Felicity Jones’ had her Hollywood breakthrough moment two years ago, earning an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Jane Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” Now, the British ingénue has three major film unspooling in the coming months; the big budget actioner “Inferno” with Tom Hanks; the high-concept family drama “A Monster Calls,” and the hotly anticipated “Star Wars” spin-off “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
Jones took a few minutes during a Burberry-sponsored event in her honor to discuss what it was like working on such disparate projects (one during awards season, no less) and who she admires most among her peers.
WWD: What was it like working on “A Monster Calls,” which is a family drama mixing CGI fantasy elements? You play a young mother with a terminal illness, whose son calls upon the “monster” as a means of coping.
Felicity Jones: It was one of those films where there is absolutely no critical distance. You are just thrown in emotionally, heart and soul. From the very beginning Sigourney [Weaver, who plays Jones’ mother], Lewis [MacDougall, who plays her son] and I bonded very quickly. We went to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” and went to the zoo and got to know each other as people, so when we went to the screen we could explore something that felt very real in terms of family dynamics.
WWD: You had the surreal experience of being nominated for your first Oscar while in the middle of filming this on location in Barcelona and Manchester. How did you keep your wits about you?
F.J.: I was filming this after “Theory” had been nominated for a Golden Globe and then an Oscar, so I was literally going from an awards ceremony to getting on a plane to Barcelona and shooting a difficult scene between a mother and her son. It was a collision of both worlds of being an actor but hopefully they work in harmony.
WWD: How would you describe your character in this film?
F.J.: I was so keen that Lizzie have an identity of her own. She’s still a bit rebellious and has this punk spirit inside her. I didn’t ever want her to become a martyr figure. She’s a single mom who had her son really young so she still hasn’t worked out who she is, and now she’s wrestling with this illness. I was keen to show all the facets of this woman.
WWD: The big screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s “Inferno” seems like it couldn’t be more different.
F.J.: I actually did that film before all this. That was just great fun. I got to work with brilliant actors like Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley, and I bleached my hair blonde. I was an opportunity to do something completely different from anything I’ve done before.
WWD: Are there other actors you admire for their versatility?
F.J.: I was at an award ceremony the other day with Amy Adams and we were watching her reel and I was so impressed because she constantly changes it up. Every film is a new character and I really admire that. I think that takes real sophistication as an actor. She has great skill.
WWD: Now tell us about “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The fanboys and fangirls waiting outside this hotel with posters for you to sign are counting the days until this movie comes out. For those who don’t know, you play a rebellion leader trying to steal Darth Vader’s plans to build the Death Star.
F.J.: It was made with immense passion from everyone involved. It’s a fantastic story. It’s rooted in brilliant characters and they are real motley crew. They’ve all had difficult experiences like life hasn’t been that kind to them and they come together and find solace in each other. Jyn is just a woman who’s finding her way in life and working out what it is that makes someone a leader ultimately. It’s a story about believing in something and doing whatever it takes for those beliefs.
WWD: How much would you love to become a recurring character in a “Star Wars” franchise?
F.J.: We shall see. I love playing her so I’d be happy to do more.