Daisy Ridley spent her 20s on film sets, fighting Siths as Rey in the “Star Wars” trilogy and ironing out her alibi in Kenneth Branagh’s whodunit “Murder on the Orient Express.”
So the actor marveled at experiencing the mundanity of office life in the indie drama “Sometimes I Think About Dying,” which premiered at last year’s Sundance and debuts in theaters on Jan. 26. She plays Fran, a lonely clerical worker whose morbid daydreams are more comforting than the world around her.
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“I’m quite lucky to work on films in different countries. My job is pretty fucking cool,” she says of her own life. “So, I did enjoy being in an office for a moment.” I was like, ‘People talk about water cooler moments.’ This is the water cooler!”
Ridley spoke to Variety about her first time as a producer on “Sometimes I Think About Dying” and stepping back into Rey’s Jakku desert garb for another “Star Wars” adventure (and before you ask — no, she doesn’t know when the new installment goes into production).
Your character in “Sometimes I Think About Dying” doesn’t have much dialogue. Was the challenging?
I’ve never played anyone who talks loads. So, strangely, it wasn’t even a consideration of mine. One big change from the script was the voiceover the whole way through. When the filmmakers got to the edit, they were like, “We didn’t need the voiceover.” As the script was written, I knew what Fran was thinking the whole time.
How did you capture Fran’s personality?
She created a rich inner life because it’s more comfortable than engaging in a social life. She finds it hard to fit in, but sometimes she’s like, “I don’t want to be part of this.” By the last shot of the film, she has done the scariest thing she could imagine: Telling someone her actual thoughts and being vulnerable; making a true connection with another human.
Do you think this movie resonates differently in a post-COVID world?
I made “The Marsh King’s Daughter” a few months before this, and that was super isolating. Toronto was locked the fuck down. If I wasn’t on set, I was alone. So even the act of making this one was a touch freer. We went for dinner every night. It was wonderful.
We all feel far away from that time, but it doesn’t take much to remember how difficult it was. COVID or not, we know what it is to feel alone and lonely … to be with a group of people and still feel on the outside. Or to be alone and be comforted because of something you are reading or watching. The movie is a reminder of the connection that we’re trying to regain.
I found the office setting to be depressing. Did you feel sorry that Fran had to work in that environment?
That is so funny. I didn’t find it dreary at all. That’s probably subjective. I’ve never worked in an office. I was like, ‘Oh my god. People talk about water cooler moments. This is the water cooler.”
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I really liked working in pubs, but my worst day was during Notting Hill Carnival, which is the biggest street carnival in the U.K. I don’t know how many bouts of vomit I had to clear up. I had no protective equipment, no gloves, nothing. I remember full-blown gagging.
What was it like being a producer on “Sometimes I Think About Dying”?
I had never seen a budget or anything. After the movie, I understood what people were paid for their first film. I understood how many locations were viable within a certain budget. It made me aware of what can be done in a short time. We shot this in 23 days. When it came to making my own film, I knew we could make it for the money [we had] because we had made this for a lot less.
You’re reprising your role as Rey in a new “Star Wars” movie directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. How will the franchise’s first female filmmaker impact the series?
The short answer is I don’t know. I’m excited to do the job, but not because Sharmeen is a woman. Her documentaries are amazing. Her idea for the story is cool as shit. No spoilers, but she gave me a rundown of the entire story. If it weren’t amazing, I would have been like, “OK, call me in five years.” But it’s worthwhile.
Will it be weird to make a “Star Wars” movie without your co-stars, Adam Driver, John Boyega or Oscar Isaac?
No, because I don’t know what is what or who is who [in the new movie]. So much has happened for me [since the Skywalker saga]. I feel like a grown-up now. When I first started, I was, like, 20. I was the youngest on set. It took me the first two “Star Wars” films to feel worthy of being there. Now I’m in my 30s. The whole thing feels quite different. I’ve been able to work with other filmmakers, and hopefully, I’ve got better as a performer.
How do you like to spend your downtime in between projects?
Reading, going to the cinema, and cooking my own food. I was living in a hotel before Christmas, and when I got back and I was like, ‘I can cut an onion. I can cut garlic!’
What is your favorite meal to cook?
I’m a vegan but I cook meat. There is pleasure in cooking something for people that you’re not able to eat. Obviously, it makes me such a bad vegan, but I do a roast chicken. I’ve been told by a few people it’s the best roast chicken. The secret is salting it 24 hours before.
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