Star Wars Casting Director Nina Gold on discovering Daisy Ridley and John Boyega

John & DaisyNina Gold is a casting director riding an immense hot streak.  Having cast a number of TV and film productions that are filmed in the UK in recent years, the list of young unknowns she has discovered reads like a who’s who of up and coming young actors.  In recognition, BAFTA is presenting Gold with a special honor at their Television Craft Awards this Sunday.  This is the first time they have awarded this honor to a casting director.


In advance of the awards this weekend, The Hollywood Reporter has an interview with Gold that discusses a number of topics.  Among those discussed the process of casting Star Wars and how she discovered Ridley and Boyega.


Nina Gold


Gold discussed with THR the uniqueness of the Star Wars casting process, in which she did not need to fight to audition and cast unknowns in key roles:

In Star Wars, for instance, for [Daisy Ridley and John Boyega], we certainly didn’t want people who had been in other franchises. I guess they had enough star power with Harrison Ford and the whole thing anyway. There really was this appetite for finding the most exciting person, and if they were brand new, that was only a good thing.

Gold also discussed her history with Boyega, having cast him in Attack the Block, and Ridley’s immediate feel for the role of Rey.

I had cast John before, when he was 18, in Attack the Block. Finding him then took months and months meeting teenagers, not even necessarily professional actors, but young kids who wanted to act and from all sorts of drama groups and other weird and wonderful ways of finding them. John actually had a job, a part in a play at London’s Tricycle Theater, and I saw him in that and it started from there. Daisy was working in a bar, but also acting. We did see gazillions of people for both roles. But her agent sent her in, and she was really good. She straight away struck a chord and seemed to have the right feel from the first moment, which is unusual.


Head to The Hollywood Reporter to check out the entire interview where Gold gives insightful comments on her part in discovering the young cast of Game of Thrones, and diversity in casting in Star Wars and UK Television roles.



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48 thoughts on “Star Wars Casting Director Nina Gold on discovering Daisy Ridley and John Boyega

  • April 26, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    The casting in this movie was awesome. I loved all these characters from the first time I saw them.They did a good job casting the right people for the right role. There was no god awful mistakes like casting Jesse Eisenberg for Lex Luthor.

    • April 26, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      Still can’t believe that wasn’t The Riddler.

      • April 27, 2016 at 4:47 am

        Someone from my work, who’s not really into comics. Just a casual fan of the films, actually thought that Eisenberg was supposed to be the joker. lmao

  • April 26, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    The casting was terrific, which is part of the reason why The Force Awakens is the best acted Star Wars film so far.

  • April 26, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    Boyega was fantastic in Attack The Block so I was excited to learn he was in VII. Ridley exuded the right amount of toughness and vulnerability that made me cheer for Rey, not just as a strong female character but as a hero. Driver showed us the conflicted Anakin we had hoped for in the PT but never really got, and Isaac exuded roguish charm without having to imitate Harrison Ford. Agreed. VII is the best acted of the saga so far. Indeed, Nina Gold struck (casting) gold!

    • April 27, 2016 at 1:10 am

      Kylo Ren was already evil when we 1st meet him.

      Apples and oranges bruh!

      (And no, this is not up for discussion as I have no plans to get into a back-and-forth debate with anyone about this. Furthermore, people need to get out of this “should’ve been” mindset as that just demonstrates how much one was making up things in their mind instead of trying to better understand why certain characters are a certain way and looking at things conceptually instead of being fixated on one’s own imagination in a self-entitled fashion).


      • April 27, 2016 at 1:43 am

        For those of you that do want to discuss I say (in the context of this article which is Casting) Anakin failed partially because he was miscast. He wasn’t just written terribly and directed ineptly – Christensen was/is a bad actor too. Sure I had expectations. Human nature, bruh. That’s what happens when you want to be entertained. You expect something or choose to expect nothing at all. I say Gold succeeded because she saw the potential for the actors she chose to bring their characters to life.
        As for Kylo being inherently evil. I think confessing to your grandfather’s melted helmet, the cosplaying, the lack of moustache twirling after murdering your father…dude was conflicted. Again, in the context of Casting, I think Driver was great at the subtle portrayal of that conflict.

