How's your 2011 been? Pretty good? Even so, we bet you've not had as good a year as Felicity Jones is having. The 27-year-old Brit has been working away for over ten years, starting with kids' TV favorite "The Worst Witch" and long-running radio drama "The Archers," with more recent roles on both the small screen ("Doctor Who," "Northanger Abbey") and the big ("Cheri," "Brideshead Revisited," "The Tempest"), but she's headed into the stratosphere in the last twelve months.
She started the year as a candidate for the lead in "Snow White and the Huntsman," and while Kristen Stewart landed the gig, she's not been complaining; she had a bona-fide home-grown hit with Alpine rom-com "Chalet Girl," cropped up with Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes in David Hare's "Page Eight," and won acclaim on stage in London in Schiller's "Luise Miller." But the big ticket is "Like Crazy" -- Drake Doremus' low-key indie romance about two college students who fall in love, only to be forced by circumstance into a long-distance relationship.
The film was the big hit of Sundance, with Jones winning a Special Jury Prize in Park City for her performance in the film, and the acclaim has only grown since, with some even calling her a Best Actress contender at the Academy Awards this year. Both Jones and her director were in the U.K recently for the film's European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, and we had a chance to chat to both. You can read our interview with Doremus from yesterday here, and below are highlights from our conversation with an actress who's only got bigger and brighter things ahead of her.
1. Jones and Doremus bonded almost immediately, partly thanks to a shared love of Lars Von Trier, whose film "Breaking The Waves" was an influence on the performance.
The actress told us that on reading the outline for "Like Crazy," she was instantly smitten. "I wanted to do something very naturalistic. You read so much, and think "This is pants," and then I got this. It was the tone, I think, I like things that are melancholy, and he really has that. Especially after watching "Douchebag," he doesn't try and hit you over the head with anything."
The two soon talked, instantly finding they shared a love for a film that proved a surprising influence on Anna, her character in "Like Crazy." "I spoke to him on the phone, we liked similar films. We were talking about "Breaking The Waves." They're very different films! She doesn't get, you know, gang-raped at the end. But, you know, the slight madness, we wanted to bring some of that to Anna." After that, she was asked to put scenes on tape -- "I spent the weekend making a tape, just improvising in the kitchen. It couldn't really see my face, because it was so dark, there's no light in my old flat." -- and the rest was history.
2. One of the reasons she was drawn to Anna was because the character is drawn with an unusual complexity for a character in her early 20s.
While you spend much of "Like Crazy" hoping for Anna and Jacob to find a way around their obstacles, one of the most impressive things about the film is the way that it's not afraid to make its characters three-dimensional, even unsympathetic in places. Jones says it was one of the appeals of the film "I knew I wanted her to be as real as possible. Just the way she prompts so many of the events. I mean, she pursues him, you know, she pursues everything... I think, and Anna and Jacob have a different dynamic. There's a real naivety to them. She overstays the visa, we kept saying why is she overstaying, why doesn't she just go back. They're quite irrational."
3. The film is also a rarity in that treats a youthful relationship with a degree of seriousness, rather than a wisecracking sub-plot.
The number of truly effective relationship movies focusing on those under 30 can likely be counted on the fingers of one hand -- "Say Anything," "Before Sunrise" "Stolen Kisses" -- and Jones believes that's one of the reasons the film has connected with so many already. "[On film] No one ever really talks about what it's like to be in a relationship in your twenties," she told us. "You have marriage break-ups, people who are older, but [your twenties] are such a weird time in your life. I think you're more serious in your twenties, you're working out who you are, and what you're going to do."
4. The freedom of Doremus' improvisatory technique has changed the way that Jones acts.
We detailed yesterday how Doremus goes into his projects with an outline, but not a script. It's a challenge for an actor, but one that's had a profound effect on Jones. "After "Like Crazy," everything changed. I just learned a whole new way, it was almost like drama school or something. It just suddenly freed everything up," she said, adding, jokingly, that her experience shooting subsequent films "Hysteria" and "Cheerful Weather for the Wedding" became "Why are there marks, take them away, what are you doing, freefall!"
She acknowledges that it's not something that can work for every project. "You shouldn't ever be slavish to dialogue, unless... I did David Hare's script ("Page Eight"), and he's a playwright, and his dialogue is excellent." But after a decade of acting, it's certainly given her a new approach. "Before "Like Crazy," I thought you had to say everything on the page. It's just loosened everything up. It all sounds a bit wanky, but the only thing that matters is that there's some truth between the two people on the screen. And how you get there is between you and the director."
5. She's not rushing to take a big Hollywood part, but would like to play a superhero at some point. Or a snake.
We'd assumed that "Snow White and the Huntsman" was only the first of what's sure to be many huge movies interested in Jones. She says that, having wrapped Doremus' next film, alongside Guy Pearce and Amy Adams, there's something larger in the pipeline, but wouldn't reveal what; "I'm just meeting on something that I'm hoping to do, just waiting to hear about that. Potentially quite big, something that i'd love to do, I'm just waiting to hear that it gets its financing together."
As for the future, she's aware of the pressures to take a big movie, but will only do it if it's something she's genuinely interested in. "It's just about finding the right thing, really," Jones told us. "I'm quite instinctive, and there are some projects that you think, from a career point of view, "Oh, I should definitely do this," but if you don't feel this, then it's, like, "Sorry!" But if something good comes along, than yeah, absolutely." But she won't simply be happy with thankless love interest roles. " I do want to play a superhero. Something weird. I don't want to play boring girlfriend parts, especially after doing this. Playing a snake or something, something really physical."
"Like Crazy" rolls out in the U.S. on limited release from tomorrow, October 28th, and will be found in U.K. cinemas on February 3rd.