If you don’t recognize English actress Felicity Jones from her leading role in the 2011 romantic drama Like Crazy—a performance that earned her a Special Jury Prize at that year’s Sundance Film Festival—you likely remember her turn as Dot, the daughter of Jessa’s post-rehab love interest Jasper on Girls just a couple of weeks ago. Or perhaps you recognize her from her considerable presence in the fashion world—in addition to posing for campaigns for the likes of Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana, she’s often spotted in the front row at both London and Paris Fashion Weeks.
Felicity’s latest film, Breathe In, has her pairing up once more with her Like Crazy director Drake Doremus. She plays Sophie, a British exchange student and talented musician who spends a semester in upstate New York and quickly forges a bond with her host father Keith (Guy Pearce), a piano teacher who longs for a more creative and fulfilling professional life. As Sophie and Keith grow closer—inappropriately so—major familial drama and tension ensues. I sat down with Felicity to discuss how she tackled Breathe In‘s impressive piano-playing scenes, her real-life music taste (she’s a Miley fan!), her favorite red carpet look ever and where she prefers to drop her hard-earned dollars (hint: it’s a European chain that’s about to land stateside!). Read on!
Lucky: First things first: I love your new short hair! The bob really suits you.
Felicity Jones: Thank you! I actually cut it for a job—a role in this movie Theory of Everything. My character has this ’60s bob, so it all had to go. But I really like it! It’s much easier, I don’t have to spend hours blow-drying my hair every morning. Your morning routine is cut in half—it’s great.
You famously filmed Like Crazy without an actual script—you and the rest of the cast just worked off of outlines. Did you take the same approach for Breathe In?
It was a really similar process, yeah. We had outlines, and I spent a lot of time building up a backstory for my character, Sophie. That’s a really important part of improvisation. You have to establish who this person is—what school they went to, what their parents do, that kind of thing—so that once you come to set, you’re free to explore and to be spontaneous.
Was it difficult getting into character as Sophie, a student who gets involved with her host father? The story gets pretty twisted at some points…
It’s just important that you don’t judge the person in any way. I wanted to play Sophie because she’s so anarchic in a way, she’s troubled. There’s a rebellious spirit there that’s very different from myself! So when she meets Keith, there’s just this connection—it’s an instinct they have towards each other. It’s not just lust—it’s also a friendship, there’s an entity there.
You play some pretty impressive piano in the movie. Was that all you?
SO—some of it was! I have to admit, I had an incredible coach, Sasha Kozlov, who’s a concert pianist. I learned a lot from her. It’s a lot of her skill and a little bit of my skill. I started working on the film a few months before we started shooting it—Dustin O’Halloran had already composed a lot of the tracks, so I put them on my iPod—iPod sounds so archaic now!—and just walked around listening to it, to immerse myself in the tone.
Do you listen to a lot of classical in real life?
I do like classical music. I mean, I listen to a lot of everything, though—I have really eclectic taste. I love Florence + The Machine, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Miley Cyrus. "Adore You"…
I’m a pretty big Bangerz fan, too…so no judgment.
I’m a big fan, I think she’s great! And in her shows, there are a lot of references to contemporary artists. There’s a lot of playfulness in her work, which I think is really cool.
Let’s discuss Girls—you appear in Season 3’s third-to-last episode, "Role-Play." How did that come about? Are you pals with Lena [Dunham, the show's creator and star]?
We actually met when Like Crazy was at Sundance, and she was there for her film Tiny Furniture. We both really liked each other, were fans of each other’s work—and then we met up in LA and got along really well. We just clicked. So when they asked if I wanted to play Dolly, I was very happy to do so, being a huge fan of the show! It was a really relaxed environment, and it was amazing watching how playful all the girls were with each other. They’re all superb actresses.
You wear some pretty incredible looks on the red carpet. What’s your all-time favorite dress, if you’re able to choose?
I wore this Alexander McQueen dress recently that I just loved—I think McQueen is just absolutely brilliant. I went to a great exhibition recently in London, about this woman he worked with very closely—Isabella Blow. But yes, the dress I wore was gold, and it felt like a real privilege to be wearing an Alexander McQueen creation. Everything was hand-sewn, the details were exquisite…it was just a really, really special dress. That said, I’m actually wearing something to the Breathe In premiere tonight that I am so excited about—I wish I could tell you about it! I absolutely love it.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
If I’m feeling flush, then Acne or Alexander Wang—but I also love popping into Zara to see what they’ve got. There’s a shop in England called COS that I absolutely love…
Everyone at Lucky is obsessed with COS. It’s coming to the U.S. soon—we’re so excited!
Yes! I love it because of its simplicity. I actually have quite a tomboyish style. I love jeans and trousers…
Which is interesting, because on the red carpet you wear a lot of Peter Pan collars, full skirts, bows…
Looks that are more feminine, yeah. But I mean, you’ve got to enjoy it. It can be quite stressful, standing there in front of a bunch of photographers!
I can only imagine. Who in Hollywood would you most love to work with next?
I’d love to work with Annette Bening—I think she’s fantastic. I saw Willem Dafoe in something at the Armory last year–a collaboration with a performance artist [The Life and Death of Marina Abramovi?]—and would love to do something with him. I love Noah Baumbach’s films, too.
I like that all three of your picks are a bit off the beaten path, a little unexpected.
Yeah! I guess you could say I like working with people who are pushing something, in some way. Taking a risk.
Funny, I could say the same about you!
Well, thank you! That’s a very high compliment!
Breathe In opens in limited release in NYC this Friday, March 28. The movie will expand to LA and San Francisco on April 4.