John Boyega: I’m not sure forgetfulness was in the Star Wars script | Rebecca Nicholson

For a couple of days, it was the new Game of Thrones coffee cup. Last week JJ Abrams, the director of the eagerly awaited Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, revealed on US morning television that an actor had allowed a script to go on an epic journey of its own. “I’m not gonna say which one. I want to, but I won’t,” said Abrams, settling into the role of “dad – not mad, just disappointed”.

The unnamed actor had left a script under their bed, it was taken by a cleaner, given to another person, then put on eBay for £65, where it was spotted by a Disney official and ultimately reclaimed. This was a plot that had everything.

This was a script I would pay £65 for on an internet shopping forum. I will be starting a petition to cast Jason Statham as the negotiator in this deal. (I would have said Liam Neeson, but, well, perhaps not this year.)

Of course, Abrams was merely firing the starting gun on this particular whodunnit. Eventually, John Boyega had to hold his hands up and confess that yes, it was him.

These days spoilers are defended with a terrifying ferocity. The etiquette of when to discuss a significant plot twist online, especially in the age of streaming, is a minefield. Official channels are scarier. Abrams talked about the special “uncopyable” paper that the scripts were printed on. I’ve spoken to actors in huge franchises who have to wear massive monastic cloaks whenever they leave their trailers, in case anyone snaps a glimpse of them in costume.

Even lowly critics often have to sign their first born over to the devil before they’re allowed to watch the opening credits of something new and buzzy.

And yet, despite the ninth Star Wars probably being the most carefully guarded story of all, working hard to maintain its mysteries until release day, Boyega still managed to put all of that at risk, by leaving the script under his bed and forgetting it was there, because he’d invited a few friends over and they had, as he explained, partied a little bit. I would’ve loved to have heard the phone calls that took place when eBay turned up its treasure, at that bargain basement price, those furious officials knowing that all the security in the world didn’t manage to stop it.

Boyega, then, is a hero of the scatty and absent-minded, a role model for the forgetful. In a saga of man v machine, of human nature v secure technological advances, the simple human act of leaving something behind still managed to triumph.

Elizabeth I: the queen The Crown needs

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I: scholar queen. Photograph: Handout Bonhams

Viewers currently slogging their way through the strained third season of The Crown, which has gone so heavy on the soap that the suds seem to have clouded its common sense and judgment, may be wishing that it might jump forward in time.

I’ll say nothing of Prince Andrew, a tactic he must wish he had employed himself, but let’s at least get to the Diana, Princess of Wales era, if not for the drama, then for the iconic fashion. It might be more fruitful, however, for the series to leap back in time and news that Claire Foy will be temporarily reprising her role as Young Liz for a flashback appears to confirm that we’re all on the same page.

We need to go back centuries, not decades, however. Elizabeth I has been making headlines after she was revealed as the secret author of a 42-page manuscript, a translation of Tacitus’s writings from his history of the Roman empire. Dramatising this incredible intellectual feat would mean we’d miss out on the one true joy of the current Crown – Helena Bonham Carter playing drunk Princess Margaret – but it would be an improvement, at least, on those awkward chats with Harold Wilson.

George the Poet: rhyme and reason for refusing MBE

George the Poet

George the Poet: thanks, but no thanks. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

On the latest edition of his award-winning BBC podcast, Have You Heard George’s Podcast?, George the Poet revealed that he turned down an MBE earlier this year. In what must be one of the rare cases of a poetry podcast setting the news agenda, the spoken word artist, real name George Mpanga, explained, through conversations with actors playing Uganda and Britain, that he had been offered the honour and then discussed why he had ultimately decided to reject it. “The colonial trauma inflicted on the children of Africa, entrenched across our geopolitical and macroeconomic realities, prevents me from accepting the title, Member of the British Empire,” he said. “The gesture is deeply appreciated. The wording is not.”

There was a minor, ill-considered backlash to his decision, a few grumbling phone-ins to news programmes and a few tone-deaf tweets, but anyone who has heard the podcast will know that he had already countered their arguments with far more eloquence than some of those responses deserved. “I love this country but I do so with transparency,” he said. He also apologised to the friend who put him forward for it, when he initially thought he might accept it, in order to make his parents proud.

Though people have many reasons for declining a title, it always gives me a thrill to know that someone has had the strength and gumption to stand up to the establishment and say thank you, but not for me. In 2003, when Tony Blair put Benjamin Zephaniah forward for an OBE, Zephaniah wrote an article for the Guardian arguing along similar lines to Mpanga: “I am profoundly anti-empire,” he said. Others who have reportedly said no include Danny Boyle, Stephen Hawking, Ken Loach and David Bowie. Just imagine having that lot round for dinner.

Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


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