The Like Crazy actress tells Orange Film about creating a character from scratch - and even writing her poetry - for Drake Doremus' improvised indie romance about the faltering long-distance relationship between British journalist Anna (Jones) and her American designer boyfriend Jacob (Anton Yelchin) . She also reflects on her award-winning performance, her acting idols and what the future holds for this rising British starlet.
What attracted you to Drake's script?
Felicity Jones: The opportunity to do something completely different. That it was improvised. That we would find our own dialogue through the improvisation. And then it was just so beautifully written, tender and realistic.
Did you originate the character of Anna with Drake and Anton, or was it pretty set in stone already?
Felicity Jones: A lot of it came from what was there, and then we embellished and changed things - but the film is very true to the outline. We just had to find a way of making these people believable, and hopefully likeable. They make some questionable decisions - Anna particularly is very front-footed and very forward in the relationship which is something I liked about but equally could be quite grating.
Drake's said the story's a personal one for him, but obviously as an actor you need to draw on your own experiences - have you had a long-distance relationship like Anna and Jacob's?
Felicity Jones: Absolutely. As an actor you're often working away from home, so I totally understood that aspect of the script.
How did you approach writing Anna's essays and poems?
Felicity Jones: Drake said, I think the night before we were shooting the scene, 'You do realise you have to write the pieces?' Which I didn't mind because we wanted to bring as much as possible to the roles, they're so character-driven. I was lucky because I studied literature at uni, so I had some idea of how to construct a bad essay! (laughs) We want these people to be believable and flawed.
Which extends to the ambiguity of the ending - what do you think the future holds for Anna and Jacob?
Felicity Jones: I think that depends on you! (laughs) I mean, the audience are such a part of this film - your experiences will dictate what you take from it and that's very much Drake's way of making films, he doesn't want to make it easy for the audience.
And that must be a style of direction you like, as you're now doing his next film...
Felicity Jones: Yes. I play a character called Sophie Williams who's a pianist who goes to stay with an American family and falls in love with Guy Pearce's character, who's a married man, and the film's about their relationship. In some ways it's a companion piece to Like Crazy - Sophie's a lot more troubled and guarded than Anna, a lot more damaged. But again, it's very naturalistic and has a similar style.
Like Crazy's been very important for Drake's career after it won the grand jury prize at Sundance, but it's been huge for yours, after your special jury prize success. So how was the experience of taking the film to Sundance and getting such a positive response?
Felicity Jones: It was incredible. I didn't sleep for three nights! (laughs) We had so few expectations with this film - you make things and they come out and it's fine but with this, it was made in such a quiet way so for the world at Sundance to enjoy it in the way they did was a huge surprise. When they actually announced the prize, I was at home in bed recovering from the effort of selling the film! (laughs)
Actors will always say that while awards are a positive side-effect of the job, that's not why they do the work but to receive an award like your Sundance prize, at this early stage of your career, is surely going to open a lot of doors for you...
Felicity Jones: The awards are really flattering but - it does become a bit of a cliché - it's the roles and the films that's going to create other work for me.
But does the Sundance win mean you can even entertain the thought of being an Oscar-winner in future?
Felicity Jones: That's such a foreign concept! (laughs) Even to say the word is just beyond anything... I'm just so happy that this film turned out the way it did and it has been such a turning point for all of us who made it. It's hard to get things made so when you do, and people care about them, that's the main thing.
And what about the future of your career? Are there actresses you want to emulate?
Felicity Jones: Yeah, you need that, to see where the course is. Kate Winslet is someone whose name comes up a lot but she's a phenomenal actress and always doing interesting work and she makes everything she does completely believable and new. And people like Annette Bening and Julianne Moore do comedy very well and have a blend. Amy Adams does really interesting work too and I love Noomi Rapace as well. There's a lot of talented actresses to look up to.
Interview: Lewis Bazley Photo: Paramount