        • April 27, 2016 at 3:26 am

          This is all else I’m going to say on this matter:

          The term “miscast” doesn’t really apply here because 1) Star Wars doesn’t have comics as source material like comic books movies do, let alone new characters. There’s no basis for a new character like Anakin 2) Darth Vader and Anakin are two different personalities so no, you can’t call Vader in the OT as being “source material” by this very reasons (besides, you don’t own Star Wars, the creator can portray a character like he wants to without trying to meet some artificial standard that self-entitled fans try to place on themselves and on the art by the simple fact that he owns the IP, NOT you or other fans and 3) you having expectations is your fault, not the moviemakers’ fault. Your human nature committed a fallacy.

          Lastly, I leave you with these screenshots:

          • April 27, 2016 at 3:39 am


          • April 27, 2016 at 4:45 am

            Teen choice awards and MTV awards..? Really? Really? No, seriously? Really? Like really?

            They also nominated him for the good [horrible] “chemistry” between him and Portman. So, once again, really?

          • April 27, 2016 at 7:28 pm

            LOL. That’s because “Leslie” is actually 13. Lil’ Leslie has put me in the mood for pasting interesting on-line sats so here we go:

            2006 Won
            Razzie Award Worst Supporting Actor
            Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
            For Star Wars III: No Sith, He’s Supposed to Be Darth Vader?!?!.

            2003 Won
            Razzie Award Worst Supporting Actor
            Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
            For “Star Wars/Episode II: Yada-Yada-Yoda”.

          • April 28, 2016 at 6:24 am

            Lol people like you are coming really quick to disrespectful remarks when no argument left. we can argue together if you want. you will tell me how Prequels sucks, and i will tell you how the ST sucks and will.

          • April 28, 2016 at 6:15 am

            i never heard about any Star Wars wining an Oscar. it’s pointless to bring it to which won what. Web critics and reviews are subjective in all case. There is more creativity in AoTC than in the 7 so called “rebooted-star wars” Thank you and good bye.

          • April 27, 2016 at 7:09 am

            I think it’s totally legitimate for Hayden to study Darth Vader’s performance, because, as Luke so surmised: Anakin is still in there.

            Darth Vader ACTS different, Darth Vader is a facade. But as any actor will tell you, that facade tells you a lot about the man hiding underneath. An expert can look at a tank and guess by the shape of the armor which part is the weakest part, which part is the most heavily defended part. Darth Vader is the armor to the engine that is Anakin’s tortured soul. Any person playing Anakin would be an idiot to NOT study Darth Vader, or at least Sebastian Shaw’s Anakin when the mask is removed.

            Now I’ve taken your statements for whatever merit their worth but I can not ignore the true ignorance of your statement:

            “Darth Vader and Anakin are two different personalities so no, you can’t call Vader in the OT as being ‘source material’ by this very reasons.”

            Darth Vader is the same character, but he is in another state of being, but there are still traces of Vader’s old self hidden in his behavior, especially post-I’m-your-father. In RotJ you can really see a layer of tenderness in Vader’s actions, like in the scene where Luke surrenders to Vader and they head over to the hangar bay, there is quite a great deal of emotion underneath Vader’s suit, and the way Vader filters and contains that emotion through the suit speaks loads about his thought-process, his values, his principles.
            Hayden, and arguably, Lucas, carried NONE of that over from David Prowse, James Earl Jones, or Sebastien Shaw, and that’s a shame because all three of those men did a spectacular job of highlighting and expressing Vader’s character. To ignore their performances is to belittle them. Essentially, your statement implies that Vader is a meaningless character post-Mustafar because he supposedly acts different and is therefore not Anakin but just a suit, so to speak.

            To be fair, I am making a lot of presumptions, and I am not accusing you of thinking thus so on the matter. What I am trying to do is highlight the logical extremity of your statement and its inherent flaw. I wouldn’t even be still typing were it not for your insistence that we all shut up. We all have opinions and all of them (mine included) are most likely wrong. That’s why discussion is vital. This is a forum, not a podium.

