When Daisy Ridley was cast in the lead role of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she became the face of the new generation of Star Wars movies. However, while Daisy Ridley is forever linked to the character of Rey at this point, when it came time to cast the role, a wide net was cast with almost every young actress in Hollywood reading for the part. If things had gone another way, Rey could have been played by any number of different actresses.
For example, one person who was considered for the part was actress Jessica Henwick. For a long time Henwick was apparently the front runner for the role, having been called in multiple times to read for the role, and was in consideration for the part for over six months. Eventually when Daisy Ridley was chosen for the role, Abrams added a part in the movie specifically written for Henwick to play. Henwick can be seen in The Force Awakens, playing Jessika Pava, the first female pilot of an X-Wing to be seen in a Star Wars movie. Although she didn’t get the part of Rey, Henwick has gone on to build an impressive career for herself, appearing as Colleen Wing in three different Marvel shows for Netflix, and playing the role of Bugs in The Matrix Resurrections. She also has a part in the upcoming Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, meaning that even though her character didn’t appear in The Last Jedi, she’s still getting a chance to be directed by Rian Johnson.
It’s interesting to note that actress Billie Lourd was also given a chance to audition for the role of Rey. Lourd, who is the daughter of the late Carrie Fisher, was asked by JJ Abrams to audition for the lead role in the film. Even though the part eventually went to Daisy Ridley, Lourd was still cast in the film as Lieutenant Connix and is one of the few characters to appear in all three sequel films.
Elizabeth Olsen is another person who was considered for the role of Rey. Lucasfilm offered Olsen the opportunity to audition for the role but Olsen ended up turning it down. At the time, Olsen had just started working with Marvel playing Wanda, The Scarlet Witch, and Marvel contracts are well known for being very time consuming, with every actor having to sign for the possibility of playing the character multiple times across possible years. While Olsen did have time in her schedule to do The Force Awakens, she knew that the commitment wouldn’t be just to that movie, but to the entire trilogy as well as possible movies beyond that. Olsen didn’t want to juggle a Marvel filming schedule with a Star Wars filming schedule alongside any other projects that she might be interested in, on top of trying to have a life outside of her work as well. Ironically, it was Olsen’s love of Star Wars that eventually led to her taking a role in the Marvel universe, and it was her work in Marvel that caused her to pass on a chance to be in Star Wars.