Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens heralded a new cinematic era for the Star Wars franchise under Disney’s viewers, and featured a new trio of major heroes to stand at the heart of the trilogy. The new series, branded the Sequel Trilogy, explores new connections between new characters while returning to Star Wars and its well-known locations.
When it came to casting Rey, Disney cast a wide net to locate the right actress for the character. The studio was so motivated that they issued an international audition, which resulted in audition videos being sent from females all over the world. When it came to bringing The Force Awakens to life, a classic pattern was followed, and the first of the sequels concentrates on a leading female protagonist saving the galaxy. Daisy Ridley plays Rey, a scrapper from Jakku, in all three movies. While Ridley was eventually cast in the role, several other well-known actresses were considered.
#1 Elizabeth Olsen
The Star Wars filmmakers considered Elizabeth Olsen for the character of Rey and issued an audition invitation to the actress. Olsen had to refuse the offer due to her previously signing a multi-picture contract with Marvel Studios, which would have locked her up as the Scarlet Witch. Though her production schedule after Captain America: The Winter Soldier would have allowed her a year to film The Force Awakens before returning to Marvel, her contract prevented her from jumping between blockbusters. Olsen credits her enthusiasm for Star Wars as inspiration for her Marvel Studios audition.
#2 Billie Lourd
Billie Lourd was able to co-star with her mother Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, however, her role was slightly different from what she originally auditioned for. During an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the actress discussed how she was contacted for the role of Rey before filming. “J.J. Abrams called me to come in for ‘Star Wars’ because he couldn’t find someone for the lead,” Lourd said. “He ended up finding Daisy Ridley, who’s an incredible actress, so talented.” She then went into detail about her experience on the Star Wars set. “I was super excited. I didn’t know what was going to happen and ended up going and fell in love with it.”
#3 Saorise Ronan
When Lucasfilm was looking for an actress to play Rey, Saoirse Ronan was one of the candidates. When Ronan auditioned, they kept any character specifics to a minimum, though the use of a lightsaber was mentioned in the scene summary. Ronan shares about her audition, “So many people I know have gone in for the part I’ve gone in for, and guys who’ve gone in for a particular part, so I’d imagine J.J. [Abrams] is probably just scanning the earth to find the people that one needs, but nobody has a clue what it’s about, and nobody’s read the script.”
#4 Eiza Gonzáles
Mexican young star Eiza Gonzáles was one of the top foreign candidates for Rey when her mother pushed the possibility for Gonzáles to apply for the then-upcoming Star Wars film without any direction or agency. Throughout the interview, Gonzáles commented on her experience with the Lucasfilm audition process: “I was completely clueless. Because you know, they give you dummy sides. You don’t know what you’re reading,” she explained. “Now I know all this information, but at the time, you can see; I think Daisy Ridley was just cast out of nowhere. They like unknown people. So we were lucky to do that. Obviously didn’t book it, but went pretty far and I was like, ‘Great, awesome. That was great. Moving back to Mexico. It didn’t happen. That will be a great story for the rest of my life.’ And then like a week later I got a call on my flip phone at the time that I had bought at a CVS, and I got a call from a casting director and she’s like, ‘Oh, this other director saw your material. He wants to read you. Can you read?’ I tape myself, long story short, it was Robert Rodriguez, a month later I was moving to Austin and I did From Dusk Till Dawn, and I don’t know how this happened. My second audition.”
#5 Jessica Henwick
Jessica Henwick was considered a front-runner for the role of Rey before the announcement that Ridley had won the role following a six-month audition process, and she expressed her regret at the loss of the role. “I was auditioning for a different character, actually,” Henwick said, “So I spent six months auditioning for Rey. And then, in the end, J.J. said, ‘I want you to be in the film, but I want to write a character for you.’ That’s how Jessika Pava was created. But, after six months, you can’t help but just desperately want the original role. So, I was a mess at the end of those six months.” Henwick informs viewers that Pava is not just “alive and well,” but has been continued through the Star Wars story as a comic book character. While Henwick never got to be Rey, Pava was the first female character in live-action canon to become an X-Wing pilot.