Daisy Ridley Had A Sad Confession About Her Life After Star Wars

English actress Daisy Ridley was plucked from obscurity by director JJ Abrams in 2014 and thrust into the lead role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She’s since starred in two further instalments set in a galaxy far, far away, as well as the 2017 Murder On The Orient Express remake. However, she recently made a sad admission about her career in the wake of Star Wars.

Ridley played Rey, the protagonist in the new Star Wars trilogy. The character is initially a young scavenger on the planet Jakku, in the aftermath of an armed conflict. But after she comes to the aid of a droid, she becomes embroiled in the Resistance’s battles against the villainous First Order. She then finds out that she possesses supernatural abilities – via a power known as the Force – and goes to train under Luke Skywalker, the legendary Jedi master.

This affinity with the Force led many fans to believe that Rey was connected to Luke somehow, and that perhaps she was a Skywalker herself. Fans debated about her mysterious parentage, and so many were aggravated when the sequel The Last Jedi claimed that Rey’s lineage wasn’t relevant at all.

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Sections of the fanbase were once again aggrieved when The Rise Of Skywalker was released. It went against the previous movie, now revealing that Rey’s grandfather was in fact none other than the evil Emperor Palpatine. Many viewed this as a sign that the trilogy, and Rey’s character arc in particular, had been poorly planned out. And this perception wasn’t helped by an interview Ridley then gave in September 2020 on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

“At the beginning, there was toying with an Obi-Wan connection,” Ridley admitted, referring to the iconic character Obi-Wan Kenobi. “There were different versions. Then it really went to that she was no one. And then it came to Episode IX and JJ pitched me the film and was like, ‘Oh yeah, Palpatine’s granddaddy.’” However, she added, “And then two weeks later he was like, ‘Oh, we’re not sure.’ So, it kept changing.”

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Overall, though, critical response to Rey and to Ridley’s performance in particular was positive. In his review of The Force Awakens, Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times described it as a “breakout performance.” Daily Mail critic Brian Viner wrote that Ridley was the film’s true star and that her prospects looked stratospheric.

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Amazingly, just three years before she burst into the public consciousness as Rey – in what was only her second ever movie role – Ridley made her big-screen debut. It was a far cry from what she’d later experience on Star Wars. The film was Scrawl, a micro-budget effort made by Peter Hearn, a filmmaker and lecturer at Andover College in Hampshire, England. And while Ridley was reimbursed for her expenses, she received no salary.

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Aside from Scrawl, Ridley’s screen experience before The Force Awakens was limited. Ridley had minor roles on British television, including hospital drama Casualty and the comedy Youngers. She also showed up briefly in an episode of period drama Mr Selfridge. Indeed, Ridley had so little experience that there was still no IMDb entry for her at the time when Lucasfilm revealed she’d been given the part of Rey.

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The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams, who also cast then-unknown John Boyega in the film, told Elle that he wanted unfamiliar faces in the lead roles. To him, it was in keeping with Star Wars creator George Lucas’ own casting philosophy. “That’s something I remember loving about the original trilogy: not having seen these people before,” Abrams explained.

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“It was exciting but also terrifying because we knew that there was going to be a certain level of scrutiny and expectation on who these people were going to be,” Abrams continued. “So, they needed to be actors whom the audience could discover as these characters, not as actors they’d seen elsewhere. Ideally, it needed to be people like Daisy – somewhat experienced, but mostly new to the game.”

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From Ridley’s perspective, she felt that being an unknown quantity to worldwide audiences was a good thing. She told Vogue in 2015, “It’s a great place to come from. Nobody has any expectations of me until they see the film.” Regarding the character of Rey, Ridley felt a kinship with her, saying, “She’s a normal girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so it’s very relatable.”

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Although she had an unusually fast rise to stardom, Ridley did still have to navigate half a year of auditions to land the role of Rey. “People are like, ‘This happened overnight,’” she said to GQ in 2019. “But I started auditioning in August, got the job in February and started filming in May. It was all such a long process.”

