NYCC Exclusive: John Boyega talks Pacific Rim Uprising
Last week, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures brought the new trailer for Pacific Rim Uprising to their New York Comic Con presentation, after which ComingSoon.net had the chance to sit down 1:1 with the film’s star and producer, John Boyega. The Star Wars actor plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba’s character from the first film. Check out the interview below!
John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) stars as the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous “Kaiju.” Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father’s legacy by his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi)—who is leading a brave new generation of pilots that have grown up in the shadow of war. As they seek justice for the fallen, their only hope is to unite together in a global uprising against the forces of extinction. Jake is joined by gifted rival pilot Lambert (The Fate of the Furious‘ Scott Eastwood) and 15-year-old Jaeger hacker Amara (newcomer Cailee Spaeny), as the heroes of the PPDC become the only family he has left. Rising up to become the most powerful defense force to ever walk the earth, they will set course for a spectacular all-new adventure on a towering scale.
Pacific Rim Uprising is directed by Steven S. DeKnight (Netflix’s Daredevil, STARZ’s Spartacus) and opens in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D theaters on March 23, 2018.
Comingsoon.net: I guess my first question to you is… are people making a lot of “Adventure Time” jokes to you now that you’ve played both Finn and Jake?
John Boyega: (laughs) That’s so cool! No, but I welcome all of them. That is cool.
CS: Nobody’s pointing that out?
Boyega: No, nobody’s pointed that out. That is hilarious!
CS: Are you a fan of the show?
Boyega: I love “Adventure Time.” I think I might put up tweets that say, ”I’d really like to see some Finn and Jake concept art” now. That’s so crazy I never knew that, geez.
CS: So in this movie you are playing the son of Idris Elba’s character, and even though you are English, did you have to use a different regional dialect to match his?
Boyega: I use my natural one. I didn’t use my natural one for “Star Wars,” so that was completely different. I’m into characters. The great thing is there is a distinct difference between Jake and Finn, obviously. That was something I definitely integrated into the character-building. Also because I didn’t want to distract the “Star Wars” fans as they watch “Pacific Rim.” I wanted there to be a specific difference in demeanor and energy. And that’s something that went into it in terms of my voice. I use a low register most of the time, I just used my natural tone.
CS: I just know that there are different regions. I don’t know which regions Idris and you are from?
Boyega: I’m from South London but I did cater towards Idris’ kind of easy-sort of an East London accent.
CS: What do you think is the biggest non-cosmetic difference between Finn and Jake?
Boyega: I think obviously, circumstantially they are living in both worlds where Finn kind of had his freedom taken away from him. And Jake has had all the freedom he can get. Jake is definitely a lot cockier and has a lot more of a no-care attitude. Whereas Finn has a natural heart in him. And if they would meet, they would get along but they would be different for sure.
CS: So Jake has lived kind of more of a frivolous life.
Boyega: Yes, because we wanted to show the story in a different light. We are living in a world in which it is not going well in terms of unity and there is a lot of conflict. There are a lot of people who benefit from it not because they are wealthy, or because they have the best name, but because they are smart and witty, and we wanted to explore that part: the underground crime-lord kid. How does he survive within this world? Obviously he is more of a distinct contrast to his father. But this is not like a caricature of [Elba’s character] Stacker, he’s not just walking around with his demeanor, but he’s a lot more free.
CS: In the original movie, Idris seemed to take a lot of his performance cues from anime, almost like a cartoon character.
Boyega: It was fantastic! He was totally stern. Imagine having a man like that with a son that doesn’t quite live up to that. You probably understand why we probably didn’t see Jake, and that’s what we explored.
CS: I understand there is also a little bit of friction between you and your sister, Mako.
Boyega: It is a troubling and interesting relationship. If there was a love that they both have for each other, she understood that when Jake was going away. It was his choice. It reminds my older sister and me. I love her, but I also love the ability to understand who she is as an individual regardless of how you feel about her. I think that is something that they both share.
CS: I’ve heard the movie compared a lot to “Top Gun” in the sense that it is not just about Jaegers vs. Kaijus, it is also about the competition between Jaeger pilots.
Boyega: There is big, massive competition between Jaeger pilots, but it’s like “Top Gun” in a sense. One question that nobody has asked is, “Where are all the adult Jaeger pilots?” The ones that are professional and the ones that matter. Where are they? We have the circumstance where the kids are the only hope, and they have to jump into tech. That resonates with me especially as a sci-fi reference to “The Goonies” and “E.T.” Kids having to learn and step up, “Attack the Block,” and go against an enemy that is far-fetched. But they have some good weapons, though.
CS: Guillermo del Toro worked on the project a bit before Steven DeKnight took over. What do you think changed the most between those two guys?
Boyega: I think it definitely changed just in terms of freedom and creative freedom also. I think Guillermo was right in wanting the franchise to take a different path and different route. What I like is it really does promote the change in tone in franchise films because that’s sort of the state of war and events. Each event feels different. But at the same time, we still have those things that we can relate to, and go back to the original. We haven’t gone far in changing the story. I still have to be Drift compatible, the robots are not acrobatic. At the same time after you still have to pilot these things, those are elements we had too.
CS: So by bringing in a new auteur you get the same sort of eclecticism that franchises like “Alien” or “Mission: Impossible” have.
Boyega: And with the distinct decision to expand the franchise and expanding universe to give the fans an interactive say is something that influenced this as well.
CS: I guess there’s a huge difference between a 40-year-old franchise like “Star Wars” and a four-year-old one like “Pacific Rim.” Isn’t there a lot more wiggle room playing in this sandbox than in George Lucas’s?
Boyega: Definitely, in the other realm you are just part of the jigsaw puzzle. And to continue a legacy with it is fantastic, but also what drew me to this is it wasn’t just doing another franchise. It was about being involved behind the scenes: being a part of the creative team and the minds that would hopefully allow this franchise to expand.
CS: You are a big genre fan, but what was your specific role as a producer? What expertise did you bring in shepherding a big badass movie like this one?
Boyega: The greatest thing is I met with a fantastic production team, and the producers there are like the guardian angels of projects. And each angel does his own thing. Whether it be financial responsibility, time, which we all have our eye on because we cannot go over budget. But a big thing for me was creative collaboration of the project, working closely with visual effects teams was a massive thing for me. Most of the privisual CGI went to me, and I would then decide what would happen and the ways in which we can make this better. Pre-viz is something that is beautiful and something that I promoted a lot. We have to go in there with a plan, and if things would change, it would be up to me to discuss with the actors but with the producing hat on. That then affects the way they do action. But there were many notes that I came in with and many ideas. One thing that kind of was my pitch to the studio was, “what the fans really want to see,” and trust me, what they want to see is fights in the daylight and advanced tech taken to another level. They also want to see more character, more breakdown on the specifics of this franchise, to make the complicated uncomplicated. And just to have fun, and any time I could implement that into it, I would.
CS: That is very savvy of you to hone in on it because if you talk to a lot of the directors who work on big tentpole movies, especially in the big Marvel movies, the pre-visuals are already done on the big set pieces before they even come on.
Boyega: It was the case with this one, but I have a great working relationship and Universal was a fantastic studio. I’ve had a great opportunity to give my say, and even in terms of this trailer, it was a long process for this trailer as well in terms of developing it to the point where it can get everybody excited. We have so much content it really is about how much do we show? And when.
CS: Do you have your eye on directing someday? It sounds like it.
Boyega: I don’t know, maybe…