She couldn't tell us much about the role (the movie isn't being screened for the press, so we have to wait along with everyone else), not even whether we see her face in the film. "I can't talk about anything that could be a plot point," she explained. But she was happy to talk about her love of "Star Wars," how thrilled she is with the universal appeal of Captain Phasma and what role she'd love to play next.
Moviefone: I understand you're a huge Star Wars fan.
Gwendoline Christie: I really loved the films. I was shown the film when I was about 6 years old. It was shown to me at Christmastime by my family. And it was very much presented as THIS is "Star Wars." I just fell in love with it. People are asking me, "What is it you love about it?" and I found it so... indefinable, really. You have that response of total passion, just "I love it! I love it!" Because as a child, it just seemed to take you somewhere else and then when you watch it and as you get older it still takes you to the same place. That's one of the magic, wonderful qualities about it.
Who was your favorite character?
I do remember watching it and thinking about Princess Leia and really liking her and really liking the hairdo. And thinking, "Gosh, that is a very different kind of woman to the type I normally see in films. This is something new to me." And I really liked seeing this woman that's strong-minded and determined and focused. That struck me. I remember thinking, "I think she's great," and wanting to be like her in some way. I did actually say to Carrie Fisher that she had planted the seed and she said, yes, she did! [Laughs] But it's such an extraordinary role. It comprises so many different elements, that group of misfits that are thrown together to form the Goodies and the Baddies being so.... I found them terrifying as a child, really frightening, but also very stylish.
And now you're one of the Baddies! Do you think this would have happened without "Game of Thrones"?
Who knows? But I will always be eternally grateful to "Game of Thrones" for giving me such a brilliant platform. George R.R. Martin created a character unlike one I'd seen in mainstream television before. And David Benioff and Dan Weiss have continued with the writing to expand on that story and I'm very grateful for the brilliant material and to HBO for the incredible support. So I've had an awful lot of help.
So you think someone at Lucasfilm must be a fan?
Oh, I don't think I'd ever be so bold!
There's actually a number of "Game of Thrones" actors in "The Force Awakens," including Max von Sydow and Jessica Henwick.
Yeah, I love that!
Which has the most rabid fans, "Star Wars" or "Game of Thrones"?
I don't think I've had enough experience of "Star Wars" fans yet. Really, the experiences I've had so far with both fanbases have been just been very positive. I've been around people that are incredibly passionate and loving of the films and so excited that there's going to be a new film, like we all are. I certainly didn't think they'd make any "Star Wars" films again. And then when I heard it was happening, and I heard that J.J. [Abrams] was directing it...
What was your reaction when you heard you'd got the part?
I didn't get that moment of "You've got it and it's happening." Because I had a very wonderful problem in that I was shooting "Game of Thrones" at the same time that "Star Wars" was going to be shooting. There was a certain amount of working out to be done. Both "Star Wars" and "Game of Thrones" were incredibly generous and worked together to facilitate this amazing opportunity for me. It was really only my first day on set when I remember saying "Is it happening?" And they said [whispers], "Yeah, I think it's happening."
Are you still pinching yourself?
Yeah! [Laughs] Every single day! And it hits you in such weird waves. I saw some sort of advert for "Star Wars" on the television and I'd had a very long working week and I was overtired and I just burst into tears and said, "I can't believe this."
I can imagine! You've said you think Captain Phasma will be a cultural icon like Boba Fett...
I think I've said that Captain Phasma is a Boba Fett-style character, but I would never be so bold to say, "I think this character's going to be a cultural icon!" [Laughs]
What will be the moment when you think she's really caught on? Or has it already happened?
It was around Halloween, actually. People were sending me photos saying, "My little girl loves dressing up as Captain Phasma. And also, "My little boy loves dressing up as Captain Phasma." And that, to me, was delightful. J.J.'s been open about the fact that he's wanted to honor the authenticity of the films that we all love and to use real effects. And to give us an experience that we'll love and to feel like we're watching a "Star Wars" movie. And that, coupled with -- what I think is very modern -- a more diverse cast and characters like Captain Phasma. We have formed a relationship from what we have seen initially due to this character and this character's actions, rather than the more conventional path of relating to a female character and how she is made flesh. That, I think, is progressive. And that excites me. That and the photos of little boys and little girls dressing up as Captain Phasma, that is more than enough for me.
There was a person on Facebook who complained about Phasma's armor because, they said, "You can't tell it's a woman." And someone from the official Star Wars Facebook page shut them down with, "It's armor. On a woman. It doesn't have to look feminine." What do you say to people who think you should be wearing a Xena-type breastplate or something?
I'm increasingly surprised by the world and surprised by the fact that it's truly been recognized that people want to see a more diverse representation of society. And that the conventions that we have experienced so far with regards to portrayals of women and of men, people would like something new. And it's encouraging to me that the people are speaking.
Tell me about this Captain Phasma dress at Bloomingdale's that GIles Deacon designed.
I think that dress is fantastic. (You can check out the Vanity Fair photo shoot of Christie in the dress here.) There's very simple details about that dress: The design of Captain Phasma's fingers -- it's a lot more complex than what I'm about to describe -- they're cylindrical, so the sleeves on the dress are circular and draped in a way that they move over the fingers in the same way that the costume does. And the breastplate is printed onto a flat piece of fabric. It's actually a very simplistic, easy-to-wear design, but has a huge amount of flair due to the print, which is an abstraction of Captain Phasma. I think it's a very smart interpretation of the design and taking it into a different kind of arena. I hope it raises loads of money for charity.
What charity does it benefit?
The Child Mind Institute, which helps to support and funds research for children's mental health disorders.
What's your next dream role?
I'd like to play a female Hamlet.
Has it been done?
Yes, but let's do it again! [Previous female Hamlets include legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, Frances de La Tour of "Harry Potter" fame and Maxine Peake ("The Theory of Everything"), who just played the part earlier this year in London.]
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens everywhere December 18th.
Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. When a defector named Finn crash-lands on a desert planet, he meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a tough scavenger whose droid contains a top-secret map. Together, the young duo joins forces with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to make sure the Resistance receives the intelligence concerning the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last of the Jedi Knights. Read More