          • April 28, 2016 at 4:32 am

            We are talking of 19 years of difference, when it comes to Anakin and Vader in the OT. Do I act differently compared to how I was 19 years ago? Obviously. Be how much can be defined by everything you’ve gone through and when we are talking Anakin and Vader, we’re talking of a lot. Absorb what Yoda says, Obi-Wan says. They are all talking that Anakin was just gone. There’s symbolism in there, but you can see that how you, when you’re consumed by the Dark Side, you’re just heavily changed. Even Padme says how she doesn’t know him anymore, because he’s so different and at that point he wasn’t that different. There was a lot more anger, hate, powerlust. But on Mustafar Vader still behaved like Anakin. But losing everything, his wife, his unborn child, friends and even his freedom. The point was that he was a slave, becoming a great Jedi, finding love. And then he becomes a slave again to the Dark Side, to the Emperor. Move on 19 years, no he’s certainly not the same man anymore. Anakin is dead, which is actually symbolised when you see Padme’s funeral, happening at the same time as Anakin’s, so to speak, when he was being put in his black suit. Death makes way to life. Padme’s for the twins. Anakin’s for Vader’s.

          • April 28, 2016 at 6:31 am

            What are the elements that make you think Hayden portrayed the just born Vader the same he had portrayed Anakin before ? When he talks to Padme he’s hiding his real emotions and his obsession for power because he’s still hoping things will stay the same. When he says : we will make the galaxy at our will”, look at his face and tell me you saw THIS face before in the movie ?

          • April 28, 2016 at 9:34 am

            When he talks of ruling the Galaxy, he shows the same enthusiasm when he’s told he will become a father earlier in the film. It’s almost the same, it’s only amplified.

          • April 28, 2016 at 4:28 pm

            Yeah, but both of them still use the same exact brain. They both think the same way and rate the universe by the same spectrum, just to different ends.
            In other words, opposite colors, same color palette.
            If I turned evil in 19 years, I’d be doing everything differently, but that difference would be MY idea of different, and thus, subtly the same in the WAY it’s different.
            Just ’cause you turn evil doesn’t change your personality, it just changes where that personality is channeled towards, which is why I call BS on Young Anakin acting like legitimately a different person with different DNA and different upbringing and different cultural background. 19 years doesn’t change THAT much.

            I wish I had a good real-world comparison … eh, Godfather’s close enough.
            Observe the “differences” between young Mike Corleone and old Mike Corleone. Old does evil stuff, and uses intimidation tactics while the Young plays everything straight. Those are actions, not personality. Once you look at the real personality, things get spooky. Michael Corleone shows a heavily internalized thought-process, like his mind is thousands of miles ahead of everyone else. In the way he looks at people, you can tell he views others as specimens and moving-parts instead of equals, and he phrases his speech carefully to inspire the appropriate reaction from others. In short, a sociopath. And I’m talking about his first scene in the movie, the wedding scene where he’s with his date. It doesn’t matter to Al Pacino whether the script says he’s “killed 1 person” or “killed 30”, he’s still the same human being who, having turned to the “dark side / family business”, goes about being evil the exact same way his younger self went about being good.

            Hayden had a challenge because he was a different actor but the rule still applies: No matter how eventful those 19 years have been, Anakin and Darth Vader are still running on the same brain-power and the same wiring. They should be mutually compatible. Heck, MARK HAMILL in RotJ’s personality was far closer to Darth Vader’s than Hayden’s was MID-KID-KILLING. I fail to see how this “they’re not the same” logic holds up. Mark Hamill could tap into the character-compatibility and he wasn’t even the same character.