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Where did Ridley come from, though? Well, as revealed by The Guardian in 2015, she “grew up in West London with four older sisters. Her mother works in communications for a bank and her father is a photographer. A great uncle was the actor Arnold Ridley, who appeared as Private Godfrey in the classic TV comedy Dad’s Army. She attended the fee-paying Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Hertfordshire.”

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Ridley didn’t have an all-consuming ambition to be an actor, though. Indeed, she admitted to Vogue that her drama teacher at school was the first person who made her believe it was a viable career possibility. “My sister asked me, ‘Why do people want to be actors?’ I had no answer,” she recalled. “I’m not totally sure of my capabilities. I felt like a total novice compared to everyone I worked with.”

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With regards to the pressures of instant fame, Ridley spoke candidly with Stylist magazine about her experiences in 2019. “Yesterday I went for tea at Claridge’s with my friend and I went to pay the bill and these very nice gentlemen had already paid,” she said. “They weren’t hitting on us; I think they were gay. And then today my hairdresser said, ‘It’s because you’re in a film.’”

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Scenarios such as this send Ridley for a loop. “Matt Damon said that often it’s not you that changes, it’s the people around you, and I’ve noticed that,” she explained. “It’s other people who don’t quite know how to be. It’s difficult to navigate when friends and family who have seen you grow up suddenly don’t know what to say to you.”

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“That’s hard,” Ridley continued. “Because I don’t think I’m a big a***hole now, I’m just happy to be working.” When asked how she feels about being recognized by the public, Ridley admitted it makes her “really uncomfortable.” She added, “I’m not used to it. For the most part people are being really nice, but I’m not a small talk kind of person. It’s like, I’m not your hero, you like the character I play.”

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“But I’m getting better at it,” added Ridley. “I also have really good friends. They’re incredibly defensive, in an amazing way. I was in a supermarket with two of my friends a while back – I was really tired, it was in the morning – and this person started to approach and they just went, ‘No, not today.’ I was like, ‘Thaaaanks guys.’”

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Asked if she’d become more comfortable over time with how her life completely changed after being cast in Star Wars, Ridley was measured in her response. “These days, I think of it like, everybody’s lives change all the time,” she said. “You could get ill, you could get married. There are so many things that can happen to one individual.”

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“So yes, it’s unusual because I didn’t have much experience and then suddenly, I’m in this huge film,” Ridley conceded. “But crazier things happen every single day, so it’s alright. People ask me, ‘How does it make you feel that you’re always going to be associated with Star Wars? ‘And I’m like, ‘They’re good films! I’m happy to be associated with it.’”

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One thing that surprised Ridley, though, was how complete strangers would inform her of what they didn’t like about her Star Wars films. She recalled, “I had an Uber driver recently who told me he didn’t like the last film, really casually. Like, thanks dude, I worked on that for six months. People feel more comfortable expressing negative opinions, but in a weirdly friendly way.”

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Another example occurred at a pal’s birthday party. “This guy says, ‘Yeah, Episode VII was basically Episode IV,’” Ridley revealed. “I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve met you three times. Also, I didn’t ask! Go and put that on social media where I can’t read it.’ But people are weird with social media, too.”

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“Why do we all have to have such a loud opinion about something?” Ridley lamented. “Why can’t we just watch a film and then go to a café to talk about it, rather than immediately spewing things online.” So, perhaps the barrage of online fan negativity surrounding The Last Jedi left a lasting impression on Ridley.

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In early January 2020 Ridley spoke to Glamour and revealed that she’d sought therapy in order to cope with the intensity of the past few years. She said, “I went to therapy for a bit, which was great. Because a lot of it was about feeling out of control, because I’m quite controlling in that I like to know what’s going on, and suddenly you’re in a situation where you have no idea what’s going on.”

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“You don’t know if people are gonna look at you, you don’t know if people are gonna be somewhere,” Ridley continued. “Like, you don’t know to what extent your day is gonna go. And then in general if I don’t want to go out, I won’t go out. If I don’t want to see people, I won’t see people. Facial, massage, all of the things that keep you feeling good, too.”

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Ridley then revealed that she was taught by therapy to replace negative emotions with positive things. She explained, “And I was like, ‘Oh!’ Because I think a lot of people assume you have to fill stress with stress, but you don’t. You can deal with the stress and then fill it with good stuff.”

