Oh John Boyega, you’ve really done it now! Bob Iger is probably dispatching a horde of Disney Kill Bots to your house as we speak! News broke the other day that a genuine Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker script ended up on eBay – a serious goof that, according to director J.J. Abrams, was the result of an actor leaving said script under their bed and having it stolen by a cleaning person. Abrams didn’t divulge which Rise of Skywalker actor was responsible, but now we know: it was John Boyega. Rather than let speculation run rampant, Boyega decided to do the right thing and fess up to the mishap with his usual grace and charm.
John Boyega is a charming man, so I have no doubt that when J.J. Abrams and company learned it was his Rise of Skywalker script that leaked online they couldn’t really get angry. I mean, how can you get mad at John Boyega? Just watch the clip above, where he takes the credit/blame for the leak. As Boyega explains, he was getting ready to move, and ended up stashing his Rise of Skywalker under his bed. However, soon after that, his friends came over and there was some “partying” going on – resulting in Boyega forgetting that the script was under the bed. And there it sat, until it was discovered by a cleaning person who then put the thing for sale on eBay for only £60. “They clearly didn’t realize the significance,” Boyega says.
Thankfully, the script was retrieved before it could be sold, and huge Rise of Skywalker spoilers remained safe. J.J. Abrams talked about the whole endeavor himself a few days ago, and seemed amused – but also befuddled – by the whole experience. However, Abrams refused to rat out which actor was responsible, saying: “One of our actors, I won’t say which one — I want to, but I won’t — left it under their bed and it was found by someone who was cleaning their place. It was given to someone else, who then went to sell it on eBay.”
So props to J.J. Abrams for not tattling on John Boyega, and props to John Boyega for then owning up to the whole thing. A lesson was learned here, and it’s this: don’t leave your scripts for huge franchise movies under your bed.
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...
Now that he’s done with Star Wars, John Boyega is using his clout to get some new projects off the ground. The actor just signed a deal with Netflix through his production company, UpperRoom Productions, to develop non-English language films, with a focus on West and East Africa countries. The streaming service says its all part of a plan to reinforce its investment in African storytelling with projects developed in African countries.
John Boyega’s UpperRoom Productions is teaming with Netflix to “develop film projects based on stories, cast, characters, crew, literary properties, mythology, screenplays and/or other elements in or around African countries, with a focus on West and East Africa.” Boyega, who was recently seen in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is next set to appear in Chase Palmer’s Naked Singularity. He’s also set for the Netflix film Rebel Ridge, from director Jeremy Saulnier. Boyega previously came aboard the South African crime-thriller God Is Good as an executive producer and will also oversee the movie’s soundtrack.
“I am thrilled to partner with Netflix to develop a slate of non-English language feature films focused on African stories and my team and I are excited to develop original material,” said Boyega. “We are proud to grow this arm of our business with a company that shares our vision.” Boyega set up UpperRoom in 2016 as part of his producing role on Pacific Rim Uprising.
Netflix wants to increase its African created-based content, having recently announced production on its first original scripted series from Nigeria, the still-untilted Akin Omotoso Project. They’ve also announced other African originals, Blood & Water and Mama K’s Team 4, that will premiere later this year and join Netflix’s first Africa Original, Queen Sono, which dropped on February 28.
“Africa has a rich history in storytelling and for Netflix, this partnership with John and UpperRoom presents an opportunity to further our investment in the continent while bringing unique African stories to our members both in Africa and around the world,” said David Kosse, Vice President of International Film at Netflix.