Daisy Ridley Recalls Director J.J. Abrams’ Advice After Star Wars Casting: “This Is a Religion for People”

Daisy Ridley recalled director J.J Abrams’ words of wisdom following her casting in 2015’s The Force Awakens, saying this week that he told her to “understand the scale” of the film franchise before accepting the lead role.

Ridley played protagonist Rey in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019), leading the Star Wars films through their first years following Disney’s acquisition of the George Lucas universe.

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“This not a role in a movie,” Ridley recalled Abrams telling her in a new interview with Inverse. “This is a religion for people. It changes things on a level that is inconceivable.”

Abrams, Ridley says, was right: Star Wars changed her life, launching her status as a celebrity and pushing her to the forefront of an extremely passionate fan base.

“For friends and family, or any people who see something in a slightly different way than you do, there’s this projection of you, and you in that world, and how it feels to do this and that,” she said. “And you’re like, ‘Well, actually, I’m just a human being, separate from that.’ It’s quite this wrestle of the reality and the fantasy that’s often projected onto you.”

Ridley said the stress came at her quickly. “When all the craziness was going on, I was like, ‘I’m good. I’m good. I’m coping fine. Everything’s fine.’ And I was fine, for the most part. But I think what I was really grappling with was that it was my normal, but it was not normal to other people.”

Her stress soon manifested physically, and by the time The Last Jedi reached theaters, Ridley had developed holes in her gut wall. “My body was just fucked up,” she told GQ in 2019. “I got tests done and it turned out my body was taking in no nutrients. I was just a little skeleton and I was just so tired. I was becoming a ghost.”

Ridley took a six month break before beginning filming The Rise of Skywalker, which helped her recover. Then, the real end happened: “After the last Star Wars came out and everything was quiet, I was like, ‘What the fuck?'” Ridley said. “I was grieving.”

The experience ultimately took years to process, and was aided by the pandemic that started two years after Skywalker. “Having to sit in lockdown was incredibly helpful, in a way I hadn’t anticipated,” Ridley said. “I realized there was a lot that I hadn’t processed properly.”

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