John Boyega, the breakout star of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, plays the lead role of Jake, wayward son of the legendary war hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), in Universal Pictures’ new epic action-adventure Pacific Rim Uprising.
The original Pacific Rim had made a big impression on Boyega, in the days before he broke out as a star. “Seeing Idris Elba in the first film was very important to me. At the time I was involved in acting on a small scale in drama clubs, and in 2013 I saw a print ad while I was on the bus—Idris Elba as Stacker in an all-black Jaeger suit. The image, and what it represented, immediately struck me and motivated me.”
Director Steven S. DeKnight offers, “John’s a classic hero, but can play the hero and the anti-hero at the same time. Jake Pentecost starts out as a thief and ends up saving the world. John has all the qualities you would want for that type of role; he’s charming, smart and funny. He brings a real Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones quality to the character.”
The film opens with Jake, under the cover of night, involved in a nefarious activity: stealing Jaeger parts from a PPDC scrapyard. He’s caught and presented with two options: face incarceration, or use his natural talents at the Moyulan Shutterdome, training young cadets.
On his character, Boyega expands: “Jake’s personality is nuanced and conflicted. He grew up in the shadow of his father, Stacker, and he’s battled with living up to the family name. He had aspirations to be a Jaeger pilot, and began training at the PPDC Academy, but they were halted after a confrontation with Stacker led him to rebel and follow a dangerous path. What follows that is his journey to becoming a hero.”
Boyega wanted Jake to possess an element of Stacker in terms of presence, energy and authority, but to be someone very different; for audiences to recognize the rebel in him that Stacker didn’t agree with. “That’s something that I decided to create based on how I saw myself when I was 16 and 17—a cocky kid with a little bit of mismanagement.”
That inspirational reaction the young Boyega had, on seeing Elba in the Pacific Rim poster a few years earlier, would be key to the overall impact the film sets out to have on its audience. “Ultimately, the film is about people coming together to fight for a common good, shares DeKnight. “It doesn’t matter where you came from—everybody has a chance to make a difference. Everybody has a chance to be a hero. That was a message that strongly spoke to all of us working on this movie, and we wanted to convey that to the younger audience.”