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Felicity Jones, burgeoning British starlet, is sitting in a booth at the Tribeca Smyth Hotel, deconstructing the idea of the red carpet between sips of an orange juice and soda.
“The thing is, it’s drama; it’s theater,” Jones says of the old step and repeat. “The way I approach it is to see it as a character….Otherwise you can feel really self-conscious and actually it’s more fun than that. It doesn’t need to be taken that seriously.”
It’s midafternoon on a bright and warm October day and Jones is wearing a sleeveless knit Dolce & Gabbana dress. Her chunky brunette bangs almost brush her eyes. She is wearing very dark lipstick. The 27-year-old is somewhere on her day calendar between a taping of the “Today” show and the New York premiere that night of “Like Crazy,” which prompted the red-carpet discussion. Set for release Friday, the film figures to be as big as a largely unscripted indie romance can possibly be. The jury at the Sundance Film Festival awarded the movie its grand prize for drama in February, and handed out a special prize to Jones for her turn as a twentysomething forced into an intercontinental relationship after visa issues.
If Jones is comfortable improvising a version of herself on the red carpet, “Like Crazy” may have something to do with it. Working with a 50-page story outline from director and writer Drake Doremus, she and co-star Anton Yelchin were left to feel out their own dialogue over a monthlong shoot, which she describes as a “rapid fast-forwarding of a relationship” between the three.
“The first week was quite frightening because I knew that we were going to be improvising a love story and I didn’t know these people at all,” she says. “Seeing them drive off in the taxi [at the end of filming] was one of the most horrific moments of my life. It was so sad. I’d become so close to these people. I felt very bereft.”
In addition to the Sundance prize, Jones’ performance in “Like Crazy” has earned the veteran actress plenty of buzz. Christopher Bailey featured her in Burberry’s fall ad campaign. She had three films at the Toronto Film Festival last month and has already signed on for Doremus’ next project.
With her Stateside stock seemingly destined to rise, Jones, who studied English at Oxford, is perhaps a bit more cerebral on the subject of fame and image-making than other young actors with similar prospects. “Like Crazy” may have helped that department as well.
In the film, Jones’ character eventually lands an assistant job at a magazine. Her research for the role led her to sit in on a few editorial meetings at a Los Angeles-based fashion publication.
“It was extraordinary,” she says. “They were discussing whether to put Sylvester Stallone on the front cover. I was in favor of putting him on the front cover….What was great about it is the length of discussion. How magazines are always trying to calibrate coolness.”
She smiles as she goes on.
“This is what I realized: Coolness is a construct,” she says. “I didn’t think that before. I thought it was just by accident, but it certainly is not.”