As in real-life relationships, there are three ways of making movie romance work: Loving, hating or faking it.
Actress Felicity Jones, who stars in the critically acclaimed romantic drama “Like Crazy,” has become familiar with the formula.
“Chemistry is partly created by the actors, but chemistry is also a creation of editing,” the 27-year-old Brit told me in a recent interview. “If you edit someone looking into someone’s eyes, and then you have another shot where the other person is returning it, that should create chemistry.”
She continued, “I think the worst thing between two actors is ambivalence, indifference. Either you really want to like each other and be interested in each other, or you hate each other. That seems to be the two ways of getting good chemistry.”
When it came to Jones and her “Like Crazy” co-star Anton Yelchin: “We really liked each other.”
The pair play Anna and Jacob, a British exchange student and California native, respectively, who meet at college and subsequently fall madly, stupidly in love with each other. When Anna overstays her student visa to spend the summer lying in bed with Jacob, she is barred from re-entering the U.S. after a short visit home. Now forced to live a continent apart, Jacob and Anna struggle to keep their burgeoning romance alive as they fall in and out of love with each other, fall in and out of love with others and face the question of whether true love really can conquer all.
“Like Crazy” is a sort of Hall of Fame of the stupid things people do when they’re in love. For director Drake Doremus and co-writer Ben York Jones, the film is an amalgamation of their own real-life experiences with love and loss.
“It’s a love letter to what was,” said Doremus, who drew upon a long-distance relationship he endured at the age of 18. “And sort of more like a nostalgic look back on something that was great, remembering something for being beautiful and wonderful, but also remembering something for the truth of what it was.”
That truth? The idea that there is no absolute when it comes to love.
“I was going for a theme of grayness,” Doremus said. “Being in multiple relationships at the same time, having your heart in more than one place at the same time; having love, losing it, finding it, maintaining it; it’s just so gray. It’s not black and white.”
All of the dialogue in “Like Crazy” is improvised. Doremus and York created a script outlining very specific situations for their actors. During filming it was up to the cast — including Jones, Yelchin and “Winter’s Bone” star Jennifer Lawrence — to fill in the dialogue. The result is seamless, and not at all the aimless chatter sometimes associated with improvisation. To the contrary, Doremus coaxed such genuine, honest performances out of his actors, particularly Jones, that the story transcends the typical romance genre archetype to become emotionally tangible, deeply relatable.
According to Doremus, Jones (who confessed to a string of long-distance relationships) was the clear choice for the role of Anna. The actress has become somewhat of a muse for the director, who wrote a second movie specifically for her, co-starring Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan, which is aimed for a 2012 release.
“She’s just so brave. She’s so bold,” Doremus said. “And the chances she took in her audition tape really told me the kind of actor I was getting myself into business with. I knew she didn’t have any boundaries and she was willing to go wherever she needed to go in order to bring this thing to life.”
“And then, on top of that, she’s unbelievably smart, she’s unbelievably talented, she’s funny, she’s witty, she’s quick, she’s born to improvise,” he added.
Drake isn’t the only one smitten with Felicity Jones. Critics have been buzzing about the actress’ performance since the film debuted at the 27th Sundance Film Festival, where she received the Special Grand Jury award for Best Actress. Today, critics have turned their attention toward the big “O.”
“It’s insane!” Jones says, giggling at the mention of an Academy Award. “The word ‘Oscar’ is something I associate with the film ‘All About Eve.’ Like, Oscar is beyond the realm of — it’s another world to me. It’s so funny how you start to hear it and then it becomes normal to hear that word. I mean, the Oscars are the most glamorous event that I could ever conceive.”
“But I don’t know,” she says with a smile. “I don’t know what you’re supposed to do. You just think, ‘Well, at least somebody likes your work,’ and just take it step by step, I guess.”
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.