Film's new it-girl talks ahead of Chalet Girl UAE release
‘I think you’re supposed to get a sort of thing – an obelisk.’ When we speak to Felicity Jones, she is yet to receive the gong she won in 2011 at Sundance, the Special Jury Acting Prize for Like Crazy, a mostly improvised transatlantic indie romance. Finally set to hit screens in the UAE on Feburary 2, it will be preceded this week by another comedy in which she stars, Chalet Girl.
But back to Sundance. The 28-year-old was the festival’s darling – did Jones find all that festival it-girl stuff a bit mindless? Not a bit, she says. ‘I think you just have to enjoy the fame while it lasts,’ she muses. ‘Next year, it’ll be someone else.’ She had to be back in London to shoot a BBC film with David Hare so missed the ceremony, and was in bed at home in East London when the call came through at 3am to say she’d won. Is this her first acting prize? She’s beaming. ‘Yeah, my first ever. Ever!’
Jones arrives ‘like a zombie’, flopping on a sofa at the end of a two-day junket (‘it slightly numbs the mind’). You can understand the impulse to lump them in together, the in-demand Brit actresses: Knightley, Mulligan, Riseborough and co – and now Jones. They’re all flawless, poised and possessed of a top-set-in-all-subjects charm. Jones, you suspect, might also be rather steely. When she heard that there was brisk competition for her part in Like Crazy, she put a few scenes on film to send to the director, clambering into the shower for one. ‘I wanted it to be as realistic as possible. It was only afterwards that I thought: He’s going to think I’m mad.’ For clarification, and with mock-outrage, she adds: ‘I had a top on; it was a close up; you didn’t see anything.’
Jones was raised in Birmingham in the UK. She began acting early, was on kids’ TV by 12, a regular on The Archers at 15. It was always a hobby and it took a while for her to admit how intensely she wanted to stick with it. ‘To have the guts to say: “I’m going to give this a go.”’ She barely dropped a stitch to study English at Oxford and since graduating has worked non-stop for TV. Until recently her film parts have been somewhat limited to out-of-your-league-girl-next-door types – like the boss’s daughter in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Cemetery Junction. The pair auditioned pretty much every twentysomething actor for their trio of teens; Jones’s face fitted the ’70s milieu, apparently. ‘I don’t know what that says about me…’
Her films roles are becoming increasingly demanding. She positively glows – there’s no other way to put it – in Julie Taymor’s adaptation of The Tempest (released in the UAE in May 2011). At the mention of her next movie, Chalet Girl, Jones perks up, exclaiming: ‘I love that film.’ With her Oxford credentials it might look a bit, well, lowbrow: a properly popcorny Brit-com that is giggly good fun – the gaps plugged by a best-of-British cast that includes Bill Nighy and Bill Bailey. Jones plays an ex-skateboarding champ who gets a job as chalet girl for a family of banker-toffs and finds herself persona non grata on the status-conscious slopes. Gossip Girl cad Ed Westwick is the Prince Charming love interest. There is so much lousy Brit comedy around; wasn’t she worried it would turn out badly? ‘I think it was quite a risk, but I just had a good feeling about it. I wanted to take a gamble.’
Last year Jones finally gave up a part she played for more than a decade, Emma in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers. Like being a Bond Girl, it’s one of those roles that’s harder to shake off than foot-and-mouth. Not that Jones, who kept it up all through Oxford, finishing essays at 4am after a day’s recording, seems to mind. ‘It’s such a great British institution. You can talk about all the people that you’ve worked with. But a lot of people are only truly impressed by The Archers. All the closet fans come out. Quite unlikely people,’ she adds with a giggle. Like who? ‘I will not reveal my sources.’ Chalet Girl is in UAE cinemas now.