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British actress Felicity Jones explains why breaking all the rules on her new film Like Crazy may have opened the door to a global career…
For an actress so far associated with British fare—Cemetery Junction; SoulBoy; The Tempest; and Chalet Girl—Felicity Jones makes her break for US stardom with Like Crazy. Drake Doremus’ improvised film, which traces the tortured, complex long-distance relationship between a British college student (Jones) and an American furniture designer Jacob (Anton Yelchin), won the 28-year-old a Special Jury prize for her performance at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Little wonder the West Midlands born actress has reunited with Doremus for a second, as yet untitled movie.
Like Crazy deals with the trials of a long-distance relationship. Were you familiar with that?
Yeah. Being an actor, always travelling, you’re always in a long-distance relationship. It’s just one of those things. You need to make sure that you don’t go longer than two weeks without seeing each other. And also Skype, things like that, help. I think you just have to make sure you have the balance, otherwise relationships aren’t going to survive.
So did you think that your character Anna’s actions were stupid or naïve?
I don’t know that she’s stupid. It’s naïveté. She’s a person who acts before she thinks. But also—and this is what I wanted from her—it’s obsession. She’s not thinking rationally. She’s obsessed with Jacob. It should feel very real and identifiable, but there’s a slight mania to it, I feel. It’s an addiction. I think because she feels she can’t quite have him, she keeps pursuing it all the time. She can’t let it go.
How did you find improvising the story?
I didn’t know you could make films like that! I’ve heard of improvising to produce a script and then shooting that, which other directors are known for doing. But not literally improvising in front of the camera. You just do the first take. The main thing about the rehearsal period is to get to know each other, so that you’re comfortable with each other. Because it’s a relationship story, you don’t want to feel like you’re crossing boundaries. Should I touch that person, or would that be inappropriate? You have to make sure within this world there are no boundaries.
How did you find out that you’d won the acting prize at Sundance?
I was in bed in London! I was finishing off David Hare’s film Page Eight[and] I’d already been to Sundance, showed the film and then come back. So I woke up and I’d had two missed calls from an American number. I hadn’t realised that there was an awards ceremony at the end of Sundance. And then I’d thought there had been a terrible accident! And then the phone went again and it was the producer saying, ‘You’ve won an award!’ And I was like,‘What? What award?’ I was completely flabbergasted.
Have the offers been flooding in since?
Like Crazyhas definitely been a door-opener. It’s changed so many things. Professionally, in terms of acting and performance, and the way I see acting. Everything changed after that. It was like a gateway into something much more freeing and exciting. To improvise a film makes you a much better actor afterwards. There are no rules. The only thing that’s important is creating something interesting between two people on screen.
Are you interested in appearing in Hollywood blockbusters?
If it was the right part. The key is not to get stuck being the romantic interest, I think. The girlfriend. But I’d love to play a superhero, with special talents. I’d like to do something really physical. Maybe someone who is very good at martial arts. Something completely different.
You’ve just completed Like Crazy director Drake Doremus’ next film. How was that?
It was hard because we were shooting in New York, and there was a hurricane, an earthquake and a terrorist threat. So I had to evacuate our apartment three times. With the hurricane, New York shut down! People were bulk-buying.
We heard you do a lot of research for your roles, but is it true that you really learnt how to snowboard for your role in Chalet Girl?
It is true. I went and worked in a place called Flexiski in St. Anton. I find with any character, if you can get over the reality of the world and understand it as much as possible, it makes playing the character a lot easier. Snowboarding is more psychological than anything. You literally just have to face down the mountain and trust that you’ll be OK. I became quite an adrenaline junkie after doing Chalet Girl. I was going up in helicopters, I was going off piste; every day there was some kind of fear to overcome.
Your father used to be a journalist. Did you ever think about following suit?
I wanted to do everything, so yes! There’s this amazing thing called the Press Pack, which was run through BBC’s Newsround. So I signed up and applied—and then didn’t write a single article! Because I wanted to do so many things, acting was the right thing for me, because I got to try lots of things. I like to try and live as many lives in one life because it’s not long enough.
Were your parents happy with you choosing acting?
They’ve always been very open. They’ve always encouraged a certain amount of independence. I think because I worked when I was younger, it didn’t feel like such a leap to suddenly go into it. I don’t know, if you have kids… Don’t you just want them to be as happy as they can be? •
Taken from movieScope magazine, Issue 26 (Jan/Feb 2012) – OUT NOW