Felicity Jones’ latest role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set to catapult her into A-list territory. Gemma Dunn reports.
Felicity Jones may be fast becoming hot property in Hollywood, but when it comes to mapping out her next move, the British actress insists there’s never a set plan.
Refusing to take herself too seriously, the 33-year-old is in great spirits and reveals in no uncertain terms that she prefers to simply “fly by the seat of your pants”.
And her breezy attitude – coupled with formidable talent – seems to be working wonders.
Since landing an Oscar-nomination for her role in 2014 Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, Oxford-educated Jones has justly shot to the top of nearly every film-maker’s most-wanted list.
This year, she’s already teamed up with Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard for Inferno, the third adaptation of Dan Brown’s novels, and will play Sigourney Weaver’s terminally ill daughter in J A Bayona’s heart-wrenching A Monster Calls, out in the New Year.
Now, as 2016 draws to a close, she’s also starring in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – the first in a new series of Star Wars stand-alone films that, despite sitting in a universe fans know and love, features new characters and storylines.
Reportedly set somewhere between the aftermath of 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith and events in the original Star Wars film, Jones plays Jyn Erso, the impetuous leader of a group of unlikely heroes, who band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.
“I feel like Star Wars crosses continents,” notes the Birmingham-born actress, who jokes she’ll be pleased to finally remove the “invisible gag” once the epic is released.
“It’s something people love, whether they’re particularly into science-fiction or not, and I really feel the heart of these films are always rooted in relationships.
“That’s why we keep coming back to them. You’re so fond of the characters, and you want them to succeed against the forces of evil.”
And while her hands might be tied as far as plot-spoilers are concerned, she’s happy to tease hardened fans by likening it to the 1980 classic The Empire Strikes Back – in that there’s a quest at the centre of it.
“It’s very much rooted in a parent-child relationship and father-daughter relationship, which is the thrust of he story,” observes Jones, whose father worked as a journalist and her mother in advertising. But it also has moments of lightness and fun and humour.
“K-2, who is played by Alan Tudyk, was constantly improvising when we were on set and is very funny in the film,” she continues, “so it has a bit of everything.”
In the case of depicting newbie Erso, English rose Jones, dressed today in a fun tropical print matched with natural make-up, states she wanted her to be as human as possible.
“She’s strong when she needs to be, she’s incredibly determined and she has to be tough when she doesn’t feel it. But at the same time, there is enormous vulnerability,” she says.
The actress – who started her professional career at age 11 in children’s TV series The Worst Witch – was also sold on the “rare opportunity” to play a female who is not thinking about romantic relationships.
Embracing the desexualisation, the self-confessed feminist recently told Glamour magazine: “We don’t even see Jyn’s arms! That’s not her priority. She’s a survivor, and she has a mission to complete.
“Gareth [Edwards, director] said very early on, ‘I want guys to watch it and be like, ‘I want to be Jyn!’ A female friend of mine said, ‘I love that Jyn looks how we look, with trousers and a long-sleeved top’.
“We aren’t in hot pants. When do women walk around wearing hot pants?”
Wise beyond her years, Jones, who has in the past spoken out on the Hollywood gender pay-gap, is also keen to play down comparisons to Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley.
Talking of Erso in contrast to Ridley’s defiant Rey, who debuted in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she says: “Jyn’s had a bit of a struggle in life, she’s more of a hardened character, she knows who she is and where she’s come from, she’s quite streetwise.
“She’s very sure she doesn’t like the Empire; she’s going to bring them down.”
But that’s not to say she wasn’t happy to share a defining moment with her fellow Brit actors.
“It was quite nice, actually... Throughout filming, we met John [Boyega, who plays Finnin Star Wars: The Force Awakens, alongside Ridley] and then I met Daisy,” she recalls, smiling sweetly.
“It was more [about] looking at each other and going, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool, we’re all in Star Wars!’, you know, celebrating it together.”
And is she prepared for the marked prospect of intensified stardom being in Star Wars brings with it?“There’s so much hard work that goes into making these films, you can’t suddenly go, ‘Oh, it’s so awful, people want to see the films’,” Jones reasons with sincerity. “It’s a privilege, and it’s a pleasure to share with people.”
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12A) was released on December 15 and is in cinemas around the region.