “huh.”
I’m listening to you talk right now and I’m like, “Oh yeah.” I would pick that out of a crowd.
RIDLEY: Yeah, especially in America. But also people are just very friendly, so it’s all good anyway.
It’s also because the sun is here.
RIDLEY: Yes, the sun is here. I actually really loves L.A. I think the vibes are great and people tend to be very happy. It’s fantastic.
Because it doesn’t rain.
RIDLEY: I mean, it did rain yesterday.
I swear to you, that’s an anomaly.
RIDELY: But it’s raining again next week.
I don’t believe that.
RIDLEY: I believe it. When it rains, I’m gonna be like, “Hey, told ya”Continue Reading (…)
DAILY NEWS – As long as the Force is with her, Daisy Ridley is going to wield her celebrity like a lightsaber.
The British actress downplays her position as a role model for tween and teen girls after having been launched into a whole new stratosphere of stardom as Rey in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” But when she receives photos of girls (and the occasional boy) showing their love by dressing up like her character, the adulation proves harder to ignore.
“J.J. Abrams emailed me a couple days ago and said he just met a guy who named his daughter Rey,” Ridley told the Daily News. “That was a big moment for me.”
That hero worship should be directed elsewhere, she insists, towards someone like 15-year-old Aisholpan, the subject of the brand new documentary, “The Eagle Huntress,” that Ridley narrated and co-produced after viewing footage from director Otto Bell.
Two years ago, the Mongolian teen became the first female eagle hunter in the history of the mountain region where her family has practiced the craft for 12 generations.
Aisholpan proved that a girl who scaled the side of a cliff to capture an eaglet could also withstand the prejudice of elders who crow that hunting with eagles is only for men. She even won Mongolia’s prestigious eagle festival … on her first try.
“She’s far more bad-ass than Rey,” Ridley told the Daily News. “She’s actually living this life, whereas I was living a fake life.”Continue Reading (…)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Last year, Daisy Ridley made her debut as Rey, the brave and loyal desert scavenger who became the first-ever female character to headline a Star Wars film. For her latest project, the actress is tackling a similar story in a galaxy not so far away.
Ridley narrates and executive produced The Eagle Huntress, a documentary about a young Kazakh girl in Mongolia named Aisholpan. For generations, Aisholpan’s family has participated in the Mongolian tradition of eagle hunting, and director Otto Bell chronicles Aisholpan’s quest to become the first female eagle hunter in her family — and to compete against the country’s top hunters, many of whom believe a woman has no place in eagle hunting, let alone a 13-year-old girl.
It’s a gorgeous, inspiring story, and one that Ridley has championed since before The Eagle Huntress premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. (Plus, it isn’t hard to draw parallels between Aisholpan’s journey and the scrutiny Ridley faced as a leading female character in the Star Wars universe.) EW sat down with Ridley to talk about the film and why it’s so important to see strong, diverse young women on screen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know you’ve said that when you first saw this film, it brought you to tears. What was it about this story that hooked you?
DAISY RIDLEY: It was mainly the relationship between Aisholpan and her father, and I guess seeing a slice of life in a community that most people know very little about. It’s the amazing feeling of it being very far away but also very close, because they’re just a family around the fire, doing their thing. It just happens that most of us aren’t eagle hunters. But I’m very fortunate to be in a family where we never felt like we had limits. It was that, and then obviously the empowerment side of it, because all she wants to do is be an eagle hunter, and she ends up doing that. Plus, it’s just beautiful, in a place in the world that most people haven’t been.
Most people aren’t very familiar with the culture that comes along with eagle hunting, but it’s a story that’s so universal. Why do you think Aisholpan’s story resonates with so many people?
I guess because regardless of gender or race or anything, people do feel like they have limits. And to see a little girl who is not making a statement about anything, it’s just what she wants to do. It’s like a little boy wanting to be an astronaut, or a little girl wanting to be an astronaut, or a little girl wanting to be a football player. Children have an amazing ability to not feel boxed in by anything, so to see a story about a girl that doesn’t feel that and just wants to do what she wants to do with the support of her family, I think everyone can relate to it.Continue Reading (…)
MTV – There’s something for everyone on this week’s “Happy Sad Confused” with Josh Horowitz. Want to catch up with the young woman who burst out of nowhere in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Daisy Ridley joins Josh to explain why she signed up to narrate and executive produce the inspiring new documentary The Eagle Huntress (out November 2). Josh grills Daisy for some Episode VIII news, how she feels about Rey being called a “Mary Sue,” and why she left Instagram.
