Before ‘Force Awakens,’ Boyega Starred in Alien Invasion Flick

Just as George Lucas cast unknowns Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in his original Star Wars trilogy, director J.J. Abrams enlisted some intriguing new faces to appear in “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

One of them in particular, British actor John Boyega, seemed to come out of nowhere to snag the pivotal role of Finn, a mysterious young man who appears to be a disillusioned Stormtrooper and possible Jedi in the making.

Although many details about the character remain under wraps, the trailers show Boyega wearing a Stormtrooper uniform, before shedding it for an extremely cool leather jacket, interacting with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), and wielding a lightsaber.

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American audiences may be unfamiliar with the London performer but “The Force Awakens” isn’t Boyega’s first foray into sci-fi.

The actor made his debut on the British television series “Being Human.” But his big break came when he starred in a quirky little B-movie called “Attack the Block,” written and directed by Joe Cornish, a collaborator of filmmaker Edgar Wright.

A hilarious, playful, extremely British twist on classic alien invasion flicks, the movie is an excellent showcase for Boyega’s considerable talents. Almost immediately, the actor proved himself a charismatic, effortlessly cool, self-assured up-and-comer.

If you’ve seen the film, it isn’t a surprise that Abrams chose him to shoulder the burden of a new Star Wars chapter.

If you haven’t seen the film, you should stream it this weekend.

Not sold on the idea yet? Read the review below.

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Attack the Block, 2011
R (creature violence, drug content, pervasive language)
88 minutes

If you liked the nostalgic kids-meet-extraterrestrial vibe of “Super 8” or the shameless sci-fi-Western mash-up of “Cowboys vs. Aliens,” you’ll want to check out “Attack the Block.”

Writer-director Joe Cornish’s fun, intentionally campy, surprisingly slick adventure flick pits a London street gang against inky invaders from the sky with glow-in-the-dark fangs.

Released in October 2012 on DVD, it arrived with the tagline “inner city vs. outer space,” which pretty much sums up the film, a not-so-guilty pleasure for sci-fi geeks and anglophiles alike.

Set in the sort of shady South London housing project Cornish grew up in, “Attack the Block” opens with a scary but realistic scenario — walking back to her apartment at night, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged at knife point by an awkward group of young thugs.

After Sam escapes, sans phone and purse, the boys witness a bright, meteor-like object fall from the sky and encounter a vicious beast that is clearly not of this world.

Following the creature to a playground, the gang’s leader, a troublemaker named Moses (John Boyega), easily slays the outer space visitor, resulting in a lot of macho posturing that is quickly cut short when more lights begin descending from the sky.

As the gang’s beloved block comes under siege, it’s up to these wayward street kids to save the day, a task that reunites them with the reluctant but resourceful Sam, who will have to overcome her resentment to become their unlikely ally.

Shot the old-fashioned way, in 35 mm, on a reported budget of $13 million — modest for a sci-fi flick — “Attack the Block” boasts cheesy special effects, which are sorta charming at the same time, and a skimpy but satisfying story.

It takes a gritty, gory approach to street life that crackles with unexpected realism.

The highlight of the film is its youthful cast, most of them inexperienced actors, ranging in age from 10 to 17, and adept at slinging the sort of indistinguishable, quick-witted slang that baffles American audiences.

Boyega, in particular, has the confident yet vulnerable quality of a potential leading man.

British comedian Nick Frost pops up as a pot grower who gives shelter to the kids when they most need it.

“Attack” was executive produced by Frost’s frequent collaborator, “Shaun of the Dead” director Edgar Wright.

Cornish is best known in the UK as half of the comedy duo “Adam and Joe” and co-wrote “The Adventures of Tintin.”

“Attack the Block” may be a modest feature film debut but it’s certainly memorable.

Photos: spinoff.comicbookresources.com; youtube.com.

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