Felicity Jones Interview

Felicity Jones photo © Dorri Olds
A while back, I sat down with Felicity Jones for an exclusive interview. At the time, Jones starred as Sophie, an exchange student from England in the Focus Features indie drama, “Breathe In.” Sophie went to stay at the home of Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce), a high-school music teacher while sexy Pearce is having a mid-life crisis.
Keith’s marriage to Megan (Amy Ryan) was feeling empty. They’ve drifted so far apart that the only cement keeping them together is a shared love for their teenage daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis). Megan keeps herself busy and distracted. Sophie’s music teacher Keith begins to broods because Sophie never practices piano. He and his family grow puzzled and concerned by her aversion to playing music but  Keith has also become woozy over Sophie’s beauty.
One day Sophie surprises Keith in class by sitting at the piano. It’s a beautiful scene where Sophie slowly lifts her hands. She then launches into playing Chopin. Keith is transfixed by her skill. The electrical charge that ensues is almost too painful to watch as their ill-fated connection sizzles.

Breathe In

The actress has continued to hone her craft since then. Jones nailed it as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex,” released on Christmas. This film illustrates how and why the U.S. Supreme Court Justice has earned her nickname: Notorius RGB (check out the 2018 documentary “RBG” starring RBG).

On The Basis of Sex

Before I screened “Breathe In,” I loved Jones in “Hysteria.” Since then, I was wowed by her role in “The Theory of Everything.”


The Theory of Everything

“Breathe In” is a beautiful film, directed by Drake Doremus. I walked in for the exclusive interview and Jones looked even more stunning in person. But more importantly than her looks, she was warm, kind, open, and smiled a lot.
Dorri Olds: How was it working with Guy Pearce?
Felicity Jones: Fantastic.! I’ve always admired his work I think he always chooses really interesting directors. He’s always about the acting. He’d never done a film where he was improvising before and I could see him relishing the challenge. He’s an actor who always pushing himself. He really loved the process of making it.
Was there a lot of improvisation?
Yeah, a lot. Some things were scripted but most of it was how we made “Like Crazy.” We had an outline and then there’d be thoughts about a character and what happens in the scene and then we’d bring dialogue in on the day.
How did you become involved with film?
This was really unusual, it never usually happens, Drake asked me to do it because we had worked together on “Like Crazy” and he had this idea. In many ways this film is like a twin to “Like Crazy.” He said, “Do you want to come back and see what we can do this time?” So, that was quite nice that I didn’t have to audition. Auditions are really, really frightening. After a while you get used to them but they can be really quite intimidating.
What type of research and preparation did you do for this role?
I felt like Sophie was a very troubled young woman. There was a play called “Master Builder” by Henrik Ibsen and there is a character in that called Hilda and she was a real inspiration. I felt like she was a good foundation for understanding Sophie. There was a French film, “Le Casse” that had a similar kind of thriller mood. With any part you look at other films. There is a fairytale quality to Sophie. She was coming into a family that was heightened by her and her presence. I think that the main thing to me is the back-story for both Anna and Sophie. What was she like? What was her house like? What did her parents do? Having a really sure understanding of the character’s background is so important.
After playing beside Hugh Dancy in the light comedy, “Hysteria,” is it strange to see him playing such a dark character in “Hannibal”?
I think that’s what we always want as actors, to be able to move between different characters and take on different personalities. For me, that’s part of the joy of doing it and I imagine he loves that too.
Do you have a favorite role?
I did a play called, “The Chalk Garden,” which is an amazing play by Enid Bagnon. I played a 16-year-old who was obsessed with fire, a pyromaniac. She was a very troubled young girl and I absolutely loved the play. I was with two fantastic British actresses.
Did you ever forget your line?
Sometimes you do and you panic and look to the audience and hope for the best. That’s why it’s so brilliant to do it. You literally freeze onstage and think, ‘Why the hell am I doing this to myself?’ But it’s really exciting as well.
What’s it like watching yourself on film?
Less fun than being onstage. It’s an odd experience. I think we humans tend to be quite critical of ourselves and it can be a hard process. You watch yourself and think, ‘I could’ve done that differently.’
Did you always know you were beautiful growing up?
[Laughs] Oh, that’s a nice compliment! I guess I don’t think in those terms. I try not to think too much about what how you’re perceived on the outside. That’s not good.
Have you ever had any bad experiences with fans?
Do you know what? I’ve been really lucky. I have really nice fans. They come up and they’re always really, really respectful and I’ve never had any aggression. They’ve always been really polite and nice.
Do you Facebook and Twitter?
No, I don’t.
Do you have staff that does that for you?
No, I don’t. It’s not something I engage in. I like to see other people doing it but no, it’s not really my thing.
Do you have a favorite movie you’ve done — “Like Crazy,” “Hysteria,” “The Invisible Woman”?
I like doing them all. My focus is always the character. That’s always my way into something and I try not to patronize the character depending on when they lived. I feel like as human beings we all have the same emotions, feelings we’ve had for hundreds of years. The forces upon us are slightly different. I love period dramas as well as more contemporary films. I grew up watching “Howard’s End” and “Room with a View,” so I do like doing period work but the hook is always the character and the director.
Was Ralph Fiennes a controlling director in “The Invisible Woman”? Did you have to stick to the script?
It was a very different process from “Like Crazy” and “Breath In.” He was always just wanting to explore and he pushed me. It was always just about trying to get to something truthful about that about my character.
What’s next for you?
I have a film coming out late this year called “Theory of Everything,” which James Marsh directed. It’s about Stephen Hawking and Jane Hawking and their relationship, first meeting and falling in love and then Stephen being diagnosed with motor neuron disease, and it spans their meeting when they were in their early 20s to when they split up in their 40s. Also “True Story” with Jonah Hill and James Franco and I was in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
“Breathe In” opens in New York City on March 28, 2014. It is available now On Demand. Rated R. 98 minutes.