COLLIDER – When the first wave of toys for Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit shelves, there was one conspicuous absence: the movie’s protagonist. Indeed, Daisy Ridley’s Rey was noticeably left out of a number of Force Awakens toys in favor of John Boyega’s Finn and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, with the assumption that young boys wouldn’t want to play with a “girl toy.” Filmmaker J.J. Abrams expressed his frustration over the issue, specifically noting Rey’s absence from the official Force Awakens Monopoly game. After Abrams’ comments and justified anger from fans, the problem was subsequently rectified, with toy companies including Rey in the second wave of merchandise. And in an ironic twist, after the movie opened it was Rey toys that were flying off the shelves, not Kylo Ren toys. Apparently boys don’t mind playing with “girl” merchandise after all!
But when Star Wars: Episode VIII toys roll around, you can be sure Rey will be front and center. Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with Daisy Ridley in anticipation of the release of the documentary The Eagle Huntress, which Ridley narrates and executive produced, and the actress revealed that she’s already meeting about future toys for the franchise:
“Interestingly, I had a meeting yesterday about merchandise and what’s happening going forward, so I had a lot of questions that were answered and some, you know, issues.”
Ridley admits the exclusion of Rey in the first wave of Force Awakens toys caught her off guard:
“I think when it really became a big thing is when J.J. [Abrams] talked about Monopoly. There had been conversations long before that that I was having with people because I didn’t really understand what was going on. And John Boyega in fact told me that he had written to someone and I was like, ‘huh’ because he is more of a toy person than I am. Moving forward I think what they’re planning—I’ve been told what the plan is for next year and it’s really cool, really exciting.”
And when it comes to ensuring that Rey has a strong presence in ancillary streams aside from the film itself, Ridley stresses that it’s not about responding to backlash, but about making sure an important character is given the appropriate exposure:
“My whole thing is it’s not anything about the backlash, it’s if a character is important in the story, then that should be dealt with in every platform whether it’s merchandise, whether that’s posters, anything, it needs to be dealt with in the correct way regardless of gender, regardless of color. So to be honest, how the public reacted to it was amazing, because it was a testament to the character and to what J.J. did with the casting. And yeah, it’s going to be super cool going forward.”Continue Reading (…)
VULTURE – Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley executive produces and narrates the new documentary The Eagle Huntress, a film about a 13-year-old girl who becomes Mongolia’s first female eagle hunter. And apparently, Ridley herself has a way with animals, too. At last night’s screening, hosted by Sony Pictures Classics and the Cinema Society, Ridley told us about the time she was face-to-face with a wolf. “Fun story,” Ridley told Vulture. “I went on a moonlit hike with wolves on Sunday at a wolf sanctuary outside of L.A. We were walking with Willow, she is the very sedate one, and I went to say, ‘Hi.’ You had to be super-careful. She put her face in my face, and it was amazing. So I would like to say that animals respond well to me. Wolf whisperer — that sounds like that could be my name.”
Ridley just completed filming on Star Wars VIII, but in the meantime, she is looking forward to Rogue One, which stars Felicity Jones as the new character, Jyn. “I am just excited to see how it is, because I have heard it is so so different, and its own thing,” Ridely said. “I have no idea what happens – I know the ending, but I have no idea really what happens in it.”
In terms of her own character’s place in the Star Wars expanded universe, Ridley hasn’t been following the fan theories closely, but knows that many people are speculating about her character Rey’s lineage. When Vulture asked Ridley if Jyn was Rey’s mother, she didn’t seem to have considered the question, and worked the timeline out for herself on the spot — suggesting this is not the case, but leaving the possibility open. “I mean, I think historically it wouldn’t work, because she is … Darth Vader is there … so she would ultimately be my great-grandma; no, she would be my grandma,” Ridley said. “I mean it could happen, especially in a galaxy far, far away.”
Another possibility is that Rey is related to Obi-Wan Kenobi. This theory is supported by her Kenobi-like costume, dexterity with Jedi mind tricks, and love of solitude. What does she think about that? “We will see in a year,” Ridley said. “Just sit tight on that question.”
PEOPLE – The highly anticipated first standalone Star Wars movie Rogue One is about to come out and star Felicity Jones‘ life is about to change – but that doesn’t mean she needs any advice.
While promoting The Eagle Huntress – a documentary she narrates and executive produces – the star of the Star Wars franchise revival Daisy Ridley had nothing but praise for the new leading lady about to fly into that famous far away galaxy.
“Felicity needs no advice – she is a phenomenal actress and a wonderful human being,” Ridley, 24, told PEOPLE at the documentary’s New York City premiere on Thursday night. “She is very graceful and poised and probably speaks far less than I do more interestingly. She’s great!”
The Force Awakens actress also opened up about hanging out with Jones recently and noted that she’s as cool as she seems.
“We hung out a couple weeks ago and it was really, really nice,” the actress admits. “She’s just a super cool person, even away from Star Wars.”
Also starring Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker and Mads Mikkelsen, Rogue One flies into theaters Dec. 16.