As Daisy Ridley wraps up the Star Wars trilogy that made her famous, she talks to Stylist about new beginnings and showcases the season’s best festive knits.
Daisy Ridley is allergic to angora. Anything itchy, really. Her neck flares up. Her temperature rises. It’s quite serious. But here in sunny Los Angeles in mid-October, she is joyfully making her way through Christmas jumpers: a red and pink striped knit emblazoned with ‘HO HO HO’; a burgundy turtle-neck peppered with pearls. A Spotify Christmas playlist is on loop. She’s smiling. She loves Christmas.
“This year, my sister announced we’re not doing presents,” she says. “I thought, hang on, I want a present!”
Although there’s not been much time for Christmas shopping. Since summer, Ridley has been promoting The Rise Of Skywalker, the final instalment of the Star Wars trilogy that brings the Skywalker family’s journey to an end. But that doesn’t mean anyone is any closer to knowing what to expect.
Fan sites are aswarm. They have this: Naomi Ackie, who’s brilliant in The End Of The F***ing World, has joined the cast. JJ Abrams is back in the director’s chair. Carrie Fisher appears posthumously as Princess Leia. But who is the titular Skywalker? And what will happen to Rey, the Force-sensitive scavenger plucked from obscurity and placed at the helm who Ridley has played since 2015?
It’s a poignant question because Rey’s journey has paralleled Ridley’s own in many ways. Star Wars launched her. “I read the script for The Force Awakens and I was like fuuuck,” she tells me, recalling the moment she realised Rey was not some forgettable face in a blockbuster, but the whole point. Ridley, meanwhile, was a little-known actor – and in a total panic. “That was when I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” she admits.
The second time Stylist meets her, she is perched on the couch of a hotel room in west London, legs neatly folded to the side, dark eyes wide. Ridley is a no-fuss kind of person; earnest and pragmatic, but alive with emotion. “I spent a lot of time feeling like I wasn’t worthy, I didn’t feel like it should have been me,” she says of her fame. This self-doubt means she actually finds praise shocking. There was the time Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, told her that he could sense Rey’s loneliness in a simple scene where she sits on a makeshift stool and eats. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god! Harrison was moved by this.’”
She recently started sobbing in an airport when a producer called her to say he liked the final movie. “It was at the end of a 21-hour press day in New York… I was just like, ‘Thank you for your kind words.’” Ridley doesn’t take things lightly. Can you blame her? Her life has only been like this for four years.
But still, it’s getting easier. By now, she’s stood on stages while Star Wars fans scream her name (it remains the second highest grossing franchise in the world, with a total revenue of $9.31billion); had action figures modelled on her; done countless press tours for the franchise, as well as for the films Murder On The Orient Express and Ophelia. Fame is becoming less daunting. “For a while, I was wearing sunglasses on the Tube,” Ridley says. “But then I thought, actually, no one’s looking.”
Besides, next week things will be different. She will be back in London, where she was raised and lives, and finally able to breathe. Her family will be near. The Ridleys are a warm, welcoming bunch and Christmas is a bring-a-friend kind of event. Last year, after lunch, they all sat around the TV lulling themselves into a depression watching Sharp Objects.
Worse still, she was nursing a bad back – the night before, she had slept in her tiny childhood bedroom where she was “literally impaled by a spring” from the bed. As a child, she painted this room blue and covered it with clouds, like the soothing view you’d see if you took a moment to look up on a clear day. No posters. No stickers. In fact, she was so averse to the things plastered on her sibling’s walls that she tore down her sister’s Usher poster, ripped it up and ran for her life.
“I was such a little arsehole,” she laughs. “I sucked.” We doubt it. Ridley’s toughest critic, it seems, has always been Ridley.
Has this Star Wars experience been different for you?
Very different. The year the previous film [The Last Jedi, 2017] came out, I hadn’t had the best time professionally, for various different reasons. And on the press tour I was exhausted. I took six months off. This time around, I started working out with people who are very focused on being healthy and being safe, so physically I felt really good. I went into it feeling grounded. And one of my new things this year has been trying to own my space a bit more, too. There are still times when I feel like I can’t fucking do it, but for the most part I’m telling myself that I can.
Star Wars is like a religion for a lot of people. What are the fan events like?
Every time I’ve been to one I’ve cried my eyes out in the evening. Pop stars are used to standing on a stage with people screaming at them, but unless you’re like Hugh Jackman and you sell out stadium shows, actors aren’t. So I always found it quite overwhelming. This time, though, I thought I’m going to have fun. I also had a weird thing where midway through the afternoon I thought, oh shit, this is the last time we’re all going to do this together, so then it was emotional.
What do you do in those moments?
I call my mum a lot crying. She’s like, “Daisy what’s wrong?!” I tell her I’m just having a moment. My parents think I’ve handled everything well, which is nice to hear because I’m aware that this isn’t a normal experience. To be told it’s OK to be feeling all these things is exactly what you need.
What has surprised you most about fame?
