John Boyega Star Wars Criticisms

In September, John Boyega gave an interview with GQ in which he voiced dissatisfaction with the Star Wars trilogy he appeared in. Specifically, Boyega felt that Disney had gone to great lengths to use the actor’s likeness in its ads, all in the name of highlight a new Black Star Wars character, only to then sideline him as the trilogy progressed. This was all the more apparent in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in which both Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran (especially Tran) had very little to do with the main narrative. In a new interview, Boyega says he had a “very honest, a very transparent conversation” with a Disney executive about the matter.

It’s easy to forget since it feels like a billion years have passed since it opened, but a lot of the pre-release marketing for Star Wars: The Force Awakens leaned heavily on images of John Boyega as Finn. The first person we saw in the first Force Awakens teaser was Boyega’s Finn in his stormtrooper uniform, and posters (like the one above), trailers, and TV spots all played up his presence while slightly downplaying Daisy Ridley’s Rey.

In the end, this turned out to be misleading marketing. From my own personal perspective, I went into Force Awakens assuming Boyega was going to be the main character. So when the film pulled the rug out from under my feet and revealed that this was really about Rey, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Not because I dislike Boyega – I think he’s great! I just thought it was a rather clever approach by Disney to avoid spoilers.

But I will also admit that at the time, I didn’t stop to think about how all of this played for Boyega. But now we know: he wasn’t too thrilled about it. And his opinion on the matter grew even more negative as the trilogy continued. During the GQ interview, Boyega said:

“You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a Black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are, and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.”

In the same interview, the actor said: “They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

Now, in an interview with THR, Boyega reveals that a Disney executive reached out to him after the GQ interview to discuss the situation:

“It was a very honest, a very transparent conversation,” Boyega says. “There was a lot of explaining on their end in terms of the way they saw things. They gave me a chance also to explain what my experience was like. I’d hope that me being so open with my career, at this stage, would help the next man, the guy that wants to be the assistant DOP, the guy that wants to be a producer. I hope that the conversation is not such a taboo or elephant in the room now, because someone just came and said it.”

The fact that Disney was willing to discuss this matter with Boyega is commendable, and I hope they actually learned something from the experience and weren’t just trying to smooth over some negative PR. In any case, the THR story adds that Boyega’s experience working on Star Wars inspired him to form his own production company, UpperRoom Productions, which recently signed a big deal with Netflix. Boyega can next be seen in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe miniseries.

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