After starring in the galaxy’s biggest movies, Daisy Ridley is now trying the indie scene on for size by way of Rachel Lambert’s Sometimes I Think About Dying. The quirky romantic drama recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and it chronicles the lonely and routine existence of Ridley’s Fran until Dave Merheje’s Robert arrives in town and attempts to crack her shell.
Despite the massive difference in scale between Dying and her Star Wars sequel trilogy, Ridley still felt the same through-line in the work.
“The goal of any film — whether it’s made for $100,000 or $300 million — is to ultimately share something that speaks to people and tells a resonant story,” Ridley tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So it obviously felt different because it’s sort of a smaller screening and what have you, but it’s still the same feeling.”
Ridley is currently filming an indie noir thriller called Magpie, and the screenplay, which was based on her own story idea, was penned by her partner, Tom Bateman. Ridley also has Disney’s Young Woman and the Sea releasing later this year. It tells the story of Gertrude Ederle, the Olympic swimmer who, in 1926, became the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
Naturally, Star Wars rumors continue to swirl around Ridley, and they likely always will as fans hope to see more of her beloved Jedi, Rey. THR previously reported that Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson are writing a post-Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker story for Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy to direct, so the question remains if Ridley/Rey will have a role in the stand-alone installment.
As of this moment, Ridley insists she knows nothing about what’s to come.
“I really don’t know if there are plans. I just don’t know,” Ridley says. “But ultimately, I loved my experience, I loved what I got to do and I love the people I got to work with. So, should that happen again, even once, amazing.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Ridley also discusses visiting locations from The Goonies while shooting Sometimes I Think About Dying. Then she looks ahead to Young Woman and the Sea, and the exhaustive swim training it required.
So you’ve done global press tours with movies that are the size of small countries, but now you’ve had the proper Sundance experience. So what was your impression of the other end of the spectrum?
Of course, there’s a difference in visibility, but in general, the goal of any film — whether it’s made for $100,000 or $300 million — is to ultimately share something that speaks to people and tells a resonant story. So it obviously felt different because it’s sort of a smaller screening and what have you, but it’s still the same feeling of being proud of a piece of work and getting to share it. So hearing people’s responses has been lovely, but because [Sometimes I Think About Dying] was made in quite a different way, it’s that much more lovely. [Director] Rachel [Lambert] has made one other film, and I’m really enjoying this elevation for her. So Sundance was a really lovely reception to this quite touching story.
Your character, Fran, is quite lonely, and she lives a very routine life until Dave Merheje’s Robert comes to town. Another famous character of yours was also quite lonely until she met the new guy in town.
So just out of curiosity, what’s your relationship to loneliness or choosing to be alone? Could you relate on some level?
I could relate in that I occasionally think, “I’m alright in this world,” but then, I occasionally think, “I don’t belong. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I’m not great at social situations. I will ruminate over something I’ve said that probably came out the wrong way and I didn’t mean. I will lie in bed for hours thinking, “Oh my God, I didn’t mean it like that.” I’m actually an introvert. I find it quite hard to be around people unless I’m very comfortable. So I relate in all those general social ways.
In terms of loneliness, I always think I’m the sort of person who’s good alone, but I never am. (Laughs.) I worked hard [at Sundance] by being around a lot of people, and I was like, “You know what, I’ll just have a Saturday [to myself].” And then I thought, “Actually, I’m not sure.” So I don’t know that I’m great at being alone, but I do feel the pull. As we all know, loneliness can be quite unhealthy, so I try to be around people, even if I’m not really feeling it, because I know it’ll give me a little boost.
Whether it’s social anxiety, depression or something from her upbringing, did you diagnose Fran at all?