Yesterday I went for tea at Claridge’s with my friend and I went to pay the bill and these very nice gentlemen had already paid. They weren’t hitting on us, I think they were gay. And then today my hairdresser said, “It’s because you’re in a film.” Things like that. Matt Damon said that often it’s not you that changes, it’s the people around you, and I’ve noticed that. It’s other people who don’t quite know how to be. It’s difficult to navigate when friends and family who have seen you grow up suddenly don’t know what to say to you. That’s hard. Because I don’t think I’m a big arsehole now, I’m just happy to be working.
What are those moments like when you do get recognised?
Really uncomfortable. I’m not used to it. For the most part people are being really nice, but I’m not a small talk kind of person. It’s like, I’m not your hero, you like the character I play. But I’m getting better at it. I also have really good friends. They’re incredibly defensive, in an amazing way. I was in a supermarket with two of my friends a while back – I was really tired, it was in the morning – and this person started to approach and they just went, “No, not today.” I was like, “Thaaaanks guys.”
Are you more comfortable with how your life has changed now?
These days, I think of it like, everybody’s lives change all the time. You could get ill, you could get married, there are so many things that can happen to one individual. So yes, it’s unusual because I didn’t have much experience and then suddenly I’m in this huge film. But crazier things happen every single day, so it’s alright. People ask me, how does it make you feel that you’re always going to be associated with Star Wars? And I’m like, they’re fucking good films! I’m happy to be associated with it.
It must be hard to hear people’s opinions all the time.
Definitely. I had an Uber driver recently who told me he didn’t like the last film… really casually. Like, thanks dude, I worked on that for six months. People feel more comfortable expressing negative opinions, but in a weirdly friendly way. I was at my friend’s birthday and this guy says, “Yeah, Episode VII was basically Episode IV.” I was like, dude, I’ve met you three times.
Also, I didn’t ask! Go and put that on social media where I can’t read it. But people are weird with social media, too. Why do we all have to have such a loud opinion about something? Why can’t we just watch a film and then go to a cafe to talk about it, rather than immediately spewing things online.
You travel a lot. What do you read or listen to on the road?
I just read two Elizabeth Gilbert books, Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature Of All Things. And I want to read City Of Girls – apparently, she wrote it when she was going through this crazy trauma, and I feel like if she wrote it through such grief, then I’m reading it. And Russell Brand’s podcast [Under The Skin] is pretty good. The episode with Karamo Brown is great, he was talking about the law of abundance and I was like, preach! He articulates things that I’ve thought but haven’t expressed, and I think, ‘Oh, that’s how you talk about it!’
Are you spiritual then?
I am quite spiritual, I believe in the universe. I think things happen for a reason, for the most part. For example, after we finished The Last Jedi, I was like, oh my god I don’t have a job to go to, so I went on holiday with some pals, forgot about it, had a great time, and then I got the call for Murder On The Orient Express. But if I’d have panicked and jumped into work, it wouldn’t have happened that way. Still, sometimes I worry I’m so blessed that I’m going to be shat on by something.
How did you get into spirituality?
I don’t know! I’m into crystals and all that stuff. A while ago I read this article that said: you go to the hairdressers to get your hair cut, you go to the gym to work on your body, so why does nobody work on themselves? You have to put the work in – people say, “Oh I’m just a jealous person”, but you can work on not being jealous. I’m a jealous person and someone told me to bury it with love. Wait, no, not bury, bury sounds negative – smother it. Smother it with love!
That’s interesting. So you think we can change the way we naturally are?
Yeah, I was having this conversation with my dad recently. He says a leopard can’t change its spots, but I said, well, you can try. Trying is as good as changing. You can try to be less jealous, to be less angry, to do more good things. My friend has a vision board and writes out what she wants, which I think makes it more likely to happen. I’m a big believer in putting things out there. You’ve got to push what you want out into the universe.
And what’s on your vision board now?
It’s strange, I feel like if I was doing this in 15 years, I’d be thrilled. I really do love my life. I love being able to do this as a job. But I want to climb Kilimanjaro. I’ve been sent quite a lot of books recently, because the books department at my agency know I love to read, so there’s a few I’m attached to that are fucking badass. I want to do something British. And a comedy. Right now, though, my balance feels good, so I want to keep hold of that.
And Christmas is coming up. What’s the day like for you?
My mum’s always up early. We still do stockings and mum does awesome ones. Then it’s a casual 9am to 10am rise for the rest of us. We wait to do the presents in the afternoon – I’m always like, “Urgh! Can’t we do them now?!”
Really? Wow, that’s strict.
I know! I think it came from my grandparents. Hilariously, two Christmases ago we rented a house in the countryside because we were having visitors and my dad famously cooks ham at Christmas. It was a different oven, so the ham was not cooked. It got to 5pm and I was like, “I am so fucking hungry and I don’t want ham because I don’t eat meat, so can we please just eat the potatoes?” Hopefully that won’t happen this year. I’m on tour right up until the 18th, so just being at home with family will be amazing.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is in cinemas from 19 December.
Photography: Ramona Rosales
Fashion: Arabella Greenhill