Most junkets are not that much fun. You are invited into a hotel to wait for hours on end before sitting in a cold room with whatever celebrity is selling their wares that particular day. You get some free food. Perhaps they give you a free T-shirt. And then you are sent on your way with an interview containing a lot of stock answers that you can pretty much read anywhere. That was not the Star Wars: The Force Awakens junket.
Disney and Lucasfilm know what a special property Star Wars is. So they turned their press day into a mini-carnival. There was artwork on display in a makeshift gallery, featuring paintings and statues from some of Disney and LucasFilm's top artists. At the end of this exhibit were some of the original costumes worn in the movie. It was perhaps more exciting to see Han Solo's new wardrobe just mere inches away than it was to see Harrison Ford walking around.
In the main hall, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, there was a make-your-own T-Shirt bar, where we got to walk away with a personalized Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Bad Robot (or Both) shirt for the Holidays. We were also treated to a special presentation from the Star Wars Disney Infinity 3.0 video game, where we got to play all the new heroes from the movie. And we got to play Star Wars Battlefront against a group of real-life gamers who probably thought we were all quite awful.
While none of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens human stars were hanging out in the press area, we did get to meet BB-8. And he wasn't shy. He allowed us two different photo ops and loved to carry on conversations as long as you engaged. And C-3PO and R2-D2 were also on hand to snap photos and accept years of fan praise that had been bottled up. The end of the day was capped off with a Global Press Conference moderated by Mindy Kaling (lord only knowns why she was the one in charge of this).
Part one of the conversation had director J.J. Abrams joined by Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Carrie Fisher and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan. The second half featured producer and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy joined by Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie. But before we sat down for this ninety minute discussion about a movie none of us had seen yet, I was invited into a giant, spacious empty room to converse with an AWOL Stormtrooper.
Anyone who knows John Boyega outside of playing Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens knows him as the scene stealing savior Moses in the UK based sci-fi thriller comedy Attack the Block. Moses and Finn are both reluctant heroes. But there is nothing reluctant about John Boyega. He's as open and friendly as any young man can be who is a Star Wars fan thrust into the international spotlight as part of the first live-action film in over a decade.
When we meet, he is sitting on a couch. He offers an instant smile, before completely lying down. He gets real comfortable, and then says, 'Analyze me, Doc!' It's a therapy session that we both know won't amount to much. There are no spoilers here. They are not allowed. Everything is lingering just on the surface of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and it doesn't sound like the actor knows much about what is happening with Star Wars: Episode VIII, which is only a year and a half away from happening. He does, however, become confirmed for that sequel by producer and LucasFilm boss Kathleen Kennedy later that day.
The cast and crew must stay focused on getting this first film off the ground. While keeping it contained in its mystery box. So, instead of talking about things we don't know, we talk about what we do. And these things include Kylo Ren being the galaxy's biggest nerd. Lightsaber training. And whether or not Finn is being set up as Chewbacca's co-pilot in future films. There is that nasty rumor about Han Solo going around after all, but the way the once and future Finn sells it, it's not true. What is true? We still don't know, and won't until this Thursday, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in preview screenings around the country. Until then, here is my conversation with Finn, aka John Boyega. You can also watch the full Global press conference below.
This is like speed dating in here.
John Boyega: Yeah, it's like Star Wars style speed dating. I think it works.
It's just horrible, because none of us have seen the movie yet.
John Boyega: I know! I wish you had.
That being said, the movie, to me, seems to be focused on this idea of geek culture and memorabilia collecting. Here's this guy, Kylo Ren. He's trying to collect this coveted object. You don't know what it is. But once you learn, you want to be a part of this world too. Now you must own the most wanted collectable in the galaxy. Is that basically the story we're getting in the movie?
John Boyega: Yes. That's actually quite true. I never thought about it like that. But that's a cool idea. I agree with that. You have these friends. Everybody has to make a choice. They have to pick a side. This is actually a lot about what the characters have to do in this story. That's what makes it so interesting.
The object Kylo is hunting is the lightsaber. I mean, tell me the truth...He's the villain, but Kylo Ren is kind of a big nerd too. Right?
John Boyega: Yes. That's right. Kylo Ren is basically the biggest Star Wars fans there has ever been. And he is just trying to protect his best interests. He definitely feels like he might be a nerd. One that is slightly misguided. And it feels like he is socially awkward. It does feel like that, too. I would only wear a mask like that if I was a little afraid of people.
You might have to do it at next year's Comic Con. You'll have to pull the mask on, because everyone is going to know who you are.
John Boyega: I may have already had to do that this year. There was a little bit of that going on.
