When Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, Star Wars fans were divided into two camps. One side was a bit tired of George Lucas failing to maintain the previous quality standards he'd set for the franchise (seriously, those prequels!) and was excited about the possibilities of the series being in the hands of an entertainment behemoth. The other side was more cautious: there was 30+ years of Star Wars lore and mythology contained in the Expanded Universe, and Disney dismissed it all with a wave of their hand (proclaiming it non-canon and rebranding it as Star Wars Legends). What else were they going to do to our beloved galaxy far, far away?
Then The Force Awakens was released, and Star Wars superfans breathed a sigh of relief (for the most part, but that's a different discussion for another time). In return for what they'd taken away, Disney gave us a whole new cast of characters to love: Finn, Poe Dameron, BB-8, Kylo Ren (well, maybe not Kylo Ren), and a mysterious girl known only as Rey. The internet exploded with news and gossip about her. Who is she? Who are her parents? What is her place in the story?
The Last Jedi was released just a few weeks ago, and as it's only the second installment of Disney's planned trilogy, we don't yet have all the answers we seek. But we're not completely in the dark. Here are 25 crazy secrets you didn't know about Rey. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
In an early scene of The Force Awakes, Rey is relaxing at home (in a wrecked AT-AT walker) when she puts on an old Rebel Alliance fighter pilot helmet. To get the true story of that helmet, you have to dig into the books, comics, and manuals of Disney's new expanded universe. As it turns out, that helmet belonged to Captain Dosmit Ræh, a female fighter pilot in the Tierfon Yellow Aces. After Rey found the helmet while scavenging on Jakku, Captain Ræh became her hero of sorts; she invented stories of her adventures and even fashioned herself a Ræh doll (which can be seen in the background in Rey's home). She may even have named herself after this childhood hero. Is it simple coincidence that a lonely, abandoned girl named Rey has a childhood hero called Ræh? I think not.
Of all the mysteries poured over on the Star Wars corner of the internet, the greatest was the question of Rey's parents. Who were they? Speculations went wild: She's the child of Luke Skywalker, the illegitimate offspring of Han, the daughter of Snoke or the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi (or maybe even Emperor Palpatine). The list went on and on.
In The Last Jedi, we finally get our answer: Her parents were nobodies. Junkers who sold her for drinking money and were buried in a mass grave. Once again, the internet began buzzing. Is it true? Is Kylo Ren lying or can he simply not see the whole picture? Many fans were let down by what they see as a non-answer to a great mystery, but considering the attention given to the slave kids of Canto Bight, it appears the film believes that nobodies can be very important indeed.
The character of Rey is, of course, played by the English actress Daisy Ridley. Back when Rey was still just ink on paper, she was scripted as a tough gear-head, an "all-around beast." But as shooting began, it was not all smooth sailing. Ridley confessed she was "riddled with doubts and insecurities." Director JJ Abrams saw her struggles, noting that her first few takes were "wooden." The pair collaborated to help Ridley understand her new role, and in the process, Rey underwent a transformation from her original hothead personification.
Said Ridley, "She changed from when we first began, she became softer. And I think that’s probably me, because Americans tend not to understand me, so it helped, slowing down the speech and everything just made it softer than I am."
Okay, so this isn't really a secret. As anyone who's seen The Force Awakens knows, when we first meet Rey, she's earning her living as a scavenger, and she wouldn't have made it that long if she wasn't a survivor. But what you may not appreciate is how truly difficult that was.
Rey lives in the unforgiving desert world of Jakku, which is populated not only with the kind of people who would buy and sell children, but also vicious wild animals. She works as a scavenger for the corrupt Unkar Plutt, who (as the audience witnesses) cheats and starves his workers. Scavenging is a physically demanding and dangerous job, and she's seen what happens to those who are careless. How many of us, if abandoned in such a place at so young an age that we can't even remember our parents, would be able to survive all that?
Rey was born in the year 15 ABY, which was 11 years after the Battle of Endor. This makes her 19 years old when the events of The Force Awakens take place, and this information is important mainly for the things it proves did not happen.
These arguments have lost a lot of weight since The Last Jedi gave us the answer (at least for now) about Rey's parents. But since Kylo Ren is 29 in The Force Awakens, this busts the theory that he and Rey were long-lost twins. Another invalidated idea is that she's a surviving student from Luke's Jedi Academy and was hidden on Jakku to protect her from Kylo Ren. He destroyed the Jedi Academy six years before The Force Awakens, so Rey would've been 13 at the time and old enough to remember such an event (unless they have some kind of Men in Black-style neuralyzer).
