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Daisy Ridley on ‘Young Woman and the Sea,’ New ‘Star Wars’ Script

Daisy Ridley on ‘Young Woman and the Sea,’ New ‘Star Wars’ Script

Daisy Ridley is back on the big screen with one of her finest works to date in Young Woman and the Sea. Directed by Joachim Rønning, the biographical drama about legendary swimmer Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle is the highest testing film of Jerry Bruckheimer’s storied producorial career that includes the likes of Top Gun: Maverick, Beverly Hills Cop and Flashdance. Originally slated for a Disney+ exclusive release, Ridley and co. were rewarded with a limited theatrical run that begins on May 31. Such upgrades don’t come easy given the costs associated with theatrical exhibition, but as Rønning put it, Bruckheimer was “relentless” in his successful pursuit.

The film’s road to theatrical, in a way, parallels the underdog story that Young Woman and the Sea is telling involving Trudy, and Ridley considers this hard-earned achievement to be as rewarding as anything she’s done to date.

“It certainly felt like we set out to make a film that was wonderful and cinematic. So, for that to be appreciated is wonderful, and I hope that people go and see [Young Woman and the Sea] on the big screen,” Ridley tells The Hollywood Reporter

To play an Olympic gold medalist in the 1920s and the first woman to swim across the English Channel, Ridley went to the same great lengths that she became known for while playing a Jedi in the Star Wars franchise. She was trained by an Olympic silver medalist named Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, and by the end of production, she was confidently swimming in the Black Sea and fighting off currents. 

At the recent L.A. premiere of Young Woman, Ridley was tidying up in the bathroom when she received an unexpected endorsement from another one of history’s most fabled long-distance swimmers, Diana Nyad. Based on the latter’s attendance at the Young Woman premiere and her subsequent praise of Ridley, it’s evident that Nyad’s own biopic, Nyad (2023), and Young Woman can coexist without being pit against each other, as often happens when two films cover similar territory within a year of each other.

“I was washing my hands in the bathroom … and she came in. It was the most surreal thing. I kept going, ‘This is so trippy, this is so trippy. You did the thing, and I just played the person that did the thing,’” Ridley says. “But she was very encouraging because she could see that I had trained really hard. I really wanted to do justice by swimmers … So getting a pat on the back from Diana Nyad was pretty cool.”

Ridley recently produced and starred in her own indie film, Magpie, and after its recent premiere at South by Southwest, the Sam Yates-directed thriller — penned by Ridley’s husband, Tom Bateman — has already lined up distribution in the U.K. and Ireland. And Ridley is now revealing that U.S. distribution is already a done deal: “We also have distribution in the U.S. We just haven’t quite announced it yet,” Ridley shares.

While Ridley was shooting Magpie, Lucasfilm boss Katlheen Kennedy invited her to breakfast in order to pitch her what is currently regarded as Star Wars: New Jedi Order. Together with director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Ridley’s beloved Jedi Master, Rey, will reestablish the Jedi Order, and she expects to read screenwriter Steven Knight’s script imminently: “I have not read actual words on actual paper, but [a script] is soon coming,” Ridley says.

Below, during a recent conversation with THR, Ridley also discusses how Young Woman, after a decade-plus of work, finally allowed her the proper chance to perform opposite sister and mother characters.

I spoke to you while you were shooting Magpie in January 2023, and you had just watched Young Woman and the Sea for the first time and said how great it was. Well, the test screenings proved you correct, resulting in a theatrical bump. Has this turn of events been as rewarding as anything you’ve been a part of so far? 

Yes. I read somewhere that a streamer going theatrical hasn’t happened this way, and while maybe that’s wrong, it certainly felt like we set out to make a film that was wonderful and cinematic. So, for that to be appreciated is wonderful, and I hope that people go and see [Young Woman and the Sea] on the big screen. I’ve seen the finished film twice, and last night’s [L.A. premiere] screening was just beyond compare. Watching it on a screen of that size, there’s so much scope. The story is so intimate, but the space is so great that it’s served so beautifully on a cinema screen.

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney’s Young Woman and the Sea

Vladisav Lepoev

You shot this about six or seven months before you went on to produce and star in Magpie. Did you ever get a chance to discuss your producorial ambition with Young Woman and the Sea producer Jerry Bruckheimer? 

Was it only six or seven months before? 

Yes, the summer of 2022. 

Oh my God, you’re right! Wow. In my head, it was longer than that. Did I talk to him about [Magpie]? Yes, Jerry and [producer] Chad [Oman] and [writer-producer] Jeff [Nathanson] and [director] Joachim [Rønning] knew I was doing it. It was wonderful because I got to be on a film with Jerry Bruckheimer, and then I got to go and make my own thing. Of course, they are two very different projects, but over the last few years, I’ve been very blessed to make a lot of very different projects with a lot of very different filmmakers, who I respect and whose work and genres are different. So they’re very different projects, but beyond just being an actor, there’s a lot of joy in being a part of a team that’s bringing a story to life.

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney’s Young Woman and the Sea

Disney

You and Trudy both made your names a century apart, but as I was watching Young Woman and the Sea, I found myself drawing parallels to your own career. Could you relate to Trudy’s experience on some level?

