The year of Felicity Jones
Felicity Jones speaks about her upcoming roles, which are expected to bring the British actress even greater stardom
Felicity Jones is continuing her winning streak - after a Best Actress Oscar nomination for The Theory Of Everything - with roles in two high-profile movies opening soon, and they could not be more different.
In the live action-animation film A Monster Calls, which opens here tomorrow, she plays a cancer-stricken mum to a lonely young boy (British newcomer Lewis MacDougall) whose only friend is a monster.
Jones' other role will launch the British actress into the stratosphere - her lead part in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Star Wars spin-off, will be released later this year.
Meanwhile, Jones is starring in Inferno, which is currently showing here.
Directed by Ron Howard, it is the third film in the Dan Brown series of symbologist Robert Langdon.
Jones plays a doctor who teams up with Tom Hanks to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus.
We meet at the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto and Jones, 33, is wearing a frilly white top and navy blue skirt.
She is as sweet and unassuming, probably unaware of the onslaught of publicity she will be deluged with, especially when Rogue One comes out.
Tell us about your character in A Monster Calls.
Lizzy is a single mother, and what is fascinating is that she is a child herself in many ways. Being a mother is one aspect of her personality. There is also a young woman who is fiendishly artistic, who loves her son, but when she finds out that she is diagnosed with this illness, all her dreams are taken away from her - and how does this woman cope with that?
So like any human being that is multi-layered and complex, I hope that I bring that to her.
How was it working with Lewis?
It was no different from working with any other actor whom I have worked with before.
He is a child in terms of age, but not in terms of his emotions and his experience. So it was a very playful relationship from the beginning. We even went to a theme park together, which was incredibly frightening, but also a great way to bond.
Lewis has lost his mum. Did that have any impact on the actors?
It was a very emotional experience for all of us. Lewis felt that he wanted other children who had been through what he had gone through to watch the film, and maybe it would help them in some way. He felt like it was a great way for other young people to understand the difficulties of losing a parent. So we took our lead from him.
He was incredibly brave throughout the shooting of the film and he is a true actor, in the sense that he wanted to bring his own experiences to playing the role.
And I am very fortunate that I have not gone through this experience directly with my parents, but my grandmother has dementia and that is incredibly difficult for the family.
Did you like working with the CGI process?
I love the whole thing from start to finish. What was fantastic about working with (director) J.A. Bayona was that early on, we would do test shoots, and he was very keen that we did not feel removed from the monster. The monster was not just this sort of CGI thing that was put in later, but that we would actually have something real to act with.
So on the days with the monster, there was actually a huge fake tree that we were performing with, which was a unique experience (laughs). It was never as though we were having to do it to a tennis ball or anything like that, he made it very easy for us.
How tough was it to play a dying woman?
It was very tough. To empathise with someone who is going through that experience is incredibly difficult. It is too large to comprehend one's own death. What I found is that with Lizzy, it was trying to focus on the small things constantly.
It is amazing with people going through chemotherapy - all you are thinking about is surviving. The constant focus is: What can I do to relieve this symptom? You lose sensation in your hands, you lose sensations in your feet and people would say things like, what can I do to make the pain less - by putting on special warm gloves and soft socks? And so your focus become very minute, which is, in a way, eventually coping with the inevitable.
How are you coping with becoming a public figure?
As soon as you are in a public medium - and obviously that comes with attention - you cannot sit around and complain about it. That comes with the territory. And so I am trying to enjoy it.
I am lucky. I get lovely letters from people who say how much they appreciate the work that I have done. It can sound a bit corny (laughs), but I am grateful for the work that I have and the position that I am in.
How was it working with Tom Hanks in Inferno?
Tom is very generous. He is incredibly down to earth. I was so impressed by how well prepared he was. He has been doing this for so long, and he still is just as passionate as he was in the early days. I love that he is so easy-going on screen, and he has just such an effortless manner in his performances.
We were filming in Budapest, so we would often go out for dinner in the evening and hang out with Ron Howard, who was directing. It was a very strong family, a close family as we were making it.
Tell us whatever you can about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
With Rogue One, it was an incredible experience from start to finish. The scale is immense - it was a great contrast to the work that I have done before.
And every day is wondrous. The way the film is shot, it is very realistic, and it has a very boots-on-the-ground feel, and it is very intimate. We would go onto set, on the spaceship, and they would be pressing buttons and things would actually light up and things would move. It was like being a child every day on set.
As soon as you are in a public medium - and obviously that comes with attention - you cannot sit around and complain about it. That comes with the territory.
- Felicity Jones