          • April 29, 2016 at 2:31 am

            Michael Corleone didn’t go through such a drastic transformation. I don’t see how Luke is closer to Vader’s personality, than Anakin 23 years ago. He’s more disciplined, more experienced in ROTJ and I can see how both characters have the same kind of disciplined personality. That’s the largest change between Anakin and Vader. Anakin is reckless, less organised, not disciplined. These traits brought him closer to the Dark Side. And being under Palpatine’s rule that all changed. You could see the difference how he behaved when he was among Kenobi or Palps. He acts a lot more disciplined when he is with Palps as he was of course the High Chancellor, but he also respects him more because Anakin felt he wasn’t getting patronised like the Jedi did. We don’t know the extreme change he went through in the 19 years gap. But one thing’s for sure. Palps wasn’t going to have a rebellious, undisciplined apprentice at his side. When you look at Michael Corleone. He was a good person, but descends to evil when they assassinate his father. He focuses on crime and we see how he is fully focused to the maffia in the second part. It’s his way or the highway. That’s just what happens to a man who also becomes power hungry and unlike Vader he gets that power. And playing his part in the maffia, you can see that not that much had changed when he becomes older. He’s still the top chief after many years, unlike Vader. Anakin/Vader was at his peak during the Clone Wars. Overconfident as he knows he’s the Chosen One. He has a big ego, which is mostly Palp’s work talking him up as if he’s the messiah. All that descends when he loses everything on Mustafar on so many levels. I’ll give you a better comparison. Walter White, a good, happy, intelligent chemist teacher, a loveable father and husband. As time passes, he also realises he’ll lose everything when he learns he has cancer. His descend slowly starts, similar to Anakin losing his mother first. Both their worlds are falling apart and a new one starts to form around them. As Anakin, Walter thinks he’s doing good at first helping his family by giving them money he earns from cooking meth. Anakin also thought he was doing good at first as he, like Walter, is desperate. In his case to save his wife from death. Like Walter, he’s willing to do anything to accomplish his goal. Well by the fifth season of BB, Walter is completely changed. Greedy, power hungry, cruel. Almost the exact opposite of what I described above.

          • April 29, 2016 at 6:13 am

            Yeah, but your description of Walter White is based on what he’s doing, not HOW he does it. Walter White uses the same logic and line of reasoning in teaching as he does in criminal politics.
            I hear your points, their inescapable, but the PT rendition of Anakin still doesn’t strike me as the sequencial counter-part to Darth Vader. Really, Anakin the Jedi Knight and Darth Vader (should be) two equally artificial facades that mask the true Anakin underneath. PT Anakin is Anakin’s idea of how to be a good guy. OT Vader should be Anakin’s idea of how to be evil. So he does different things, but the core foundation of the definition of “different” should be based upon Anakin’s core personality, which I do not read from Hayden Christensen.

            I will concede that a lot of this is heavily subjective, I may well be the only person who takes issue with this. But, for me, it was never about how many people Anakin strangled or killed or hurt, it’s about what foundation that is based upon. When Darth Vader is NOT killing people, there are peeks and hints of a true personality underneath there. This is arguably the entire plot of RotJ; it takes Luke Skywalker to even notice the man beneath the suit, it’s the whole point of the story. The suit is literal but also figurative, and I argue that “General Anakin the Jedi Knight” is just as artificial a suit as Vader is, and, if you really look at Vader, his younger pre-downfall self really ought to be a way more complicated beast than Hayden and Lucas’ portrayal in later years. Old Vader was complex and multi-faceted, so should young Anakin be. This is why I actually prefer Jake Lloyd’s performance, because in the scenes when he’s not going “yippee!”, he actually demonstrates a lot of internalized thought and emotion, you feel like the kid is more complex than meets the eye, and he definitely looks smarter than Lucas’ dialogue make him seem. In short, while annoying at times, Jake Lloyd’s Anakin is way more believable as a future mass-murderer than Hayden, not because he’s evil, but because he thinks along the same complex nuances that Vader operates with. Hayden got to do Darth Vader stuff, but he never did it AS Vader (this is metaphorical Vader, Darth Vader the personality actually was born in that Tusken Raider village in Ep II), he never displayed the same complexity as Vader, and thus, I never believed the thought of him becoming a world-ender. Evil and Good are, for the purposes of this issue, superficial. Their the script. Anakin’s character (ought be) the lens through which that script (murder / save) is transmitted. Anakin is the vessel of his mission. For me, Hayden’s behavior never quite struck me as being the same brain that would go on to kill Alderaan, I just never bought it. Jake Lloyd’s Anakin killing Alderaan? That I do buy, but not Hayden’s portrayal.

