Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now only a few weeks away, and while the film includes a cast full of notable faces – including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver – there are a few lead actors who don’t quite have the same name recognition as their co-stars. One such star is British actor John Boyega… but seeing as you’re going to be hearing his name a lot in the future, we decided to give you a breakdown of who he is.
Where does John Boyega come from? What does his past work include? Who is he playing in Star Wars? What does the future hold for him? We answer all these questions and more in this guide, so read on!
His BackgroundJohn Boyega is about to become one of the most well-known actors in the entire world – which is a level of accomplishment he has spent almost his entire life looking to reach. Born in London to Nigerian parents in March of 1992, he was initially pushed towards being a preacher like his father, but saw his life take a different turn when he was noticed in a primary school play and invited to attend a special theater school. While in secondary school as a teenager, he took part in numerous theatrical productions, and he attended South Thames College as a performance arts student, where he continued to hone his craft. He also trained at the Identity School of Acting, an award winning program in the UK.
While many actors toil for decades trying to get their big break after years of education and training, Boyega wound up not following that particular career model. Instead, at the age of 19 he was cast as the lead in a low-budget sci-fi film that wound up changing his life forever.
His Big BreakoutHaving had the opportunity to do plays on major stages like the National Theatre and the Tricycle Theater, John Boyega was given the opportunity to make his feature film debut with Attack The Block - a movie from first time writer/director Joe Cornish. With an estimated budget of just $13 million, and a cast full of unknowns with the exception of Shaun of the Dead’s Nick Frost, the project wasn’t really on anyone’s radar at the start – but the finished result and its big world premiere changed that story in a big way.
In the film, Boyega stars as Moses – the tough, quiet, smart leader of a small pack of hoodlums living in the London projects. One night, he and his crew try to mug a young woman, but wind up being interrupted when a meteorite comes crashing down from space. Unfortunately, it’s not actually a meteorite, but instead a cocoon for an eyeless, pitch-black, mouth glowing alien that seems to be very determined to eat any human that it comes across. Before long, these creatures are all over the place, and Moses must work with his crew to not only stay alive, but fend off the attack.
Attack The Block made its world debut on March 12, 2011 as part of the slate of titles featured at the annual SXSW Film Festival, and that was the birth place of seismic buzz. When it was finally released here in the United States in July of 2011, it never found its way into more than 66 theaters – resulting in a $1 million domestic gross – but the worldwide figure stands at $5.8 million, and it has gained a cult following in the years since.
The ReviewsGenre movies have a tendency to be a bit divisive when it comes to critical appeal, but that wasn’t the case for Attack The Block. By the time all of the professional critics had their say, the sci-fi action dramedy was left standing with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, this number is representational of the film as a whole – but writers did make a point of noting the impressive debut of John Boyega, and complimented writer/director Joe Cornish for his casting.
In her review for CinemaBlend, Katey Rich complimented the entire cast, but noted Boyega as the “breakout star.” And it wasn’t just us who was impressed. In his 3/4 star review, Roger Ebert referred to the young actor as a “fortunate discovery,” and Peter Travers not only called for audiences to keep an eye on Boyega, but described him as “a fireball with serious acting skills.”
Hollywood most definitely stood up and took notice of this fresh young talent as a result of his Attack The Block performance and cultivated buzz – and while it would take a couple of years, eventually he found himself as part of one of the biggest blockbuster events of all time.
Star Wars CastingIt was on March 12, 2014 that John Boyega’s name first entered the rumor pool for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (or as it was known then, Star Wars: Episode VII). A Variety was published not only reaffirming the news that Jesse Plemons was being considered for the project’s male lead – but added that he was competing with John Boyega, Ed Speleers, Matthew James Thomas, and Ray Fisher. Those names continued to circulate for the next few weeks, but all of the casting rumors were officially put to rest in late April.
On April 29, 2014, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally revealed its full ensemble cast, and John Boyega’s name was the first on the long list. It was simultaneously revealed that he would be joining a group of franchise newcomers in Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow, as well as returning stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker.
Exciting as the casting announcement was, the key element that it lacked was the inclusion of any details regarding the characters any of the new actors – including John Boyega. Instead, we’ve spent the last year and a half picking up tidbits here and there trying to get a clear picture about the role he is playing in the J.J. Abrams-directed blockbuster.