Sunday, 20 August 2017
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Riz Ahmed: British acting’s New Hope for Star Wars


Star Wars leading man Riz Ahmed opines about the dangers of being a political actor in a new age of empire

Riz Ahmed: British acting’s New Hope for Star Wars
Gary Houlder
Henry Tobias Jones

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Edward Said, the late, great orientalist, once observed, ‘every empire tells itself that it is unlike all other empires, and that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.’ We can be fairly certain that Said mainly had British colonialism in mind, rather than an evil galactic empire led by a cowled Sith Lord who shoots lightning from his fingers.

But just as our own earthly imperial history has been scrutinised through political movements such as Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall, now it’s the turn of Star Wars’ very own bad guys to face the wrath of the postcolonial critique. Considering they constructed a moon-sized, planet-destroying base that they also then audaciously named ‘the Death Star’, any claims that they only wanted to ‘educate and liberate’ seem unlikely.

Riz’s career so far is full of films and TV that provocatively examine the past decade’s most important issues. From being typecast as a 9/11 terrorist to questioning the narrative of the East vs the West, he has made a name for himself as being the actor Hollywood turns to when they want a nuanced performance that makes you rethink what you thought you knew about the world. You can see why the producers of Star Wars turned to Riz for their most overtly political film to date.

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