No, as Rachel has been saying, it’s not that Fran wants to die. She just wants to live in a full way and in a way that she feels she hasn’t quite mastered yet. Particularly after Covid, particularly with phones and people being disconnected, we are in a real moment of difficulty connecting with each other, and I don’t think that’s diagnosable all the time. There’s a lot of pressure on everyone. There’s a lot of images of what life should be, what friendships should be, what relationships should be, what family should be, and seeing those examples everywhere is overwhelming. So I feel like Fran is representative of a lot of people who have difficulty connecting and are prone to depressive episodes.
Do you know what’s up with her mom and childhood? Did you decide something for yourself at least?
Yeah, Rachel and I actually had very different opinions about what that is. My thought going into it was that she had very loud parents, and as an only child, she didn’t have much room to be loud at home. But Rachel had a totally opposite thought about her having quiet parents, and siblings. So that was quite interesting. The real takeaway from the film is that people leave with such different experiences. One person said, “Fran’s a bit mean.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Rachel calls the film an inkblot test because it really reveals different things to different people, but in my mind, there’s a sort of strained relationship with the parents. It wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t anything that made her feel totally comfortable in the world.
That Oregon coast location is really quite beautiful.
Yeah, it’s stunning.
You visited some of the Goonies locations while you were shooting this?
Yeah, I hit up every spot in Astoria. I went to the maritime and film museums. I went to the Goonies house and beach. Where we filmed the cinema scene, that is, I believe, the most haunted town in Oregon, and it was actually quite freaky. And then on the way out, I went for brunch with a few people in Portland. [Astoria] has such an interesting quality; there’ve been tons of shipwrecks. It’s such a dangerous part of the water, and you can feel that people are getting on with their lives with this quite intense threat next to them. So it’s quite an unusual place, but it’s very warm and very inviting in a community way. The town of Astoria itself was just gorgeous.
Have you found a new love in producing?
Yeah, Alex Saks, who was our real producer, very kindly gave it to me, and we obviously had to cobble together to get the film made. But with this film and Magpie, which I’m making now, it’s about setting a precedent for conduct on set, and it’s just really nice to be part of the tone-setting of everything by making sure people feel appreciated and validated. And then, generally, being a part of creative conversations is so exciting, and it’s such an eye-opening thing. I assumed I knew what went into making a film, but then, I was like, “Nope!” So it’s been an amazing experience.
Fran’s food of choice being cottage cheese is such a brilliant choice because there is no sadder food than cottage cheese.
Yeah, I can’t eat cottage cheese because I’m a vegan, and when our amazing art team made me something to look like cottage cheese, I was like, “Oh no.” But it was actually super tasty. It was like coconut yogurt and something. So the texture was a little odd to get into, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried cottage cheese. My mum partakes in cottage cheese, and I could never understand it. I was always like, “What is this texture?” It was so odd to me. I don’t actually know anyone else that eats cottage cheese.
I didn’t realize that you write left-handed until Fran signed the retirement card. Did that cause any choreography headaches for those laser sword fights you used to get into?
(Laughs.) Well, most left-handed people are fairly ambidextrous. So I just started with the old sword in my right hand, and it was never too much of an issue. But funnily enough, I had to approve a clip for something I’m doing, and it was from Murder on the Orient Express . Of course, in those days, you would not have been allowed to write left-handed. My great-aunt was taught to write with her right hand; her left hand was tied behind her back. So [in Murder on the Orient Express], I had to put in a line left-handed, and I was like, “I cannot write right-handed.” But as far as the choreography, there were no issues. I actually don’t know if I bowl left or right-handed because I’m pretty shit either way. (Laughs.) So I’m either ambidextrous, or I can’t do anything with either hand.
I often think about two very specific moments with Rey. One is when she sees green in the galaxy for the first time in The Force Awakens, and the other is when she experiences rain for the first time in The Last Jedi.
In terms of the rain, I do remember that because I was given an amazing picture of it as my wrap gift. And with the green, it was all so dreamy. It was such a surreal experience, and the whole thing was so awe inspiring. So the green was just another thing to add. I feel like I had many, many discoveries as that character.
