London—Felicity Jones is about to see the biggest movie in her career released, and the British actress remains remarkably poised about it—aside from the occasional moments of giddy laughter. All bright eyes and soft smiles, Jones, 33, is taking the lead for the first time, in a Star Wars movie, no less.
Much tinier in person than expected, Jones is in a white and blue print dress, a much different attire from the tactical clothing her character, Jyn Erso, wears in the upcoming “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The movie is also the first of the stand-alone Star Wars films, the so-called anthology films, and is set to test just how wide the franchise’s fandom can go.
There is no Luke Skywalker in this film. “Rogue One” is squarely on Jones’ shoulders, and she says Jyn is by nature different from the series’ heroes.
“She isn’t looking to be a heroine,” she tells Super. “She is someone who very much finds herself having to really toughen up and embrace the situation she’s in. It’s definitely something she’s thrown into.”
Jyn has also been thrown into a plan to steal the plans for the Galactic Empire’s new Death Star battle station together with a rag-tag bunch of cast-offs.
“All of the rebels in ‘Rogue One’ are unlikely heroes,” she explains. “They’re been brought together. They’ve all had histories. They’ve all had their own struggles to overcome. That’s what brings them together.” Jones tells reporters she identifies with Jyn’s toughness. “I feel like you have to be a bit of a fighter to do seven-month shoots, six-day weeks, the intensive training.” Growing up in Birmingham with a lot of male relatives, Jones admits to being something of a tomboy. “They’d put on one of the films and the first thing that struck me was the music,” she says of John Williams’ iconic theme.
“What an incredible score! Then it’s incredible when you come back to it 20 years later, and it immediately takes you back to being 7.”
Jones was thus happy to get the offer to take the lead for “Rogue One,” having a great meeting with director Gareth Edwards. Despite the immensity of the role, she didn’t waver.
“I was less intimidated and more excited. I was really ready for this kind of challenge. I hadn’t really done a lot of work that involved stunts and I was really keen to explore that side of things. You’re always apprehensive on the first day of your new job. I mean, it’s kind of often when you turn up and don’t know anyone but I immediately loved the story we were telling. I really believed in it and wanted to put my heart and soul in it.”
There were many new things in store for Jones during the “Rogue One” shoot. She remembers bouncing around in the back of a Land Rover that kept getting lost on its way to the location in Jordan’s Wadi Rum.
There was the experience of shooting in the Maldives, where whale sharks would swim by the cast and crew’s boats. There was sharing moments with Diego Luna, drinking Spanish-style espresso. There was trying not to laugh when sharing the scene with Alan Tudyk, who plays the rogue droid K-2SO and on set was dressed in what was essentially a pajama suit with ski boots. She remembers walking out into an enormous set with hundreds of people around, including many Stormtroopers without their helmets on.
“It’s a magical experience and one you’re constantly storing these moments and remembering them ’coz hopefully when I’m a little old lady at 95 I’ll be looking back at them fondly,” she says.
“In Wadi Rum, I remember seeing a Stormtrooper standing on a ridge, and we just turned to each other and went, ‘how incredible is this?’ It was extraordinary.”
Particularly extraordinary for Jones was the international nature of the cast. “Rogue One” features actors from America (Forest Whitaker), Australia (Ben Mendelsohn), Denmark (Mads Mikkelsen), Mexico (Luna), Hong Kong (Donnie Yen), China (Wen Jiang) and England, among others. “All of us come from different countries and what was so wonderful was hearing all these languages when you’re filming.” Whatever pressure she felt having to carry such a significant film was assuaged by the presence of such a cast. “I felt like the pressure was always shared between all of us,” she says. “We all have similar approaches. We all care about film, we all love good acting and with Gareth, it felt like we were all in it together.”
“Rogue One” also represents the pinnacle of the greatest year in Jones’ career, which is saying something, considering that Jones had appeared in a lot of movies, notably gaining an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for 2014’s “The Theory of Everything.”
This year, she’d already appeared in two big films, the Patrick Ness adaptation “A Monster Calls” and the Dan Brown adaptation “Inferno” opposite Tom Hanks.
Just keep going
She shrugs it off. “I guess I just keep going. I just read scripts and respond to them and I try not to be too strategic or have too strong a sense of career because I always find at the moment you try and manipulate things and I’m going to do this or I’m going to do that, it all falls apart because you can never predict anything and you never know how things will turn out. So I’ve always been led by working with good, interesting people and the only thing that has been different is work that was more stunt-based and I was ready for that and I love telling stories on a big scale and on a smaller indie scale. I like going between the two.”
Whatever happens next, Jones is buckled in for the ride, and, despite her apparent calm, understands how big “Rogue One” is. Everyone in the cast did.
“It was very much an adventure because we would often do very, very long takes. Gareth really likes to explore and find things out together so it was one of those situations where we got to know each other very quickly. I mean, Forest Whitaker and Donnie Yen, they’re very, very experienced. They would have a very different approach, but I think for everyone, you couldn’t help but be a fan and really geeky about it. I think we definitely all shared that. I mean, it’s Star Wars!”
Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opens in cinemas on Dec. 15.