1.Reflections on My Interview With the Two Troublemakers of the Latest “Star Wars" Trilogy
My Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cast interview aired on the January 17th episode of Sekai e Hasshin! SNS Eigojutsu. The final film in the trilogy comprised of The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017) is a global event, and accordingly, the cast has been traveling the world promoting the movie. I was lucky enough to get to interview two of the trilogy’s three leads, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega.
Isaac's hotshot resistance pilot, Poe Dameron, is cool, composed, and completely reckless. But over the course of three films, he grows into a leader of the resistance. Meanwhile, Boyega’s Finn is an ex-stormtrooper that escaped from the First Order and now searches for a new purpose. The character is a reluctant fighter and often panics in the face of danger, but by the end of the saga he makes a place for himself in the resistance.
The first two films are replete with heartfelt and humorous exchanges between Poe and Finn, and their rapport remains a highlight of this third film. The pair has also become a fixture on the promotional circuit for their banter and general antics. Leading up to the interview, my SNS Eigojutsu director and I talked about how we could draw out and capture their energy in the interview.
Given that I only had 10 minutes, I was a little apprehensive going into the interview, but all of that flew out the window within the first minute. When I began by asking Isaac “What will you miss most about Poe?", he turned towards Boyega, and the two immediately burst into laughter. In that moment, I realized that what I should have been worrying about is whether or not I would be able to reel in their tomfoolery. It was if I was talking to two middle school students who were giggling uncontrollably, content in whatever secret they were sharing between them on that particular day.
By the end, I felt like a middle school principal who had called two of the school’s most notorious jokers into his office.
2.The Sensual Charm of Oscar Isaac
Oscar Isaac was born in Guatemala in 1979. Over the past decade, he has become one of Hollywood’s few Latin-American leading actors.
Isaac, who grew up in Miami, Florida, loved to make people laugh as a child, and was known as a troublemaker at school. He eventually got kicked out of his Christian school. He later played guitar and vocals in a Miami-based ska-punk band, and at the age of 21, enrolled in the Juilliard School of Music—one of the world's leading performing arts colleges. After graduating, he began working as an actor.
The first phase of his career is characterized by a number of serious and cynical roles. He broke through with 2013's Inside Llewyn Davis, a tragic comedy about a folk singer struggling to maintain his artistic integrity in an increasingly commercial music industry. The film was highly reviewed for Isaac’s acting and for the music, recorded live during filming.
In 2015, he played a genius programmer/startup CEO in the AI-themed science fiction thriller Ex Machina. The film showcased Isaac’s charm and sensuality to great effect, as evidenced by this dance scene:
Isaac’s role as Poe in the newest Star Wars trilogy has cemented his reputation as a leading man—not least because his character exudes the same kind of swagger embodied by Han Solo in the original trilogy. He is celebrated online as the internet’s boyfriend, an ideal of the Latino male fit for the present age.
Hard to believe, then, that J.J. Abrams originally planned to kill off Poe in the first half of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
3.Social Media Enthusiast John Boyega
John Boyega was born in the U.K. to Nigerian parents in 1992. He caught the theater bug as a grade schooler, and at age nine was noticed by the artistic director of a learning theater for young people in south London. He continued to appear in school plays throughout middle school and high school, and went on to major in performing arts in college.
Boyega made his feature film debut in 2011’s Attack the Block, a low-budget sci-fi action film where a street gang attempts to thwart an alien invasion on their block in south London. Boyega garnered praise for his portrayal of a young gang leader who becomes a reluctant hero—a performance that would lead to him being cast as Finn, another reluctant hero, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Finn is a stormtrooper for the First Order who, shaken by the horror of war, defects to the resistance. No laughing matter, but Finn ends up providing much of the comic relief in the film as he tries futilely to run in the opposite direction of the action. Boyega’s playfulness lights up not only the silver screen but social media feeds, as well—he frequently posts humorous videos to Instagram. Take this video, for example, where Boyega interviews himself using a proper American accent:
Oscar Isaac is also frequently mentioned in Boyega’s videos. Take this one, taken while Boyega was in Japan promoting the movie. In it, he visits a micro pig cafe (where customers can enjoy a cup of coffee and interact with adorable pigs) and encounters “Oscar":
Finally, in the following Instagram post, Boyega reads aloud a letter he has penned to Isaac. In it, he asks Isaac to be his date to the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker premiere. The pining in his voice is palpable:
4.Can Disney Evolve?
In the show, I described Isaac and Boyega’s relationship as a bromance—a word that I use extremely selectively. A bromance is “a close but non-sexual relationship between two men", more than friends but less than lovers.
The duo’s chemistry was immediately apparent in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was so palpable, in fact, that fans immediately started shipping them (when fans desire for two fictional characters to be in a romantic relationship). A particularly fervent subset of fans even produced dozens of works of “FinnPoe" fan fiction. A new hope was born, a distant but not unimaginable possibility that Star Wars would finally reflect the sexual diversity that has come to characterize modern American society.
At this point it’s helpful to remember that the Star Wars franchise is now owned by Disney. Disney, of course, has spent the last few years busy updating and remaking its past classics for modern audiences. Among its roster of characters, there is no shortage of those who are rumored to be gay or lesbian, but for all intents and purposes the studio does not have any definitively LGBT characters.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker would not break that trend. The relationship between Poe and Finn would remain firmly in the heterosexual friend zone.
If that wasn’t enough, the film goes out of its way to give both characters their own opposite-sex love interests. Fans were disappointed, and judging by interviews Isaac and Boyega have done since the release of the film, it seems like they were, too. They acknowledge that it would have been interesting to take Poe and Finn’s relationship in that direction.
There are a number of reasons I can think of as to why the director and Disney ultimately decided against turning Poe and Finn’s bromance into a full-fledged romance. First of all, the most vocal and defensive subset among Star Wars fans is the straight white males. What’s more, American society is currently in a fragile place when it comes to LGBT rights, owing in no small part to a president who seems intent on reversing recent LGBT progress.
It’s also clear that Disney is not having an easy time catching up to the times. Disney is a company that is all about selling magic and dreams and fantasy to the children of the world. Because it tries to cater to the largest possible common denominator, it naturally ends up producing dreams that play it safe.
Even if a character is clearly LGBT and embraced by the LGBT community as one of their own, Disney will never officially confirm them as such. From their perspective, they risk alienating a certain segment of fans by definitively labeling a character as LGBT. But we live in times where dreams tailored for everyone end up truly resonating with no one. Will Disney be able to evolve?
5.My Wardrobe For This Interview
Gray suit by Global Style
White shirt by Azabu Tailor
Gray socks by Brooks Brothers
Park Avenues by Allen Edmonds
“M-27" by 999.9