Felicity Jones’ trajectory keeps rising

Tom Long
The Detroit News

The past year has been something of a whirlwind for British actress Felicity Jones.

Over the past decade, she had earned a good share of critical acclaim and indie cred in well-received films such as “Like Crazy,” “Hysteria” and “The Invisible Woman” and even popped up in last year’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

But, in September, her career jumped to a whole new level when “The Theory of Everything,” in which she played Stephen Hawking’s persevering wife Jane, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Suddenly there was a level of hoopla she’d never anticipated.

“In my experience, you never know how a film is going to be received or how it’s going to turn out. In the edit so much happens that you’re not a part of,” she says. “I felt like the story was fascinating ... but I didn’t know that we would end up going to the Oscars, no.”

But go to the Oscars she did, as a best actress nominee (her co-star, Eddie Redmayne, won the best actor statue). This came after necessary months of publicity, interviews, show biz schmoozing and discussing the film exhaustively.

“It was extraordinary. It was definitely, definitely hard work. In order to go through that you have to be very passionate about the film you want people to see,” she says.

“But it was such a privilege. I got to meet amazing people — Patti Smith, Meryl Streep — people I have obsessed about and watched their films or listened to their albums over and over,” Jones, 31, says. “It was really magical, as well as being quite grueling at times.”

Now she’s on the phone from New York City promoting her latest film, “True Story,” which was actually shot before “Theory.” It stars James Franco as a man who may have murdered his wife and small kids, and Jonah Hill as a disgraced former New York Times reporter who builds an odd kinship with the man as he awaits trial.

Jones plays Hill’s wife, an academic worried her husband is getting in over his head.

“She is the person who has had doubts very early on and has an instinct, a feeling that something isn’t right,” Jones says. “She can see that her partner is trying to redeem himself — he’s lost his job, he feels a great sense of shame — and it’s like he finds this man who’s done even more damage than he has. It’s almost like he gets a little ego boost from that.

“And she can see that there’s almost like a romance that’s happening,” Jones says. “And Jill manages to be outside of it and see that it’s not what it seems.”

It’s another nice notch on her resume, but Jones is about to experience a whole new level of exposure. In 2016 she will star alongside Tom Hanks in Ron Howard’s “Inferno,” the latest Robert Langdon thriller based on a Dan Brown (“The Da Vinci Code”) novel. Then she’ll shoot out of this universe as the central figure in the “Star Wars” spin-off “Rogue One.”

Which should put her alongside Jennifer Lawrence (“The Hunger Games”), Shailene Woodley (“Divergent”) and Scarlett Johansson (take your pick) as one of Hollywood’s newly empowered female action heroes.

But Jones says she isn’t just in it for the action.

“I think that seeing just more female leads is a fantastic thing. There has always been a huge appetite for female leads in the audience,” she says.

“And I think that it’s important that all these characters are nuanced — and all those actresses are phenomenal actresses — so it’s not just about them being strong. It’s about them being fully fleshed female characters and being vulnerable,” she says.

Still, she says, it’s good to see more women exerting power on the screen.

“I think it’s absolutely a good thing that there’s a balance,” she says. “That’s what you want.”



‘True Story’

Opens Friday

Rated R for language and some disturbing material

Running time:

100 minutes

Felicity Jones

■Born Oct. 17, 1983, in Birmingham, England

■Her uncle is actor Michael Hadley

■Graduated from Oxford, where she studied English

■Won a special jury prize for “Like Crazy” at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival

■Nominated for best actress for “The Theory of Everything” at the Golden Globe, Oscar and BAFTA awards

Next up: “Autobahn” with Nicholas Hoult and Anthony Hopkins