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Ridley also learned to accept that she has to make the best of life. “So, if you’re not having a good time, what is the point?” she stated. “Like, you have to almost fake it until you make it. Force yourself to have a good time, and then eventually you’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, okay, this is quite enjoyable.’”

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Ridley then addressed her plans for the future, now that her Star Wars experience was over. “I currently just feel very tired,” she admitted. “And like I’m so ready to go home and see my family, who I only saw last night for a few hours, and it was sort of diluted with a lot of other people. And then I think come mid-January, I’ll be like, ‘This is weird now. What’s going on?’”

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At the point, Ridley envisaged landing her next acting gig. “I’ve been searching,” she revealed. “I’m like, ‘Please can someone employ me?’ What else am I going to do? I am going to write some stuff down like, what do I want to do? What do I want to achieve?”

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Fast forward to August 2020 and, while promoting a voice role in video game Twelve Minutes, Ridley again spoke openly about the aftermath of her Star Wars experience. She told Entertainment Weekly, “It was so sad to finish. When the film was released, I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was such a huge chapter.”

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Ridley then made a sad confession that shocked fans, many of whom would assume an actress of her status would be in high demand following her franchise-leading exploits. “Weirdly, at the beginning of the year nothing was coming through,” she confessed. “I was like, ‘Aww! No one wants to employ me.’”

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“There were actually loads of things that I auditioned for at the beginning of the year and didn’t get any of them,” Ridley continued. “I had that moment of, ‘Oh my God!’ and then just thought, ‘Everything in its right time.’” Refusing to panic seemed to help Ridley – and so did the opportunity to take stock.

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“Weirdly, the past few months of not having much…” explained a contemplative Ridley, before trailing off and re-thinking her words. “Obviously, now it’s really nice to be working, but not having much I feel like I processed the last five years. To be forced to slow down, it was good mentally for me because [Star Wars was] a big thing in my life.”

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It was only in the spring that acting prospects began to appear for Ridley. This was when she was approached to work on Twelve Minutes, a videogame being developed by the movie studio Annapurna’s gaming arm. Ridley agreed to lend her voice to the project, which sees her star alongside The Lighthouse star Willem Dafoe and X-Men actor James McAvoy.

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Ridley plays an anonymous female who’s attacked in her apartment by an armed stranger. Her husband, voiced by McAvoy, sees the attack, and then becomes stuck in a time loop, repeating the same 12-minutes period until he unravels the causes of the incident.

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Interestingly, voice work seems to be a viable direction for Ridley’s career at this point, as she’s also working on Islanders, an Audible Original play. Written by Killing Eve scribe Elinor Cook, it tells the tale of a young woman who appears on a reality TV show in which nothing is as it seems and time has no meaning. Ridley has recorded the play from her London home.

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“I really enjoyed performing Elinor Cook’s Islanders,” Ridley said in an Audible press release. “Coming from a group working environment, it’s very rare to have to perform a piece, uninterrupted, but I found the creative process to be challenging and rewarding in equal measure.” She added, “I feel really lucky I was able to explore this piece with Elinor and the Audible team.”

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Another voice part that Ridley has signed on for is Baba Yaga, an Oculus Quest virtual-reality interactive animated movie. Once again, despite the project not being a traditional film, Ridley will be starring alongside top Hollywood names. The voice cast includes Kate Winslet, Glenn Close and Jennifer Hudson.

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Nonetheless, Ridley does want to go back into working on movies, and she told Entertainment Weekly that several intriguing scripts had found their way to her. “There’s one thing that I’m gonna do that’s super dark,” she revealed. “I was like, ‘Do we need something this dark?’ But it’s also really interesting and about memory and everything’s a bit fragmented.”

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Overall, though, Ridley admitted that no one in the movie industry knows when production will be up and running again. The widespread enforced shutdowns have thrown the industry into chaos. She said, “There have been awesome things, and obviously no one knows when they’re gonna go.” She added that her preference for upcoming roles would be something with a sense of jubilation to it, stating, “That’s what people need.”

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