Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley head up the all-star cast of Doug Liman’s sci-fi action film, Chaos Walking, based on Patrick Ness’ best-selling YA trilogy.
Set in the not-too-distant future, Todd Hewitt (Holland) discovers Viola (Ridley), a mysterious young woman who crash lands on his planet, where all the women have disappeared, and the men are afflicted by The Noise – a force that puts all of their thoughts on display. In this dangerous landscape, Viola’s life is threatened, and as Todd vows to protect her, they unlock the planet’s dark secrets in the process.
FilmInk chatted over Zoom with Daisy Ridley and Chaos Walking author Patrick Ness.
What exactly is The Noise?
Patrick: The Noise is everything you think, fantasise about, wish for, and believe in. It’s the human mind, completely unedited. The disparity between the sexes, which was triggered by The Noise, makes up so much of the history of New World. It’s ever-present – and an intense part of the experience of the film.
What was your first idea in writing Chaos Walking?
Patrick: Honestly, it was being forced to listen to people’s mobile phone conversations while you were in line for the cinema. Blah, blah, blah. I just thought, ‘I don’t want to hear this. None of us need to hear this’. It drove me nuts because I think it’s so rude. So, I thought, what if we HAD to hear it? What if it was worse than that and how do we reckon with it? When teenagers read the Chaos Walking books, and when they see the film, they aren’t seeing a distant future. They’re seeing an emotional representation of their daily lives.
Daisy, what did you like about Patrick’s book?
Daisy: He’s obviously done it really well with A Monster Calls and I just thought Chaos Walking was a really interesting take on an alternative sort of world. It’s a story about two young people on the run from danger, but there’s so much layered underneath it, about gender politics and colonization and making a promise to people that – when I get to this place, this is what I’m going to do for you, and then when those people aren’t there anymore and you’re trying to make the best of a situation that’s incredibly difficult… Ultimately, I liked that it’s a story about trust and hope.
People tend to compare female superheroes in comic book and sci-fi movies. Do such comparisons affect your work in this movie, especially since you’ve played one of the most iconic female heroes as Rey in Star Wars?
Daisy: I don’t think about it so much. I’m very lucky in my short career that I’ve been able to play really amazing women and I hope to do that for a long time. I will always feel very blessed that I was able to play Rey – and without her I would not be sitting here because not only did I have the most amazing experience, but the opportunities have been incredible since I played her.
What did you like about your character Viola in this film?
Daisy: Viola and her crewmates had travelled to New World believing they were going to find a better life. But after she crashes on the planet, Viola must recalibrate her expectations and somehow make the best of it. She is isolated and has lost everyone she knows. At the same time, Viola is also the funniest character in the film – not in the sense of making jokes, but in the way she perseveres despite incredible obstacles. She’s relentless on her journey, but naïve about her new environment. That makes for some fun moments because she knows nothing and is so out of her depth, so it was fun playing someone who is coming with all these expectations and then she’s like literally never eaten fresh food; doesn’t really know what’s going on and is terrified but continues to try and do the right thing and basically save a lot of lives.
What was it like working with Tom Holland?
Daisy: Tom brings so much to the role. He plays a young man on the cusp of adulthood, and he makes us understand why Todd chooses to run with Viola. The audience has to really be with the two of them on this journey, and I think the film succeeds with that. Viola’s relationship with Todd is so sweet because it would be hell on earth to hear what other people are thinking and even though his thoughts are embarrassing and he thinks about kissing her or whatever, they really figure out a way to be with each other, that signifies hope for everybody for the future; there’s something about the two of them that I find very sweet.
Did you learn anything from playing Viola?
Daisy: In a physical way I learned how to ride a motorbike and how to do some skids and things.
How is life post-Star Wars? Was it tough, figuring out what to do next?
Daisy: No, I feel very lucky because I am about to embark on some really exciting projects but the worry about what to do next was there. I was like ‘How do I fill my time!?’ And then it’s been amazing, so I get to read a lot. It’s funny because I definitely feel like there was a time before Star Wars, but I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’m without it because it was such a massive part of my life, not just in a professional way but I will always be friends with the people I worked with; it will always be something that we did together – it will always make up the most of my 20s. It’s such a huge time. I feel so warmly towards what I was able to do.
If you were to write your own script, what genre would it be?
Daisy: Unfortunately, I’m not blessed with the writing. I sometimes have ideas, but I just am not a writer. But if I were to write something, it would probably be a horror film. And even though horror films terrify me, I have quite a good idea because I was thinking, what I want to see in a horror film is someone who makes all of the right decisions. Not like, ‘Don’t go down to the basement!’ ‘Don’t go outside when you’re scared!’ Like do all the right things – but it’s still really scary.
One of the most heart-breaking scenes in Chaos Walking involves Todd’s dog and David Oyelowo. I know it’s make-believe, but how did you and Tom feel on the day that you filmed that scene?
Daisy: It’s funny because it all happened so quickly that when Todd is having his moment, Viola really feels like an observer. When we were doing that scene with the dog, we were talking about Will Smith’s film, I Am Legend, and apparently, they did audience reactions for the bit with the dog and the audience were like, ‘No. We can see countless humans die on screen, but we cannot see animals hurt’. So, it is big. Particularly because dogs are people’s best friends. But it was horrible also because David is the nicest man in the world, so to see him doing it was just awful.
When you first wrote the book 13 years ago, what made you decide that it would be male voices that we could hear and not the female?
Patrick: I thought, what if the difference between men and women – an arbitrary one almost – was in your face every single day and was something that you had to reckon with at every single moment? How would we react and how would we react differently? One of the awards I won for the book, at the ceremony there was a nine-year-old boy who asked me, ‘Is the reason you made men’s thoughts visible and women’s thoughts silent, because men are straightforward and women are tricky?’ And I said to him, ‘You need to talk to your mum!’ So, no, it’s not that. I was trying to say, ‘What if that difference had to be reckoned with?’ And, unfortunately, in the 13 years since, we really have seen story after story about how much we don’t listen to women – and that’s just been true. And hopefully that fact is becoming less true; that we do listen more, so I wanted to investigate a difference, but it turns out that this has been a problem for quite a long time.
Did you always envision it could become a movie?
Patrick: I like to quote The Joy Luck Club which is: Always hope and never expect. You always imagine it, but you try to never take it too seriously. You dream but then everybody dreams so when it happens to you, you’re like, ‘Oh shit! What do I do now?!’
Chaos Walking is in cinemas March 4, 2021