In the original trilogy, each of the three main heroes go through a pretty strong arc. Especially Luke Skywalker. Can you even begin to understand what Finn's arc is at this point? And how he might transition and evolve heading into Star Wars 8?
John Boyega: There will be a whole arc. But I want it to remain a mystery and surprise. But I will say that in this movie, Finn's arc is very interesting. You get to see a Stormtrooper, and see what his story is about. From his point of view. Which has never happened before. We've never gotten to know a Stormtrooper. But in talking about how he will transition into Star Wars 8? I'm just focused on this first one. You don't come into your first fight thinking about how you're going to handle the next one. I'm just trying to make it out of this one alive right now.
I don't know. Mike Tyson is always thinking about his next ten fights as he's jumping in the ring for the next one.
John Boyega: I'm sure he wasn't when that fist was landing on his face.
Is that what it feels like? Like someone is trying to knock you out?
John Boyega: Yeah! It's like a train! It's like a train in the face going through this place. But it's a good train. A train you want to embrace and hug.
I can't even imagine it from your point of view.
John Boyega: Oh, no. It's ridiculous.
You first became known for your role as Moses in Attack the Block. And everyone who sees that movie just absolutely falls in love with Moses. So it was a little weird to me that there was this backlash. Who cares if it's a black Stormtrooper? It's Moses!
John Boyega: It's great. Because a lot of people have mentioned Attack the Block. And I don't know why I'm surprised that so many people here know it, really. I did like a whole tour in America and Europe for that movie. But I do love that people care about it so much.
I know you've done some other projects in-between. But looking at Moses specifically, here's a guy who was on the edges of the dark side who became a reluctant hero. From what we've been allowed to learn about the Force Awakens, Finn seems to be on a similar journey. He's starting out in a bad place, but he rises to be the hero. Is that a character archetype that really appeals to you and draws you in?
John Boyega: Yeah. I feel like the definition of hero is obviously fake. It is more about finding...Both Finn and Moses have to find their place in the world. Whether you have to confront the place that you come from. Or take yourself, and put yourself on a purposeful path. They are obviously trying to do what they believe is right. And the things they set out to do become quite complicated. And maybe this isn't the path they should have chosen. That's where I see a similarity in the story lines between Star Wars and Attack the Block. But I don't know if Finn and Moses are anything alike. If they really truly met? Maybe one day, when I'm on SNL, we'll show their meeting. It will be a whole completely different conversation.
What would that conversation sound like?
John Boyega: I don't know...(As Moses) You 'aight? (As Finn) Yeah? I'm good. So, where is the exit? (Laughs) Finn would try to get out of that conversation.
Now, not having seen the movie, it almost feels to me like Finn is being set up as Chewbacca's new co-pilot.
John Boyega: That is the first I've ever heard of that. I've heard plenty, and I swear to you, this is the first I've heard of Finn setting up as Chewy's best co-pilot. That's the first I've ever heard of that.
It seems like you guys would be partnered up. We've seen just you and Chewbacca together in a lot of the promotional materials. And there are certain spoilers regarding Han Solo that we obviously can't discuss.
John Boyega: People usually say the same thing. That he's tied into Luke Skywalker. That he's going to become a Jedi. But I've never heard that he will become Chewy's new best friend.
What do you think of that idea?
John Boyega: He has too much hair on him. I'm not sure I want to be around that all the time.
We see that he has an injury.
John Boyega: Yeah, he does.
If you save Chewbacca at any point, doesn't he also owe you a life debt?
John Boyega: He's got Han. Nah, Han is his best mate. You can't ever separate those two. Not as long as Han is around. Chewbacca doesn't need anyone else.
I guess it's the same idea as an old dog going to live with a new kid after his owner passes on.
John Boyega: Yeah, yeah. They are going to have their life together. They'll grow old together. And all that good stuff.
We've seen Finn with a lightsaber. And he's using it quite aggressively. Though, it doesn't appear that he has had any proper training. Did you forgo any 'Jedi' training yourself and just use this weapon as one might who's never wielded such a thing before?
John Boyega: Ah, no! I went through a lot of training. And the whole fight is choreographed. When I'm gong up agains Kylo Ren, I need to know how to swing that thing. The Stormtroopers are trained in all kinds of weapons. So, it would make sense that he knew how to use a lightsaber. He is a kid, but he knows how to use these weapons. And because of that, a lot of this stuff had to be choreographed.
And that was our time. It was a quick, short 7 minutes done without having seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And anyone who knows the story, knows that it really is about a mask villain trying to obtain the biggest piece of Star Wars memorabilia in the galaxy. For more on Star Wars 7 and what it's not about, check out the full video from the Global Press Tour.