Felicity Jones has been on our radar ever since she starred in the 2011 Sundance darling, Like Crazy. Helmed by Drake Doremus, it's a nuanced look into long distance love. Fast forward three years later, and the 30-year-old actress is once again promoting a Doremus-directed film, Breathe In, in theaters tomorrow. It's another exploration of relationships, this time of a very different nature. The film follows Jones as Sophie, a foreign exchange student who begins an affair with the patriarch, Keith (Guy Pearce), of her host family, sending shock waves throughout the household. Rounding out the cast are Halt and Catch Fire's Mackenzie Davis and Gone Baby Gone's Amy Ryan.
Complex got a chance to speak to Jones about the film, her thoughts on physical versus emotional infidelity, and the slew of other movies she's got coming up, including The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
What was it like to work with Drake Doremus again?
It's nice coming into a project with more confidence because you have already established that relationship. It felt like we were building rather than trying to start again on something. As an actor, it's really nice to work with the same people because then you can keep exploring and pushing.
And he built this role for you, right?
Yeah, he had the idea. I remember after Like Crazy, he said he was thinking about something. Then when I read the script for Breathe In, it was exactly what I wanted to be doing, so we were on the same wavelength.
How did you interpret the relationship between your character Sophie and Guy Pearce's Keith?
I felt like they had an immediate connection to each other and it was something that neither of them have experienced before, which is why it was quite frightening. This is especially for Guy’s character, because he has so much to lose. But there was also something quite dangerous about Sophie that I was looking forward to playing. She's very hurt, and she is in pain, and she is going through grief, and therefore she is a little bit toxic.
Which do you think is worse, physical cheating or emotional cheating?
It's hard to say. I think when you are in that situation, it's really complicated. And you're right, just because someone hasn’t physically cheated, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t cheating going on. But human relationships are complicated; they cross boundaries. Hopefully people aren’t too judgmental about that. It's up to the audience to draw their conclusions.
Drake Doremus' movies are famous for being largely improvised. How do you develop chemistry and trust the other actors to be present in the scene with you?
It's just an instinctive thing. With some actors that you work with, there's an immediate understanding and empathy and you are supporting each other. It felt very much like that with Guy. We have very similar approaches to acting. We both like to prepare and we like to be quite free and spontaneous on set, so there was an automatic empathy.
Did you watch any old movies or do anything else to prepare?
Yeah, a big inspiration was this film La Piscine, which is a similar story of an unknown person coming into an established environment. And then Drake and I both love this film called A Place in the Sun, which is a thriller and it brings that quality. When you start thinking about a character, you start noticing things on the street. You’ll be like, “Oh that's interesting the way that person is doing that, that might be good for Sophie.” I like to just be thinking about the character when I'm off set and try to understand their mindset.
There's also tension between Sophie, Keith, and Keith's daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis). To me, it seems like Lauren feels like she's being replaced. But how did you interpret that dynamic between the three of them?
Mackenzie and I didn’t want that relationship to be too black and white. We didn’t want it to be that they were just bitchy to each other; there was a lot of affection and warmth towards one another, but it’s competitive at the same time. Obviously Sophie is at the same age as Lauren, and it's an incredibly tough situation to be in.
How did your guest role in Girls come about?
Lena and I both were at Sundance together with Tiny Furniture and Like Crazy, and I've just been a huge fan of her work. Our agents put us together in L.A. and we met up and really hit it off. Then Lena asked if I wanted to come and do a cameo on the shwo, and being a huge fan, I was very willing and was happy to be a part.
Did she write that part for you?
I think she had it in mind that we both kind of wanted to work together on something.
What inspires you the most in your real life?
Well, I read a lot. I hope that doesn’t sound too pretentious. I've really liked poetry since I was about 15. When I'm traveling a lot and doing interviews, often it's hard to concentrate on reading a novel. I love reading novels, but when you are working, sometimes it is good to read a poem in between. I have been reading Philip Larkin’s poetry, and I do find it a real inspiration.
Is that something that you studied?
Yeah I studied literature at University and it has always been a passion of mine.
Did you ever want to write your own stuff?
I have tried. I really like writing, but it's a challenge. To write well is really hard, but I'm working on it. I write short stories and poems, mainly, but it is very private and mostly very bad. [Laughs.]
Has anything ever been published?
Well, I did this film called The Invisible Woman and I wrote an article about preparing for that. That was the first thing I'd published that I've written.
Where did it get published?
In Intelligent Life.
I saw The Invisible Woman and it also deals with infidelity. Coincidence?
Yeah, that is not intentional. [Laughs.] There is no design. You just get attracted to different things for different reasons and sometimes they have similarities.
Did you have a favorite superhero as a kid?
Actually, I loved Spider-Man.
In what sense?
I just loved watching the cartoon. Remember the early morning cartoon? I used to watch it with my brother. He has always been my favorite one and I think it's because he is so human and he feels so noble.
Are you ready for everything that comes with starring in a big franchise?
It's just been really fun. I mean, I have a small part in it and I just loved working with the other actors like Dane DeHaan,who I think is great. Marc Webb is a really talented director, so it was a cool experience.
What is next after Spider-Man?
I just made a film with Eddie Redmayne, which was a real labor of love and it was a really intense shoot. It was nice having some light relief, like doing Girls. I'm playing a person who's alive, Jane Hawking, and that's a huge responsibility. The film is about Jane Hawking and Stephen Hawking and their relationship. It's a phenomenal story, really.
Did you get to meet Stephen Hawking?
I did. I met Stephen and Jane Hawking and they are incredible people who were very strong and have survived a really devastating situation in the most wonderful way. Both of them are funny and just great characters to play.