Today we’re talking with Golden Globe Nominee, Riz Ahmed on his role as Rogue One Character Bodhi Rook. Let’s jump right in!
Riz was so FUN to talk with. I hope that the humor comes through in the interview coverage.
Golden Globe Nominee, Riz Ahmed is Rogue One Character Bodhi Rook
Who does Riz play in Rogue One?
My character is Bodhi Rook and he actually works for The Empire. He’s a cargo pilot from this planet called Jedha which is occupied by The Empire. But the name Bodhi means awakening. He goes through a kind of awakening and realizes that’s not the way. He’s got to try and stand up for what he believes in to make a difference. So he takes a big risk and defects from the Empire to try and help The Rebels.
How was it, working with such an amazing cast?
We ended up spending a lot of time together because it’s quite an ensemble film and story. It’s really about this kind of gang. We spent a lot of time together closed off into sweaty space ships. We got to kind of keep each other alive, and awake, and we just cracked a lot of jokes. We bonded, for sure.
When asked what the most difficult part of being in a Star Wars movie was for him, Riz said that he usually likes to interview people who are real-life counterparts to his character, but finding an Imperial cargo pilot to interview proved to be a bit of a challenge.
The difficult thing wasn’t so much of, oh my god, I’m in Star Wars, because that was a joyous thing. But you can’t interview anyone who’s an Imperial cargo pilot. None of them wanted to speak to me. You don’t really know where the reference points are, where starting points are. In the end, I realized that the reference point is the world that is around you.
When you turn up on set and they’ve built these mountains and space ships, and there are alien creatures walking past you. The preparation doesn’t have to be in your head. It’s right there in front of you and you just have to soak it up.
Does Riz feel his character is relatable?
I’d like to think that he’s quite relatable for a lot of people. He’s just an average Joe who finds himself in a crazy situation. He’s not like Cassian, who’s a rebel spy. He’s not like Baze Malbus who’s a hardened assassin, or Jyn, who’s this kind of criminal rebel. He’s a truck driver, basically, who finds himself in the middle of this crazy intergalactic heist. He freaks out a little bit. I think I’d freak out in that kind of situation, too. I think most of us would.
When asked about physically preparing for the role, the slender Riz joked that he was too muscly and had to shed his superhuman physique.
My character isn’t a soldier. He’s not super physically fit. He needs to look like when he’s running through a war zone with a 50 kilo backpack on him, he’s out of breath, and it’s difficult. My preparation was to get really out of shape and just kick back. A lot of Netflix and donuts. That was my preparation.
Riz says that regret is a common theme among the characters of Rogue One.
A lot of people in this film have quite a dark history or a past they’re not proud of and they’re trying to make things right. That’s what drives them to take big risks and to link up with other people who they’ve got nothing in common with to fight for a cause that’s bigger than any one of them. It’s about redemption. People trying to make things right for themselves, and for people around them.
How did an Oxford graduate become a Star Wars star? Riz describes his initial, overly-enthusiastic interaction with director Gareth Edwards:
He’d seen my work so he called me up, asked me to audition. But he made the mistake of giving me his email address.
So, I literally, emailed him one version of the scene. A few hours later, I had another idea, and I sent him another version. Then I did that again. The next morning I didn’t have a reply, so I thought, ‘Oh! I should maybe send him some more!’ In four days I sent him 12 takes of the thing. He finally emailed me back and said, ‘Hey, Riz. Just wanted to say please don’t email me anymore. I’ve got your auditions. Thank you.’ I was, like, oh man! I screwed it up! He called me a month later to say ‘yeah, come and do this.’ I was just glad it wasn’t his lawyers calling me.
I guess I can be kind of obsessive with my work. Luckily this time it didn’t cost me a job.
Which of those 12 takes convinced Gareth that Riz was the person for the job?
He said it was the first one. He said every take after that made him think, maybe I don’t want to work with this guy. Seemed kind of crazy.
How does it compare, coming from independent films to a big budget Star Wars film?
A lot of differences in terms of scale. I remember turning up on the first day of shooting, and cranes were carrying palm trees, and inserting them into the ground. We were in a field in Buckinghamshire, in England. It was like two hundred Stormtroopers stood around, taking a break with their helmets off, just talking to each other. Everything about that is surreal.
Almost all of the crew grew up watching Star Wars. It’s their childhood dream to be doing this. So if you pick up any random prop that’s on set, you’ll see they’ve got alien writing on it. Touch screen things, and buttons and dials. And you realize this isn’t even going to be on camera, people just love their job. They love being a part of and helping create this world. That sense of going above and beyond almost felt like being on an indie film.
Was there a strong sense of secrecy on set?
With Rogue One, there was a lot more revealed to the public in advance than there was for Force Awakens because you’re dealing with the familiar Luke Skywalker saga.
With [Rogue One] it’s new characters, a new storyline, so they want to educate people about it. Apart from spoilers, they want you to know that I’m Bodhi and I defect from the Empire. I’m an Imperial cargo pilot. They want you to understand who these different characters are to some extent. I don’t think it’s as intense as it was for Force awakens.
What was intense is they didn’t give us scripts. We had to log into an online website to read our scripts until, finally, I think Felicity was, like, ‘Dude, this is ridiculous. I need a script on set.’ So they gave us all scripts. But at the end of each day, we had to give back the day’s pages, and we had to sign for them. Usually, I’m on the set just doing origami with my script. No, you had to give it back. And if you didn’t get it back, they put Darth Vader on you.
The whole thing was quite intense in a sense but it makes you realize people care about this. The anticipation is part of the enjoyment, so you’ve got to respect that.
What does Riz hope people take away from his character?
I want them to understand that even normal people can make big contributions.
You might think that someone else is going to stand up for what you believe in. But, at some point, it’s on you to stand up for what you believe in, to try and make a contribution for what you think is right.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters December 16!
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY follows a group of unlikely heroes in a time of conflict who band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel are producing, with John Knoll and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theaters everywhere on December 16th In RealD 3D and IMAX 3D!