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Unscripted success ; From playing a schoolgirl witch to improvising love scenes in her latest film, Felicity Jones's CV is certainly varied. And...

July 20, 2013


Unscripted success ; From playing a schoolgirl witch to improvising love scenes in her latest film, Felicity Jones's CV is certainly varied. And that's just how she likes it, as SOPHIE HERDMAN discovers

AS scenes go, this one's intense. Guy Pearce, clad in a checked shirt and arty round glasses, is lying by a secluded lake. Next to him sits a beautiful young woman dressed in black. He's gently touching her long dark hair, stroking her hands and, eventually, kissing her. It might not be a sex scene, but watching it feels more than a little voyeuristic.

This is a key moment in Breathe In, the latest film from director Drake Doremus, known for his love of improvisation.

Filming such intimate scenes can't be easy, but surely it's even more awkward when there's no script to follow? Luckily we did it towards the end of the shoot, so I didn't feel the same self- consciousness, says Felicity Jones, the object of Pearce's affections in the film, giggling.

If we had to jump in and do that on the first day it would be a disaster, I'd start laughing.

Breathe In sees 29-year-old Jones reunited with Doremus. They previously worked together in 2011's indie romance flick Like Crazy, in which she played love-struck student Anna, who gets into trouble after overstaying her visa while spending the summer with her boyfriend in the US.

The dialogue was completely improvised and Jones's performance drew high praise: she won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and received the Best New Hollywood Award at the 2011 Hollywood Film Awards. This time round she plays Sophie, a musically gifted exchange student from Berkshire, who is staying with Keith (Pearce) - a music teacher who would rather be a jobbing cellist - and his wife and daughter.

Sophie's presence quickly disrupts the family dynamics and, as you'd imagine, things get complicated.

Jones does an excellent job of portraying a teenager who is strong, confident and aloof but also somehow slightly innocent - it's little surprise that there have been murmurs of her playing Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades Of Grey film.

In real life, the actress is quite different. When we meet she's wearing a sailor-collared dress, doll-like shoes and has placed her satchel on the floor next to her; a fitting get-up for somebody who grew up in model village Bournville, near Birmingham.

It's almost lunchtime. I'm really hungry so you'd better be quick, Jones jokes.

Her humour's a great ice-breaker, but that's the last joke she makes. Perhaps it's simply because we're discussing work, but she comes across as rather earnest, though she's clearly passionate about acting and her co-workers.

Guy is tremendous, she says. He's absolutely committed to his work and there's no ego or vanity to him.

Ralph Fiennes, who she's recently been working with on The Invisible Woman, a film about Charles Dickens's secret mistress (which Fiennes stars in and directs), is also lauded with praise.

He's such a phenomenal actor and an incredible director. He was such a support and constantly pushing, trying to find the depth of who this woman was.

Jones's own commitment is noteworthy too. For Breathe In, she spent hours practising the piano, Sophie's instrument of choice.

My coach was amazing. She taught me the basics. I would do the simple pieces and she would do the harder ones, so it was a lot of her skill and a little bit of mine, she says modestly. A lot of it was trying to understand the posture of a concert pianist and understanding how important technique is.

I also listened to lots of piano pieces with different people playing them and saw how much of themselves they bring to the piece. To be a true talent you have to emotionally invest in what you're playing.

For previous film The Chalet Girl, in which Jones played, you guessed it, a chalet girl, she reportedly spent two months learning to snowboard and did a stint undercover, scrubbing toilets and partying at local bars.

While preparing for the theatre production of Luise Miller in 2011 the actress lived with a Catholic family and attended mass.

If you want a job done right, it seems, give it to Jones. I like finding different things in different characters and not doing the same thing, she says.

. ? Breathe In is in cinemas now.

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