Going From Indie Flicks To A-List Has Taught John Boyega The Value Of Respecting Those Around You

Not content with starring in Star Wars, John Boyega has also embarked on a big-budget producing career, kicking it off with monsters vs Mechas sequel ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’. Here he exclusively reveals to RSNG what it means to speak up for diversity, and his favourite thing about London…

RSNG You’ve already spoken about diversity in Hollywood and inclusion riders – do you expect to encounter resistance to change?
JOHN BOYEGA, ACTOR
‘There is resistance to any change, be it in Hollywood, in London, in the film industry or any other walk of life. People don’t like change and that’s a very natural human emotion, so I understand that. It’s usually because of fear, or because change means extra effort.’

‘What I’m saying is I expect resistance to change to be as much about an industry being stuck in its ways, as it is an actual unwillingness for a level playing field, although that is a factor. But to start with, I think inclusion riders are a nice way of making people accountable for their decisions. It’s not the ultimate answer but it is progress.’

‘If you are kind, know your own mind, and respect those around you, that’s all you can be – the bigger person’

RSNG What’s been the most important thing you've learned in life, through struggle, when things didn’t go so well?
JB
‘It’s not so much what I learned, but it is ideas I’ve lived by, such as respect and tolerance. I was brought up to understand that we’re all different, but you can be different and argumentative, or different and tolerant. If you are kind and know your own mind, and respect those around you, then that’s all you can be – the bigger person.’

RSNG Is there a code or mantra that you live by?
JB
‘Life is short and you have to seize opportunities; but I guess most people know that!’

RSNG What part of Pacific Rim Uprising was the most fun to do?
JB
‘Well it’s such a big movie – the whole thing was an epic shoot. There’s so much going on at every moment and it’s non-stop action, seemingly without a break. Obviously the action takes priority over everything else, but I also enjoyed the whole idea of the antihero and Jake’s pursuit of that.’

‘I think this is the first film where I’m really looking at the overall experience rather than individual scenes, because I was coming in as a producer for the first time on something so big, and it was one intense marathon of emotion and experience, and learning. It was one big burst of energy, and real fun. Challenging, but fun.’

RSNG So, how does it feel to be producer on a big, all-action project?
JB
’Well I feel I’m so lucky in having the opportunity to explore all these stories and ideas that I filled my head with as a kid. I was always reading and watching movies and looking at comics – it was a case of immersing myself in stories and art of every kind. I’m still working out how I can transport all of that into a format that other people will want to enjoy, but that’s the next challenge.’

RSNG Are you self-critical?
JB
‘Probably more than I should be. A while ago I realised my personal development wasn’t entirely about things I did... it shouldn’t all be about my own ideas. I came to the reality that opening up to the influences and inspirations of others was the best way to move forward.’

‘So while that encouraged me to immerse myself in the positive influences of those around me, it also meant I gave myself less of a hard time, which is kinda healthy, you know?’

RSNG How do you begin that process of taking on the ideas of others?
JB
‘Start from scratch, clear your mind. Remove all previous ideas and let the new ones flood in. It can be that simple.’

‘London is a city full of comfort and danger, and that’s what any place needs to give it its edge’

RSNG London is your hometown – what about it do you enjoy the most?
JB
‘The variety. I don’t think there’s a city on Earth that can offer so much diversity, in every way. You look at demographics, and that’s an easy way to view London’s diversity; but look closer at the artistic variety around every corner, the architecture, the history. It is a complete melting pot.’

‘I think what I also like is that it’s a city full of comfort and danger, and that’s what any place needs to give it its edge. I loved the community feel of Peckham, where I grew up, but of course it was sometimes a dangerous place to live and you accepted that. But you could walk 10 minutes and find yourself in a very smart row of million-pound houses, and when I started attending drama classes [at the Identity School of Acting in Hackney], I was living such different lives that you would never expect the two to meet, and yet they did. So I owe a lot to London and its diversity.’

WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer for Pacific Rim Uprising starring John Boyega and Scott Eastwood, then read RSNG’s one-minute review (below)…

The RSNG 1-Minute Review: Pacific Rim Uprising
By Matt Ray

What We liked Jake Pentecost’s (John Boyega) interesting anti-hero creds are established as a tech-scavenging hustler in the ‘Refit Zone’ of monster-trashed, abandoned cities left in the wake of rampaging Kaiju, while squatting in a half-flattened mansion. As he quips: ‘Living in half a swimming pool is better than living in a whole crappy apartment.’

When Mecha finally meets monster the moves, innovative weapons and scale of the combat is turned fully past 11 – do yourself a favour and watch on the biggest screen you can find, to sit back and appreciate a gravity gun that plucks up entire skyscrapers to hurl at scaly fiends.

What We Didn’t, So Much The original Pacific Rim was a darker, layered film, despite its comic book, Monsters Crush Cities scale. The sequel gets caught between playing it for laughs and the kind of deadly peril that you don’t actually feel. And Pentecost’s anti-hero schtick is quickly overtaken by a conventional hero’s story arc, cheesy ‘big speech’ included.

Final Score: 3 / 5