            I will clarify that it isn’t quite fair to call it Hayden’s portrayal, because 2/3 of the issue are the directing and the script, so it’s actually more to do with Lucas than it ever had to do with Hayden, hence Natalie Portman’s equally poor performance though we all agree she’s a great actor. We could argue in circles about whether or not Lucas is to blame or whether or not his dictation is dominant. But I can’t deny the in-congruence, there is a difference between Anakin’s core personality and Vader’s core personality. Character is one thing, evil is a character trait, being honest is a character trait; they can be taught or gained or lost. But PERSONALITY, is, to a great degree, built-in to the brain.

            I don’t know about you, but somehow the idea that Anakin and Vader actually have a physical difference in their brain to the degree that they got body-swapped, something about that makes Vader’s character less effective and powerful a story. There SHOULD be hints of consistency where you look and point to how Anakin is similar to Vader, so that the PT makes Vader MORE human, and thus, more horrible. It’s easy for a robot to be evil, but the PT was a golden opportunity to retroactively make Vader more relatable, to really show us: This is an actual human being that is blowing up this planet, and he KNOWS that what he’s doing is evil, and he used to be good. He’s better than this but he’s doing it anyway. And that’s why Hayden should have based his performance more heavily on Vader’s underlying nature, to really accentuate how Vader is human. Was that not the entire purpose for the Prequel Trilogy’s creation in the first place?

            Anyways, sorry I’m going on for so long, it’s clear my mind is on a page so far removed from yours, I could go on for years without either of us budging an inch.

          • April 29, 2016 at 7:24 pm

            The point was how Anakin turns to the Dark Side. As far as Vader being human. He’s not completley. He lost a lot of his humanity, because he lost a lot that defines him as human. Even Obi-Wan says that he’s more a machine, rather than a man. He lost all the ambitions he had as young man. I thought it was interesting how they changed his lenses from red to black. You know what they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul. He just doesn’t have a soul. He represents death, hence why they’re completely black. (Like you often see with demons) Vader works very systematically, like a machine. Though you see a character change between ANH and ESB. There’s a lot of rage in him, because he’s Tarkin’s puppet. Btw he blew up Alderaan, not Vader. Imperial officers don’t respect him. But he’s calm, focused in ESB. That is because he now only needs to bow down to the Emperor. And his main focus is finding his son. That is his only ambition. Finding his son, and break his chains. He would have to bow down to nobody. Exactly Anakin’s idea in ROTS. What you mention of Vader’s humanity is actually the point in ROTJ. Luke tries remind him that he’s human, or at least was once human, was once Anakin. That is how I see it. Vader represents the Dark Side of this man, Anakin his light side. Vader is the machine, Anakin is the human. How does Vader become human again, become Anakin again? By separating himself of the rest that was machine. With his health support damaged, he is falling apart. He can barely use his cybernetic parts as he has to rely on Luke. When removing his mask, it’s partially symbolic that he sees him finally with his own, human eyes.

          • April 28, 2016 at 5:54 am

            Reported for trying to defend 3 crap films.

          • April 27, 2016 at 4:35 am

            Hayden was miscast. Get over it

          • April 27, 2016 at 4:37 am

            Reported for baiting and ad hominem attacks.

          • April 29, 2016 at 5:05 am

            Reported for false reports.

          • April 27, 2016 at 7:56 pm

            Wow bruh, your lengthy diatribe reeks of knee-jerk defense reaction. You want to stamp your feet and act like a child over someone’s opinion? Great! but first, why not go to your room and sulk in the corner until your short and curlies grow in, then come back when you’re ready to converse like an adult? In the end we are talking about an ENTERTAINMENT franchise. Not social injustice or genocide or even me pissing on your side of the fence. Talking about a space fantasy movie begats imagination, speculation and (dare I say) joy. Perhaps you need to find your happiness in what the Saga means to you as opposed to the empty triumphs you earn through trolling.

        • April 28, 2016 at 6:03 am

          Who at this time in the same age would have done a better job ? No sarcasm here, just curious because i ve no clue really

          • April 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

            Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Pine come to mind as they are both Hayden’s age and were up and coming actors in the early 2000s, the former being the most suited for ‘dark and brooding’.

