Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by JJ Abrams, is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi and sees the return of the key figures that kick-started it all: Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. But we’ve found five reasons for Londoners to get particularly excited about Episode VII…
1 The star, John Boyega, is from Peckham
When the much-anticipated trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed (it’s had nearly 80 million views on YouTube), the largely unknown John Boyega, a 23-year-old actor from Peckham, was catapulted to fame. His only leading role, prior to this, was in Attack the Block, Joe Cornish’s 2011 British sci-fi comedy written and directed by Joe Cornish and set on a south London council estate. The plot centres around a teenage gang who have to defend themselves from alien invaders, so it’s not like he’s not accustomed to dealing with intergalactic misdemeanours. JJ Abrams, the writer-director-producer most famous for Lost, loved the movie and, four years later, took a punt and cast him in Star Wars.
John was playing computer games at a friend’s house in Catford when Abrams contacted him and told him he would be ‘the new star of Star Wars’. His character, Finn, is a disaffected Stormtrooper who is somehow in possession of the lightsaber that Luke and Anakin Skywalker once owned (‘when I was given a lightsaber to hold, that was when I was like, “Yes!” Swinging it around, making the sounds,’ he said in an interview with Time Out). ‘I haven’t been able to walk around Peckham since Attack the Block.’ He said, in the same interview. ‘It’s nothing epic, not Justin Bieber level. I can still go to the shops.’ We get the feeling that’s all about to change.
2 Star Wars feeds art
Curated by Ben Moore and following on from the legendary ArtWARS opening at Saatchi Gallery in 2013, ArtWARS Mayfair fuses art with Star Wars and features artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman and Alison Jackson. The exhibition has been specially planned to coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Forece Awakens, which opens at Curzon Mayfair on 17 December just two minutes walk away from the Hertford Street venue. Artists include Mr Brainwash, James Mylne, Hayden Kays,. 18-20 December, 12-6pm. 18 Hertford Street, Mayfair W1J 7RT
3 Maida Vale rising star Daisy Ridley stars alongside Carrie Fisher
Maida Vale resident Daisy Ridley is set to play mysterious character Rey, who plays a lead role alongside Carrie Fisher (who reprises her role as the newly named General Leia). Fans are speculating that she is actually Han Solo and Princess Leia’s daughter, but team Star Wars is giving nothing away. The 23-year-old newcomer went to Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, one of a tiny handful of residential and day schools in the UK that specialises in performing arts.
4 It’s a great excuse to visit a Picturehouse Cinema
You can watch it at a lovely Picturehouse Cinema. There are still tickets available for the 3D 12.05am screening at Greenwich Picturehouse, the 2D midnight screening at East Dulwich Picturehouse and the 3D midnight screening at the Ritzy, Brixton and Picturehouses at Clapham, Crouch End, Hackney and Central London. Plus, the Ritzy is hosting a free themed pre-party before the midnight screenings, from 8pm on Wednesday 16 December at the Upstairs Bar. The Ritzy Strikes Back will feature live music from Cantina band The Balkanoes and galactic DJ-ing from Massive Arms, as well as themed cocktails and great Star Wars prizes for the best audience fancy dress. You can also see it at Peckham Plex – John Boyega would approve.
5 Kensal Green resident Christina Chong’s parkour skills
Kensal Green resident Christina Chong is also in the film. Christina’s CV stands her in good stead for her role in Star Wars Episode VII – she has featured in Doctor Who and played Talitha Macer, a soldier, in Halo: Nightfall, a prequel to the Halo 5 video game. Expect some cool stunts from this one – she does ‘a lot of parkour. Anywhere in London… My favourite spot is Canada Water, it’s really nice and relaxing by the water.’ Check out our interview with the rising star, here.