Felicity Jones talks about the appeal of playing Kim in British snowboarding romcom Chalet Girl and putting in the hours to look professional on a board. She also discusses finding fame with The Archers and working with Bill Nighy and Dame Helen Mirren of late.
What first appealed to you about Chalet Girl?
Felicity Jones: I think it had to be Kim, the character. I felt like, from my first read of it, that she was such a witty, spirited beast that I wanted to take her on. Then I met Phil [Trail, director] and Phil was always so open that it felt like a collaborative process that we wanted to make something good.
It seems like a silly question given the setting for the film but did you have any previous skiing experience?
Felicity Jones: I used to ski... I had a horrific dry slope experience for a few years when I was younger, but I'd never encountered a snowboard before. After about four weeks of six hours [a day] I eventually picked it up. Or that's the impression I wanted to give! But it was quite an intense experience trying to learn to snowboard. You definitely lose your dignity.It was especially stressful, after an intensive day's snowboarding, when my director decides to test my skills by taking me to the top of the mountain, by which time my legs had just completely given up and turned to jelly and I was told I would be able to get the lifts back down... he just wanted to see how far I'd got but by that time the lifts had closed so I had to clamber down the mountain in tears because of my wonderful director [smiles].
How do you think your character Emma Grundy, from The Archers, would cope on the ski slopes? And how does that kind of fame - being heard and not seen - compare with the recognition you're getting now through film?
Felicity Jones: Well, it's the best kind of fame because no one can see your face, so you are completely anonymous but I've lived in many people's kitchens around Britain. It's always fascinating when you talk to people about what you've done and without a doubt the thing that causes the most excitement is The Archers. It's always especially impressive for people's parents because it's such a British institution and there's a fondness for it wherever you go. So, it was a great place to start my career.
And how would Emma get on with Kim?
Felicity Jones: I think they'd get on very well. Emma is resourceful and she likes the boys and so does Kim!
Do you think the British humour will translate well to an American audience?
Felicity Jones: I think if it's funny it appeals internationally.
In the last year, you've worked with two greats from British cinema - Helen Mirren in The Tempest and Bill Nighy in Chalet Girl - so did you pick up anything from working with them?
Felicity Jones: The most incredible thing about Bill Nighy and Helen Mirren is they've got so much experience and they've been doing it for so long, but they still retain that joy as though it's their first job. There's no sense of them being jaded or disillusioned. I think, as an actor, to be able to do as much as they have but still feel like you have more to learn, that's something I would want to emulate.
Are you still snowboarding? And do you feel you're good at it now? Can you pull some tricks?
Felicity Jones: I wanted to do as much of the groundwork on the board that Kim does as possible, hence the rigorous training. So, then towards the end I was able to do tiny little jumps. But if I was to go back I would hope I would be more brave and do some 360s or something. Save it for next year [laughs].
Interview: Rob Carnevale