With the enormous success of The Force Awakens (over $2 billion worldwide gross), it was no surprise when fans flocked to stores for Star Wars merchandise featuring their new favorite characters. Except there was a problem: where were all the Rey toys?
Hasbro released a Target-exclusive action figure set with Finn, Poe, Chewie, Kylo Ren, and two nameless First Order soldiers. Monopoly put out a Star Wars edition of their famous board game with Luke, Darth Vader, Finn, and Kylo Ren. Everywhere fans looked, Rey toys were few and far between.
Fans called out toy makers with an online campaign titled #WheresRey. Toy companies claimed innocence, saying that "demand for Rey products was underestimated" but would be remedied. However, since they previously left Gamora out of Guardians of the Galaxy toy sets, as well as Black Widow from the Avengers sets, we'll have to see it to believe it.
When Daisy Ridley first landed the role of Rey, the Star Wars team asked her to put on some muscle so that she would look believable as someone who hauled around spare parts all day. For the three months leading up to filming, Ridley worked out five hours a day, five days a week, under the guidance of trainer Jack Graves. Her workouts consisted of weight training, plyometrics, core work, and weapons training. And to maximize the results of her time in the gym, she followed an eating plan that included "lots of fish, legumes, and spirulina shakes."
But if you think she'd be eager to switch to couch-potato-mode once filming was over, you'd be wrong. Ridley posted on Instagram, "Initially I had to pack on some muscle to look like a desert scavenger, but have continued working out because it makes me feel really good."
When it was first announced that the role of the female lead in the new Star Wars movie had gone to a 23-year-old actress named Daisy Ridley, the collective response was, "Who?" Though she'd had several small roles on British TV shows, The Force Awakens was both her first big role and her first film role. But her unknown status is part of what helped her land the part; she could just be Rey in a way that an established actress could not. Plus it helped that Ridley is super talented. When director JJ Abrams asked her to do an emotional scene as part of her audition, "she nailed it on the first take." Producer Kathleen Kennedy said, "Daisy had a physicality and a self-confidence that was so important to the character we were looking for. She epitomizes that optimism where anything is possible."
Although the personality of Rey became softer in the hands of Daisy Ridley than she was originally scripted to be, the gear-head aspect of her character remained unchanged. During her scavenging forays on Jakku, Rey picked up (and later read) every machinery manual she could get her hands on; thus, she's a self-taught mechanic, and a gifted one at that. That speeder we see her driving in The Force Awakens? She built that herself. It's even equipped with a fingerprint scanner and a security system that shocks any would-be thieves. It's also why she chose to make her home in a wrecked AT-AT walker: it was easy for her to repurpose it for her needs. Plus she rigged traps around her home's perimeter for extra security. Meanwhile, I can hardly even remember to charge my phone.
Carrie Fisher's French bulldog Gary was almost as famous as his human. He regularly accompanied Fisher on interviews and film sets (including the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2016!), serving both as her companion and her therapy dog to help her deal with her bipolar disorder. He even has his own Instagram account (@garyfisher) and was given a cameo role in The Last Jedi.
Fisher sadly died of a heart attack in December of 2016, and so the Star Wars torch is being passed on (in more ways than one) to Daisy Ridley and Rey. But it seems like there couldn't be a better choice. Ridley herself is a dog lover, and she's a dog mom to a blind and deaf pooch named Muffin.
When we first see Rey aiding BB-8 on Jakku, we assume she's an idealist, a naive girl whose black and white sense of justice hasn't yet been tarnished. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The help Rey gives to BB-8 does say a lot about her morals, but it says even more about how successfully she's living on Jakku.
If every day was a life and death struggle for Rey, if she was truly starving or desperate just to make it to tomorrow, she wouldn't have any concern to spare for a strange little droid. She certainly wouldn't get herself involved in a confrontation with a stranger (who was wearing the jacket of the droid's master) where she risked injury but stood to gain nothing. In the end, Rey helps BB-8 because she's kind, but even more so because she's doing just fine herself.
Often when an actor provides the voice for a hit character (i.e. Robin Williams as the Genie from Disney's Aladdin), they don't stick around for the sequel (who wants to neglect other projects to do a straight-to-video release targeted at seven-year-olds?). But Millennials have been spoiled with the same A-list celebrity voices through three Kung-Fu Panda movies and five Ice Age movies and will never understand the struggle.
