When Disney operatives introduce me to Daisy Ridley and tell her where I’m from, she breaks into an Irish accent that is, to be kind, stagey.
She stares at me for a moment to gauge my reaction, then laughs. “My agent’s Irish, and she’s appalled by my accent – I’m Irish too by the way.” And more on that bombshell in a moment.
We are in the midst of the biggest and most labyrinthine film junket I’ve ever been involved in: half a floor of London’s Corinthia Hotel has been taken over by Disney media commandos.
They have eight interview rooms simultaneously running and usher journalists from across the globe in and out with astonishing efficiency. It’s a publicity production line, and you’d think Daisy would be getting pretty weary with the whole thing by this stage.
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Not a bit of it. Elegantly dressed, she’s full of energy and enthusiastically discusses her role in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’, last of a nine-film cycle begun by George Lucas back in 1977.
JJ Abrams returns as director for a film which moves through its complex plot with lightning speed and does not stint on the action as it tries to tie up all the various Skywalker loose ends.
“It was everything an actor could hope for from a film,” she says. “I’m very lucky that I enjoy all the physical stuff, but also emotionally got to do so much. It’s so rare that you get to be able to do all of that in one film so, yeah, I was happy.”
She’s also happy that this time “I didn’t injure myself – isn’t that amazing”. It is when you consider how much hand-to-hand fighting her character Rey has to do in this film, as she comes into her own and confronts the odious Palpatine – who’s back, by the way.
Daisy says she felt very emotional during the scenes in which the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia appears through the magic of technology and old footage. The two had bonded on the set of ‘The Force Awakens’ and Fisher had given her good advice about how to handle what was about to hit her.
“Yeah,” she remembers, “I mean the scene where I’m sort of saying goodbye to her was very difficult.
“I think that was one of the first scenes I did, so I knew what they were going to use of her, and even just thinking about it, that was the first time I just had to step away and say, this is really difficult.
“So watching that is hard, and obviously in playing it what I was trying to play was that I knew it was a real goodbye. And I mean obviously there’s a slight suspension of disbelief involved, but I think they did an amazing job with what they had.”
She was only 21 when Abrams cast her in ‘The Force Awakens’, after which she was swept up in the ‘Star Wars’ tornado, something which Abrams warned her was like a religion.
“It now feels like ‘oh my God, did six years go by that quickly’,” she says. But “to have ended with this one feels like a great way to finish”.
And what about this Irishness then? “Well my agent’s from Ennis, and I told her, ‘well we’re from Ennis too’.
“While we were filming in Skellig, me and my dad went on a journey through the Burren to try and find the house that was our… great-grandparents’ I think? So anyway we’re trying to figure out all these Ennis connections, but that’s where they were from.
“On the last film,” she says, “we got to go to the most northerly tip and the most southerly tip of Ireland.
“It was amazing, and the sun shone the whole time – all the Irish people were like ‘what’s going on?'”
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