Our exclusive BRITS BLITZ series celebrates the British stars flying the flag in film, TV and music across the world.
Daisy Ridley's life changed forever with one simple press release last year.
At 23 years old, Daisy Ridley could be mistaken for just another budding British actress. With a distant - but still close enough - relative in the industry ('Dad's Army's Arnold Ridley, who played Private Charles Godfrey), Daisy has spent years attending castings, scoring small roles and working on indie projects, one of which, the interactive film ‘Lifesaver’, was BAFTA-nominated.
She learnt her trade at a performing arts school in Hertfordshire, leaving at the age of 18 and going travelling, before returning to London and trying her hand at a career in showbiz. Like so many others, she’s appeared on our TV screens, after securing small roles in British dramas such as ‘Casualty’, ‘Silent Witness’ and ‘Mr Selfridge’. So far, so normal. Well, until you reach the 29 April 2014.
That was the day 'Star Wars' director JJ Abrams, and his bosses at Disney released the first details of the cast for the upcoming reboot of the blockbuster series, garnering the kind of excitement rarely seen even in the hype-friendly film world.
“We are so excited to finally share the cast of ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’,” the statement from director Abrams read. “It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud."
And there, in the black and white photo taken at one of the film's first read-throughs, sitting calmly between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher(!), was our very own Daisy Ridley.
The internet pored over the picture, and within minutes, speculation over the blockbuster’s plot began, as fans questioned the placement of the film’s stars, and as expected, interest in the new recruits piqued. Overnight, Daisy went from a relatively anonymous actor to one of the most-Googled names in showbiz. However, even in the information age, searches revealed very few tidbits.
During the past 13 months, and even now, Google and Wikipedia can’t tell you much more than when and where Daisy was born (10 April, 1992 in London), and that her uncle is ‘Dad’s Army’ star Arnold Ridley, and small details on the bit parts previously mentioned. When her casting was announced, the showreel on her agent's page was removed.
In that time, ‘Star Wars: VII’ has been given a full title, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, a trailer, and a special, iconic Vanity Fair cover - in which Daisy is once again, at the centre. But still, its stars remain relatively unknown.
Fans were looking forward to seeing Daisy in ‘The Inbetweeners 2’, but cinema-goers were left disappointed, not just because the film wasn’t quite as good as expected, but also because her scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
The film’s director was gracious, conceding perhaps that ‘Star Wars’ machine wasn’t one to be battled by a bunch of successful but nonetheless smaller mortals.
“We’ve cut her out of the film,” writer and producer Iain Morris stated at the time. “She [was] in the opening of the film. We reshot the opening because the script didn’t work. We desperately wanted Daisy to come back and do it because she’s brilliant, really funny. But by that point she was doing ‘Star Wars’. She wasn’t available because of ‘Star Wars’ contractual commitments.
“She wanted to do it…She’s brilliant and she’ll be a huge star.”
Thanks to Disney, Lucasfilm and JJ Abrams’ secrecy, Daisy still isn’t really a star. Not quite yet.
The ‘Star Wars’ movie has been shrouded in secrecy, and JJ Abrams and his crew have gone to massive efforts to make sure spoilers, and even basic character details, aren’t leaked. Most of the filming was completed at Pinewood studios, Buckinghamshire, but there are no paparazzi shots of cast members in the area, or sightings reported on Twitter. JJ’s decision to follow George Lucas’s lead, and cast unknown stars (alongside Ford, Fisher and Mayhew) affords the project a level of secrecy that would have been tough to achieve with more well-known actors.
Just like the first cast photo, the trailer and Vanity Fair feature have both scrutinised from every possible angle, but still, we know even less about Daisy’s character Rey, who rides a machine named Speeder, than we do the actress.
Come December, when the film is released, this will, of course, change. Again, as with the initial press release, the movie itself - which will no doubt be screened at midnight on its release date, at cinemas up and down the UK - will alter the landscape completely.
Right now, It’s fair to assume that Daisy can probably go about her business with a normal level of anonymity. Granted, there are unofficial fan sites dedicated to her, but she has no known social media accounts, official website or hordes of followers.
When the film hits, and the worldwide promotional trail begins, the privacy blanket will be lifted and as film fans find out who Rey is - is she is Ford’s on-screen daughter? What’s her relationship with John Boyega’s Finn? - Daisy’s name will begin appearing on the celebrity, and style, pages too. Until then - we wait.
You only need to look back to 1977, and Carrie Fisher’s swift rise to fame, to see the power that ‘Star Wars’ can have. As the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Carrie was already familiar with the world of showbusiness, but she still wasn’t prepared for the level of fame ‘Star Wars’ brought. Writing in her autobiography, ‘Wishful Drinking’, a candid account of her struggle with substance addiction, Carrie said: “George Lucas ruined my life. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Even now, many years later, people are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big a hit. Yes, of course I knew. We all knew. The only one who didn't was the director, George Lucas. We kept it from him because we wanted to see what his face looked like when it changed expression.”
Thankfully, times have changed, and Carrie’s Hollywood is very different to Daisy’s. Of course, it’s impossible to think of Carrie without Princess Leia’s iconic hairstyle. Will Daisy’s Rey sport a noteworthy ‘do? This is yet another question that won’t be solved until the film is released.
In 2014, Felicity Jones was skyrocketed to the front cover of magazines, which was thanks to both her Oscar-nominated performance in ‘The Theory Of Everything’, and on-trend red carpet outings - but before the film, she was far from being an unknown star, and had already led a number of movies, and made an appearance in Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’. Felicity was at the centre of Vanity Fair’s 2014 Hollywood issue cover, which bore the headline ‘The Brits Are Coming!’, and it would be no surprise to see Daisy on the front of the 2015 Hollywood edition.
‘Star Wars’, and its new, British recruits, are certainly proof - along with the continued success of the likes of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hardy and Emma Watson - that if the Brits were coming in February 2014, they’re certainly there now. Hollywood, they’re all yours. Just treat them well for us, would you?