You made three massive movies in five years, which is a crazy amount of work. Did you get the chance to properly enjoy the experience? Or was there so much hustle and bustle that you didn’t really get the opportunity to savor it?
On the third film [Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker], I was very present. On the first two, I was like, “Oh my God, they’ve chosen the wrong person. Oh my God, I’m gonna screw it all up. Oh my God, oh my God.” And then by the third one, I had little time to pause. I still had moments of feeling like, “Oh my God, am I terrible?” But I also knew that I worked really hard and that I was in a very safe environment with a lot of people that I already knew. So I felt very comfortable, and I really made an effort to be present every day. And it was my favorite filming experience for that reason because I was really taking in everything, and none of the joy and excitement had gone. So I felt like I could breathe a little easier. I mean, I loved all of them, but it was nice to really be in my body for that last filming experience.
It took 32 years to revisit Han, Luke and Leia, and so much story was missed during that time. So my one hope for Rey is that we reunite with her at least once every decade and track her development over time. Is that more appealing to you than waiting 30 years and playing catch up on all the time missed?
Honestly, I have no idea. I feel like Rey’s story ended in a wonderful way with the last film [Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker]. It’s already been an insane three years since that film came out. I feel like quite a different person. We’ve all gone through a massive change in the last three years, with lots of crazy things happening. So I really don’t know if there are plans. I just don’t know. But ultimately, I loved my experience, I loved what I got to do and I love the people I got to work with. So, should that happen again, even once, amazing. Because the dream is to really be around nice people that make you feel good and feel heard while you do good work.
So I’ve been tracking Young Woman and the Sea for a while, and it looks like quite the physical challenge. Did it push you beyond what you did in outer space?
I recently saw the final cut of the film, and it’s really good. I’m very, very excited for later this year, whenever we get to share it. I mean, I did not swim the English Channel and I will never swim the Channel. (Laughs.) Some people are inspired by the characters they play to actually do the thing, but during training and the filming of it, I probably did swim 26 smiles. There is something so insane about athletes that I still can’t wrap my head around, and insanity might be the wrong word. The woman who trained me, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and she did so much training. Of course, everybody applies that to their jobs, but to put one’s body through that is just beyond belief for me.
So she was an amazing teacher, and I became a much better swimmer than I ever, ever thought I could have been. Last January, when I started training, I could barely do 20 meters in the pool. And then by the last take, I was swimming in the Black Sea, and I was fighting currents in the sea by myself. I swam for probably two minutes tracking one ship next to me, tracking the follow boat and making sure I was in line. So I was proud of myself by the end, but swimming is just such a different sport. I actually haven’t swam since. (Laughs.)
I read this article recently about a French high court that ruled that workers have the right to not have fun at work, whether it’s office parties or any sort of extracurricular activity. So I thought of that as Fran was suffering through that office retirement party.
How often does that sort of thing happen on movie sets? And I ask that knowing that you had the most amazing looking cake on Young Woman and the Sea and that J.J. Abrams loved dance parties on his Star Wars sets.
Honestly, with Sometimes I Think About Dying, that was probably the most social I’ve ever been, and it was because we would often wrap so early. Rachel was so intentional with her shots, and when she was happy, we just moved on. It was to the point that we literally wrapped six hours early one day. I was like, “What is happening?” But she just absolutely knew what she was making. It was unbelievable. So I went out a few times to the pub, which is quite unlike me, but it was just such a nice group of people. You can really feel the experience we all had together in the film, and we love each other so much.
In general, film sets are long hours, and you’re already spending so much time together, so it doesn’t actually happen too much. I’ve never been to an office Christmas party, but I’ve always wondered how that is. I’ve been to a few wrap parties, which are great. On Murder on the Orient Express, we all hung out every weekend and played Werewolf, which is funny because we also play that in Sometimes I Think About Dying. But those two are the most social films I’ve done.