When The Force Awakens made an overnight star of Daisy Ridley, few could have blamed her if she declined the nitty-gritty work of voicing cartoon spin-offs. But no, Ridley voices Rey in Forces of Destiny, Lego Star Wars, and Disney Infinity. Granted, Disney likely contractually obligated her for all things Rey from the very beginning, but it's nice to know we won't have to listen to the Rey version of Not-Quite-Robin Williams in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar.
Legendary composer John Williams (maybe you've heard of him; he composed the score for the original Star Wars movies, as well as a few others like Harry Potter, Jaws, and Indiana Jones) was once again on hand to provide the score for The Force Awakens. In the previous Star Wars scores, Williams made heavy use of motifs, or leitmotifs, to represent certain characters. In this way, a composer can help guide an audience's emotions during a scene. You'll, of course, be familiar with the epic Imperial March, Princess Leia's theme, and the Rebellion's theme; in all, Williams used 18 different themes to convey the earlier entries in the Star Wars universe.
Naturally, Rey needed a theme of her own. Said Williams, “It’s an interesting challenge with her, because her theme doesn’t suggest a love theme in any way. It suggests an adventurer, a female adventurer, but with great strength."
Although she might now be playing the most talked-about character in the Star Wars universe, before she auditioned, she said she was never a Star Wars "uberfan." So why on earth would a complete unknown try out for one of the biggest film roles of this century? Ridley says she had a "really weird feeling" that prompted her audition, and, of course, everyone knows how that turned out.
It might sound weird, but could it be that Ridley always had unconscious Jedi aspirations? As a child, her favorite movie was Matilda, a story about a girl who can move objects with her mind. During an interview with Carrie Fisher, Fisher asked if she had any role models, and she named the character Matilda. Ridley said, "I aspired to be like her. I wanted to be a girl who could make a jug of water tip into a glass." Wish granted.
Since Star Wars fans have spent the last two years obsessing over Rey and her massive potential in the franchise, it might seem odd to hear that she wasn't always called by that name. In fact, The Force Awakens was already shooting Jakku scenes in the Abu Dhabi desert when her character was rechristened, Rey. Up until that point, she was known as Kira.
Most people will probably shrug off that information as simply being a filmmaker's whim, but for those in the Star Wars know, the name Kira has significance. Several characters in Star Wars Legends were named Kira (there's a Jedi called Kira Carsen, a Rebel officer named Kira Lar, and the House of Kira on the jungle planet Onderon). Also in the upcoming Han Solo trilogy, Emilia Clarke is rumored to play a character named Kira.
In addition to her impressive acting chops, Daisy Ridley is also a singer and a dancer. As a child, Ridley attended Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Hertfordshire, England. At the boarding school, students were kept busy with 12 hour days, and among the skills, she learned there are ballet, cabaret singing (she's a mezzo-soprano), jazz dancing and singing, and tap. The director of her musical theatre course, Donna Hayward said, "I’m not surprised she has got this part. There was always something very special about her. She was always very feisty, but nicely feisty. Very clever, independent."
Despite all this, Ridley originally had no plans to be a performer (she finally decided she wanted to do it when she was 17). Funnily enough, her parents only sent her to Tring Park because she was naughty as a child, and they wanted to keep her busy.
Like Luke Skywalker's home of Tatooine (the twin-sunned desert planet), Jakku is a harsh, ugly, unforgiving place, and it's the only home Rey's ever known. But it turns out beauty can be found almost everywhere. When Rey first came across the wrecked AT-AT walker, she found a spinebarrel flower growing inside against all odds. She took it as a sign: if that flower could survive, then so could she. Rey made the AT-AT into her home and began gathering flowers as a hobby. She writes in Rey's Survival Guide, "I have a few things at home to help me pass the time. I collect flowers – spinebarrel blooms and nightblossoms – and display them to remind myself that there’s beauty everywhere if you look hard enough, even on Jakku."
As I sat in a crowded theater on opening night for The Force Awakens, the audience was buzzing. A cheer erupted when the familiar overture blared and the Star Wars titles lit up the screen. Everyone cheered again when Han Solo and Chewie walked onscreen and yet again when it was Leia's turn. But the biggest cheer by far was saved for the end, when Luke Skywalker silently appears for only a few seconds.
Luke is arguably the biggest character of the original Star Wars movies, so why was he kept almost entirely out of The Force Awakens? As it turns out, Disney wanted to give their new cast of characters (Rey, Finn, and Poe) a chance to connect with audiences without being overshadowed by the legendary Jedi. Luke was made the film's MacGuffin, and audiences had to wait until The Last Jedi to see more of him.