      • April 27, 2016 at 6:43 am

        This is a discussion board, isn’t it?
        I discuss!

        • April 27, 2016 at 7:11 am

          heh..I see what you did there

        • April 29, 2016 at 3:54 am

          So I guess we already have an iconic quote from Rogue One.

      • April 29, 2016 at 3:54 am

        “And no, this is not up for discussion as I have no plans to get into a back-and-forth debate with anyone about this”

        Then don’t expect us to listen to anything you have to say. Goodbye.

    • April 27, 2016 at 1:24 am

      Why do people treat Isaac like he’s one of the main characters? He had nothing to do with the main team’s exploits, he didn’t once LOOK at Rey, much less talk to her, and his character was supposed to be killed off after the cruiser escape saved only by the fact that he complained that he always dies early in movies.

      • April 27, 2016 at 1:33 am

        Poe’s the new ‘Lando’. A secondary character. Agreed. Never said he was main character…but he’s prominent and a well-executed character. In the context of this article (Casting) I’m saying he as well cast because Isaac mad a little go a long way in terms of screen time.

        • April 27, 2016 at 6:33 pm

          That’s fair, and I wasn’t going after you, sorry if it felt that way. =P

          What I mean is, though, that I see a lot of people refer to Poe as part of the main trio; a third to Rey and Finn. That’s what I disagree with.

      • April 27, 2016 at 4:33 am

        I think Poe may have survived because they couldn’t get Wedge Antilles back. I read that Wedge was going to be the one blowing up Starkiller Base initially, but Denis Lawson wanted a bigger role so he ended up bailing.

        Poe’s probably a better pilot anyway – when faced with the Death Star’s core in ROTJ, Wedge fires a shot, but Lando has to come in and blow up the rest. In TFA, Poe just shoots everything by himself 🙂

        • April 27, 2016 at 6:32 am

          Aw what? Wedge shooting the Death Star #3 would have been AWESOME.

          • April 27, 2016 at 6:42 am

            I always liked Wedge. One of my favourite supporting characters in movies

          • April 27, 2016 at 6:46 am

            I always thought Wedge and Old Anakin looked like relatives (before I saw the film after a few years’ break and said: “Now I could have swore that Anakin had big bushy eyebrows… m’I goin’ crazy?”)

          • April 27, 2016 at 6:50 am

            I’m no eyebrow expert, but I do believe there is a similarity there 🙂

          • April 29, 2016 at 3:53 am

            Thanks the SEs for those missing eyebrows.

    • April 27, 2016 at 6:44 am

      I would respond to Leslie but I’d rather comment to someone who’s capable of listening; I think you hit it on the head, your statement in general. And I agree that Adam Driver took the same direction that The Hayden did and Driver did it better. Driver’s character is about the best-case scenario for “Force-user who whines and mopes while still being intimidating”. Driver successfully pulled off what Hayden was attempting to do. In Hayden’s defense, Anakin’s issues were always first and foremost story issues. In Star Wars if the story is good, then acting is secondary. TFA is actually unique in the saga because it’s the best-acted film thus far, but also it has one of the weaker stories if I’m brutally honest. So while the OT accounted for its wooden acting by having a kickass story, the ST (thus far) has had a weak story justified by its good on-screen execution.

      So yes, it is a sort of apples and oranges deal, and that contrast is exactly why I find it interesting.

      • April 28, 2016 at 2:56 pm

        There is no Hayden

    • April 28, 2016 at 5:40 am

      i ve nothing against Boyega but at some moments i ve found him a little out of place with over the top reactions. idk but his character is really convenient and a little the “Sam ” of the story. Agree for the others mentioned. Carrie Fischer did a mediocre job IMO and there was pretty nothing in her game. i hope she will be better and more used in 8 and 9.

    • April 28, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Great post. Agreed all around.

  • April 27, 2016 at 4:16 am

    Gosh they must have sat back and cheered with a nice cold beer after Daisy Ridley’s audition.

  • April 29, 2016 at 3:49 am

    She’s a genius.

Comments are closed.