Despite his involvement in the biggest franchise in movie history, John Boyega isn’t resting on his laurels. In fact, the "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" actor has actually decided to branch out from in front of the camera and take a hands-on role as a producer, starting his own production company called UpperRoom Entertainment Limited.
Boyega’s delving into the deep end with his first film as a producer, too, bringing the $150 million blockbuster "Pacific Rim: Uprising" to the big-screen. It’s not just the money, though, it’s the fact that the first film developed a cult audience mostly because of its director and creator Guillermo Del Toro, who is only returning to the series as a producer this time around.
I recently had the chance to speak to John Boyega about "Pacific Rim: Uprising", and he opened up about why he decided to become a producer, trusting the fans, and how he avoided copying "Star Wars".
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What made you want to work on "Pacific Rim"?
“I think it is because it is a franchise that that was based on an original idea. One of the most recent original ideas actually, and ‘Pacific Rim’ left enough open doors for expansion. I think it was blatant that that world could be expanded, especially to make it more interactive for fans. Sci-fi fans especially discuss movies in great detail. And that’s something that I thought ‘Pacific Rim’ had the potential to be. Especially considering the great work that Guillermo Del Toro had done before. I think that visually it was stunning and it had the opportunity to be expanded upon.”
You mentioned how the international aspect of the franchise was an appeal. Can you expand on that.
“The big thing about watching ‘Pacific Rim’, especially when I started researching the Jaegers, is that there were so many Jaegers in it. And I remember looking at Jaeger concept art and seeing that countries had their specific designated Jaegers. So for me I was like that embodiment of unity and the fact that America had one, Britain had one, Africa had one, and for me that was a great way of exploring the element of unity, and if this was real the impact it would have on our world.”
Were you wary about going into another sci-fi franchise?
“Yeah, definitely. My main fixation was character. I didn’t want to do two franchise films where the characters are basically the same thing. That was something that I knew I had to have the edge on. Finn has a different way of speaking. His mannerisms are all different. Jake is a little bit more laidback. Jake is from London. He is a UK boy. I think I am going to make him from Peckham for sure. He has a different background and style, and physically he looks different to Finn. I had the opportunity to show that versatility is possible within two franchises by stepping into two characters, who if they met you would know the distinct differences.
Talk about listening to the fans for "Pacific Rim 2".
“I’m always big on fan art and fan concept, and those were things that I told Legendary. I was like, ‘These are things that fans want to see. You can’t bring a sequel out if you don’t have this implemented. We need Yaeger on Yaeger fighting.’ And the reason behind that is mind-blowing. And I wanted to just bring that to the movie. Also, I’ve wanted to show a listening ear to the fans. Because I think it is quite important. But at the same time to respect our creative process in having our space to cook something up for you. It’s fun and harmless. Most fans are quite respectful with their comments. Whether it is positive or negative. They support these movies, and so it’s good to be able to tip the hat to them.”
John Boyega discussed the above in more detail at the panel ahead of "Pacific Rim: Uprising", where he remarked:
“One of the main reasons why I decided to have behind the scenes creative input is that ‘Pacific Rim’ is a franchise where the fans are just hopeful about it. When the first film came out there was a back and forth about whether a sequel was going to happen, and that was a conversation for a long time. So this is sacred ground … We’ve made sure that the real fans are pleased but also new fans are up to speed as well. So we’ve got all your backs. Don’t worry.
What made you want to become a producer?
“Apart from having the insight into the likes of budgeting, scheduling, finance, and timing, the big thing for me was getting to be involved in the big conversations that actors are not involved in. To help influence the project in a way that we can attract the fans we want. The challenge for ‘Pacific Rim’ is to bring back an original idea that has a following, but also to introduce a new audience into this world. And that means a change of pace and approach, and being involved in those conversations. You know, it was funny. Because when I wrapped on set as an actor I’d have to go to work as a producer. Which meant having two hour long meetings about visual effects where everything is explained, and I always wanted to implement my ideas into that, and find a place for my love for movies. I was put in a positon where I was involved in a conversation that actors aren’t usually involved in. And it was nice getting a 360 degree view of how things work that wasn’t too academic. To be on the ground I learnt a lot, and it also impacts your acting a lot as well just in terms of how many elements are happening on set. The least they want from you is to be prepared, and for me it was definitely a learning curve and hopefully a start to a great run of producing.”
What did you want to achieve with “Pacific Rim: Uprising”?
“I think the best sci-fi has the best social commentary. I think sci-fi is able to comment on the world in a light way that isn’t overbearing, and you’re still having fun. I think the feeling of wanting to be a hero, to find the best strength within yourself is something that people can relate with. When they go to see trailers and they see Batman and all those guys coming together to unite, people love unity. Especially in the sci-fi genre. Hence why we’re excited when one person from this film joins together with the others. Unity is something that a lot of people really hold dear to our hearts. And that’s what I made sure ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ had a lot of.”
“Pacific Rim: Uprising” will be released on March 23, 2018, but you can watch its trailer below.