In The Force Awakens, Rey manages to defeat Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel despite it being basically her first time holding such a weapon. Critics complained, calling her a "Mary Sue" (a seemingly perfect fictional character that is good at everything and often functions as wish fulfillment). Apparently, those critics weren't paying attention to the film when Rey easily takes down her aggressors with her quarterstaff. On Jakku, her safety quite literally depends on her expertise with that weapon, and she has practiced accordingly. Thus, when she picks up a lightsaber, she has a lifetime of training with a similar weapon already under her belt.
In real life, Daisy Ridley practiced hard with her bo staff to be able to play the role of Rey, and she got so good at Bojutsu that reportedly "even grown men" didn't want to spar with her.
In addition to her five hours per day workouts, Daisy Ridley also spends long days on set while shooting the Star Wars movies, followed by months traveling the world for promotional engagements. While all of that might sound glamorous (and it totally does), it doesn't afford Ridley much downtime.
When she does have some free time, Ridley enjoys the same humdrum activities that the rest of us do. She knits and likes watching reality TV. Her favorite shows are The Great British Bake Off (she once baked a BB-8 shaped cake) and Ru Paul's Drag Race. One Halloween, in fact, she and her friends did the theme "Drag or Die" for their costumes, and Ridley dressed as her favorite from the show, Trinity K. Bonet. Yasssss, queen!
It might feel like I've spent half of this list trying to convince you of how amazing it is that Rey survived on Jakku all by herself, but I'm not quite done. As you already know if you've seen The Force Awakens, Rey worked as a scavenger for a Crolute, ironically an aquatic species, named Unkar Plutt (P.S. if you didn't already know, but Plutt was played by Simon Pegg, a frequent collaborator with JJ Abrams). What you may not realize, however, is how freaking good she was at it.
Due to her intelligence and bravery, as well as her skills with machinery, Rey quickly became Plutt's best scavenger. He ordered other scavengers not to mess with her, but thanks to her skills with her quarterstaff, she neither needed nor wanted his protection. She even quit partnering with other scavengers because they only slowed her down.
You might think it couldn't possibly get better for a person than to play the lead role in a film franchise that's beloved around the world, but Daisy Ridley is perhaps of a slightly different opinion. We already know she's a triple threat (an actor, singer, and dancer all in one), so it makes sense that her dream role is one that would require her to use all her skills. In an interview with Variety magazine, Ridley confessed that she longs to play Roxie in the musical Chicago. "Obviously Renee Zellweger did it so well, but that’s the one thing I’m like, 'Oh my god. I’d love if they did ‘Chicago’ again,'" she said.
But don't worry: Ridley gets to do plenty of singing on the Star Wars film sets. In fact, JJ Abrams once bet her that she couldn't go a full day without bursting into song. She lost.
Before the events of The Force Awakens, Rey once found a ship with a still-functioning reactor core. She tried to repair it in secret but unfortunately attracted the attention of two other scavengers, Devi and Strunk. They wanted to help her with the ship, and since it was such a big job, she accepted. She even began to trust them and think of them as friends. In the end, however, they betrayed her and stole the ship, leaving her with nothing to show for weeks of work.
This backstory, as well as probably dozens more like it that have never been told, shows why the entrance of BB-8 into her life is so significant. BB-8 is the first actual, real friend Rey ever had.
I don't know about you, but when I was 19, I certainly didn't speak multiple languages, build my own computers, or spend time teaching myself to be a pilot. But Rey, in addition to her scavenger work, found time to do all these things. She's a genius; there's really no other way to say it, and everything she knows, she taught herself.
Rey used a scavenged computer display from a Y-wing starfighter to build herself a flight simulator, which she used to teach herself to be a pilot. This is why she could pilot the Millennium Falcon despite having never before been behind the wheel. She can understand BB-8 and Chewie because she extensively studied old language tapes of both the Wookie language of Shyriiwook and the droid language of Astromech Binary. And here I am just trying to pass math.
For as far back as anyone can remember, the Jedi Council has mandated that use of the Dark Side of the Force meant banishment from the Jedi and relegated you to the ranks of the Sith. However, it's pretty clear that such a system wasn't realistic. No person is ever completely good or completely bad, and the Jedi and Sith warred for centuries.
But this is where Rey offers a ray of hope (yes, it's cheesy, but let me have it). In The Last Jedi, Luke is horrified when she willingly follows the Dark Side into the cavern on Ahch-To, yet she emerges, not corrupted, but wiser. If Rey is the first Jedi to accept (and use) both the Dark and Light within her, she would become the first Gray Jedi. She would change things forever.