In terms of her doing something that broke down boundaries, I don’t know that I could compare to that, but I certainly feel a dogged determination. It’s funny, I saw my sister’s friend recently, and she knew me as a teenager. I hadn’t seen her for ages, and she went, “I always just remember you being super determined as a teenager.” And I was like, “That’s interesting.” So I feel like I was determined, and I was able to do something even though I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I wanted to be an actor, but I didn’t know how to do that. I just figured my way through. So, in a spiritual way, that determination and that love of doing what you want to do, I suppose there would be some comparison there.

Kim Bodnia as Henry Ederle, Jeanette Hain as Gertrud Ederle, Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle, Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Meg Ederle in Disney’s Young Woman and the Sea

Elena Nenkova

I’m glad you mentioned one of your sisters, because Young Woman is the first time you’ve had a prominent sisterly relationship in a film. Did you welcome that familiar yet new dynamic on screen?

I very much encouraged it. I’ve never had a sister on screen, and I’ve never actually had a mom on screen. So when I read the script, it was so beautiful already, but I had a conversation with Jeff Nathanson and Jerry and Chad and Joachim, where I said, “For me, this relationship is the absolute heart of the story. I want this to be a love story about these two sisters who are totally representative of totally different moments in their lives.” Trudy is overcoming a lot of obstacles, and she actually has a lot of freedom in that, strangely. But Meg doesn’t. Meg is representative of basically every other woman of that time, and I wanted it to feel real when sisters bicker. My sisters and I bicker, but we love each other so fiercely that there’s just no denying that sisterly bond.

When I was testing with people for Meg, I tested with amazing actors, but it just didn’t feel right for me, sister-wise. And then, when Tilda [Cobham-Hervey] and I spoke, there was just alchemy. There was that chemistry thing, and it just really worked. So I was very encouraging of that relationship, and I love Tilda. I’m glad that the relationship we have together as people, hopefully, translated onto the screen. And Jeanette [Hain], who is this gorgeous performer, plays our mother, and she is unbelievable as the rock of this family. So I was so thrilled to work with both of them.

Jeanette Hain as Gertrud Ederle and Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney’s Young Woman and the Sea

Vladisav Lepoev

Did Trudy really eat fried chicken while simming in the middle of the English Channel?

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(Laughs.) I don’t know if she ate fried chicken. She must have, because there was a lot of research done, but [as a vegan], I was eating some fried tofu [in that scene].

I also saw that they had you eat lunch while floating in a pool. Why was that necessary?

We did a day of underwater work in a tank. We had done all of the open water stuff in the Black Sea at nighttime, which obviously had to be more controlled because it was more dangerous. But then we did a day of underwater work, and it was more comfortable to stay in the pool. So I had my little floating [lunch] tray, and I ate my lunch. It was enjoyable. But it’s that funny thing where you don’t want to eat too much. You’re starving because you’ve done so much work, but you don’t want to eat too much in case you vom, basically. 

You worked with one of the Nyad producers on The Marsh King’s Daughter. I know you shot this after Marsh King, but was there ever any playful joshing between long-distance swimming films? 

I met Diana Nyad last night [at the L.A. premiere]! It was so surreal. I was washing my hands in the bathroom, waiting for my people, and she came in. It was the most surreal thing. I kept going, “This is so trippy, this is so trippy. You are real. You did the thing, and I just played the person that did the thing.” But she was very encouraging because she could see that I had trained really hard. And that’s wonderful [to hear], particularly from the sports people that were there last night. I really wanted to do justice by swimmers, and in a physical way, I wanted to try and do as much as I could to look able and to sell the story. So getting a pat on the back from Diana Nyad was pretty cool.

So much time, money and energy is put into teaching actors skills for a movie, and some of them have told me that they feel a bit of regret when they don’t keep up with a particular skill. So, whether it’s twirling your laser sword or swimming laps, do you ever wish you had more time to maintain it all? 

I feel like I work really hard for what I have to do. I work really hard for the training and I work really hard for the filming, and then afterwards, I go to sleep. But I’ve also maintained a lot of the skills I have already learned. I did a [Martin Campbell] action movie before Christmas called Cleaner, and I had done kickboxing for the last Star Wars film, so I did kickboxing again. I wasn’t starting from scratch there. I was relearning, and I already had a foundation. Swimming is the big one that I hadn’t really done before and I haven’t really done since, but watching the film again last night, I thought, “Yes, I did do a lot of swimming and my body deserves a rest.”

Before we return to Magpie, I have to do that obligatory thing where we ask about that other upcoming Disney movie [Star Wars: New Jedi Order]. Have you seen words on paper yet?  

(Laughs.) I have not read actual words on actual paper, but [a script] is soon coming.

Daisy Ridley in Magpie

Courtesy of SXSW/Rob Baker Ashton

Magpie premiered at South by Southwest, and it recently landed distribution in your own backyard [U.K. and Ireland]. 

We also have distribution in the U.S. We just haven’t quite announced it yet.

Overall, what’s been the biggest eye-opener about birthing your own film?

Honestly, making films is really hard, and I knew they were, but the making of the film was actually not difficult. It’s just the after stuff that’s such a maze. Being independent and then finding distribution, we have amazing partners, which is wonderful, but I just didn’t realize how long everything took. So that was surprising. But I love our movie. We wanted to do something that we felt we hadn’t seen in a while, and I’m very happy that we are able to share Magpie with audiences this year.

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Young Woman and the Sea opens in select theaters on May 31.



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