Q&A with FELICITY JONES: "There's an element of madness about her"
Like Crazy star Felicity Jones chats about love, whiskey and crying on cue.
Q&A with FELICITY JONES: "There's an element of madness about her"
In the romantic drama Like Crazy, Felicity Jones plays Anna, an English student at a Los Angeles college who develops a passionate romance with Jacob (Anton Yelchin). Their relationship hits a snag, however, when she willfully disregards her student visa guidelines, and is later unable to return to the States. Like Crazy chronicles this long-distance relationship over the ensuing years. City Paper met with Jones to talk about love, whiskey and crying on cue.
City Paper: You are getting considerable attention for this role — including a Gotham nomination for breakthrough performance. How do feel about all this attention?
Felicity Jones: It’s very surreal. It’s hard to see yourself in that way. I think my natural inclination is to focus on my work and hope that people like it.
CP: What attracted you to playing Anna? She can be very selfish and unsympathetic.
FJ: That’s what I worried when I first watched it. I thought, everyone’s going to hate this person …
CP: But that’s what makes her interesting.
FJ: Exactly! What I liked about her is that she pursues the guy. It’s by her own volition that the relationship happens. There is also an element of insanity about her. I wanted her obsession to be a focus. I’d just watched Breaking the Waves. I liked the idea of this person being completely overwhelmed in every sense by another human being, and willing to make huge sacrifices because of that — almost as if they can’t live without that person.
CP: The drama pivots around your character deciding to overstay her student visa. I wonder if it would have served the film better had she not articulated her decision …
FJ: It’s funny you say that, because that was the hardest scene for me! It was so difficult that she’s that premeditated in making her decision. We spoke at length about that, but in a way, that’s her character. She’s very willful. She acts, rather than thinks. If she makes a decision about something, she follows it through. I’m much more cautious than Anna. I like to take my time over things. I’m Libran, so I always reduce anything, any situation, to a choice between two things. Should I have coffee or tea? Coffee or tea? Coffee or tea? They’re both good. Which one should I have? [Laughs.]
CP: I would think the most difficult thing would be crying on cue. You cry throughout Like Crazy. Can you break into tears for me now?
FJ: That’s the goal! You have your back against the wall, it’s the last shot of the day, and the sun’s about to go down. OK, now cry! That’s when your ability is truly tested. As a female actor, if you can’t cry on cue, you can wave goodbye to your career.
CP: What were the other challenges of playing Anna?
FJ: Making someone who makes unlikable decisions likable. Showing someone over so many years — their progressions, and changes and development — I’ve never done that before. How to do that in a subtle way? Something in her changes, she becomes less optimistic.
CP: What do you think accounts for her strong bond to Jacob?
FJ: As Anna, I believe that their relationship was eternal, and would have happened whatever the situation and they were meant to be together. She devoutly believes that. She’s religious about him. I was pleased for her to be in extremis. I don’t think it would be interesting to see someone who was mildly interested in him. There’s an element of madness about her.
CP: Anna becomes torn between Jacob and later her friend Simon (Charley Bewley). How do you see these relationships?
FJ: With Simon, Anna gets to be more the child in the relationship, which is a bit of a sanctuary in a way. With Jacob, she’s the parent. With Simon, she finds someone who is equally secure. With Jacob, Anna has a lot more self-confidence.
CP: What is something silly or sincere you’ve done for love?
FJ: Ummm. Whenever people ask this, it makes you sound like you are some callous human being who’s never done anything remotely romantic. Writing letters. When you first meet someone, and you’re completely intoxicated with them, letter writing is the main thing, then you are leaving gifts for them. Sounds corny … but you have to, to maintain the relationship. Leaving notes — that was always the nicest thing, if one of you leaves before the other, so when they get back they can read it. But I don’t see myself as a particularly romantic person. I think I’m quite pragmatic.
CP: In what way?
FJ: I don’t know. It probably stems back to the Libran. I am quite a cynic, I guess.
CP: The film is quite cynical about marriage …
FJ: Yes, the film is very cynical about marriage. The [characters] get married for legal reasons. I don’t think these people feel that they should be married, or that marriage is really important [to them], but they make that into a romantic moment. I love the idea of just the two of them, dancing in a room [on their wedding night]. I think that’s deeply romantic. I think that shows how small their world is — it’s the two of them. They don’t have loads of friends.
CP: You talked about letter writing and leaving notes. I understand you wrote Anna’s poems, and created the scrapbooks and chapbooks that detail Anna and Jacob’s relationship.
FJ: Yes, that was another thing that was hard. She writes a book detailing every element of their relationship at the end of every year. I think that’s borderline psychotic! [Laughs.] It’s a diary of their relationship, but I also think it is kind of controlling.
CP: Interesting. I thought that was charming …
FJ: I thought that there were so many things about her that I, myself, wouldn’t act in that way, but I guess that’s what is attractive playing someone …
CP: To do things you might never do, like drink all that whiskey! Do you even like whiskey?
FJ: I got on the plane, and had never drunk whiskey. Drake [Doremus, the director] asked, “I just want to make sure that you definitely drink whiskey, and I said, “Of course, I drink whiskey! It’s my favorite drink!” [Laughs]. I like whiskey if you’re in a cottage somewhere by a fire. And you’ve just been on a really long walk, and you get back and have a wee dram of whiskey.
CP: How do you think Like Crazy conforms/challenges the typical love story, boy meets girl/boy loses girl? And why is it boy meets girl, and not girl meets boy?
FJ: This is girl meets boy! Why is it boy meets girl? Because usually men are represented as being the predators …
CP: Predators … that’s such a strong word, with such a negative connotation! Club you, drag you by the hair, bring you back to my cave …
FJ: Well, [laughs] isn’t there an element of that? The women are much more generally seen as being passive in the dating game. Which I don’t think is true. Among my friends, the women are very pro-active. It’s hard to find people you want to spend a lot of time with.
CP: So what’s attractive to you?
FJ: Humor. Someone who is unpretentious, and kind, and a little bit brave.
CP: Do you think it’s simply distance that drives Anna and Jacob apart?
FJ: I think they grow up, and they do change as people. But that goes back to the time that they met. They want to keep that alive all the time, and you can’t actually. You have to realize that both of them have changed and that the relationship constantly evolves. They don’t let that happen. They try to get back to that place where they first met. It’s how their relationship is. The time they meet is much less than the time that they spent together, but it actually becomes more important than that [initial romance]. The film mirrors the way they see the relations. The reason they are so obsessed with the time they met is because they meet and fall in love — or what they think is love at first sight — and it overwhelms them both immediately. I think they feel that won’t ever happen again. So what can you do?
CP: Do you think it’s possible to recapture the magic of a relationship that begins so intensely?
FJ: It’s different meeting someone in your late teens and early 20s than in your late 20s. You’re a much more complicated person. I think there’s a fear that they’ll meet someone and it won’t ever be the same. But then they are different people … It’s the human condition; you always want the one thing you can’t have. It’s horrific! Why can’t we be more content with what we do have?
CP: Are you content?
FJ: I think I can be quite easily content. Yeah … I’m always trying to be a better actor. If you are content with that, you’re not going to do interesting and new work.
Read Sam Adams' review of Like Crazy at citypaper.net/movies.
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