“Don’t do it,” whispers “Like Crazy” star Felicity Jones.
“Stay away!” urges co-star Anton Yelchin.
That’s their advice for people thinking of getting into a long-distance relationship, and the actors are only sort of kidding. The romantic, sad “Like Crazy,” opening Nov. 4, demonstrates that bridging a love across London and Los Angeles isn’t as easy as just knowing the other person cares about you. When British college student Anna (Jones) violates her visa to spend the summer with her American boyfriend Jacob (Yelchin, pronounced yell-chin), she’s forbidden from returning to the States, and the lovebirds’ connection faces its biggest challenge—especially considering the presence of Jacob’s fetching co-worker Sam (Jennifer Lawrence).
To build their chemistry for the largely improvised film, Yelchin, Jones and director/co-writer Drake Doremus rehearsed 12 hours a day for five straight days. The connection comes through wonderfully on screen. and increases the name recognition for the 22-year-old Yelchin, best known for his roles in “Star Trek” and “Fright Night,” and 27-year-old Jones, who has several more projects on the way, including “Hysteria” with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy, and Doremus’ untitled next film, which shot this past summer with Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan.
At the Four Seasons Hotel, Yelchin and Jones, who says she’s “ridiculed constantly” by Yelchin and Doremus “because I’m English,” talked about separating themselves from their improv-influenced characters, singer Fergie’s thoughts on missing someone and how different punctuation would have made “Like Crazy” a much different movie.
When thinking of songs about missing someone, I can’t help but think of Fergie singing, “I’m going to miss you like a child misses his blanket.” How well did she capture the feeling of longing there?
Felicity Jones: [Laughs.]
Anton Yelchin: I don’t even know that Fergie song.
FJ: I don’t know [it either], but I think it’s a good line.
You think that works?
FJ: When you’re a kid you really like your blanket—
AY: What are the lyrics to “Miss You,” to the Stones song? I just remember [sings music], “Do do do do do-do-do. Do do do do do-do-do. ‘Cause I miss you.”
Felicity, how do you know when a blanket loves you back?
FJ: Oh, I don’t know. That’s hard. I don’t know. Can a blanket love you back? I think it’s pretty unrequited affection that you have for a blanket.
AY: Blankets are pretty selfless, though.
FJ: They’re selfish!
AY: They’re selfless! Have you ever seen a blanket at the beginning of a relationship with a baby and at the end? By the end it’s like a nothing.
FJ: You’re right. A blanket’s very giving.
Obviously Fergie had more to say on the issue than the Stones.
FJ: [Laughs.] We can’t even think of the [Stones] lyrics.
AY: Fergie knows what’s up!
Most people would say long-distance relationships don’t work, yet given the opportunity to get into one many give it a shot anyway. Why do people think they can do what others can’t?
FJ: I think it’s because of having text messages and Skype. I think technology makes you think you can. I’m sure back in the day, when it was a boat ride to see someone for two weeks, it wasn’t the same … Having all these inventions makes you feel that you can still have that intimacy, but I think it’s a bit of a false notion.
AY: I think when they’re in it they don’t think it’s going to fail. I think people don’t want to lose someone just because of distance. When they really care about one another, you don’t want to say, “Oh, just because we’re going to be in different places …”
FJ: “We’re just going to give up.”
AY: You never just want to give it up.
I asked readers for what they thought I should ask today, and @bekagan wanted to know about your own experiences and lessons from long-distance relationships.
FJ: I think they’re really difficult. As actors we’re all sort of like gypsies really. We’re all in different places at different times and it’s really hard to stay in a relationship when you’re constantly moving.
AY: One of the things specifically that happens with Anna and Jacob is they tend to idealize their honeymoon period and feel like because things change so dramatically, the rest of their relationship they have to try to get back to that emotion. [Instead of] acknowledging the evolution and process of their relationship, they’re trying to relive a moment and therefore suffering because that moment just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s changed. It’s something else. And I think people tend to do that whether it’s a long-distance relationship or a regular relationship. I think that we tend to idealize that honeymoon period because it’s that most exciting period but things will end if you can’t continue to change and appreciate the changes as opposed to comparing them.
Tell me about the challenge of using improv to create these characters while still making them different from yourselves.
FJ: You start with the page, really. It depends how someone’s responding to the situation and you create the character from then on. So with Anna she knows she’s obsessive about Jacob and she pursues the relationship from the very beginning. And that was sort of my starting point in a way, this very forward woman. And you look at her background and her family, she’s from a very secure family and she’s got very loving parents. I think that gives her a lot of confidence in the world to go out there and get what she wants. And then you just keep building on that, and also her being a writer and that obviously affects the way she interacts. I think she’s someone who loves words and seems to speak a lot more than Jacob does. I think the best way to describe it is finding clues in the script and then you create the character from that.
Anton, was that a challenge for you? As you build the rapport together, I can see how it would be easy to slip into feeling like Anton and Felicity are getting to know each other, not Jacob and Anna.
AY: What you do in a rehearsal period is you work out who these people are and where their relationship is—specific moments. You do all the homework so you never leave the framework of who this human being is and, furthermore, the framework of the situation that they’re in. Because if you are ever unsure of where the person’s at, it’s going to become you speaking. Whereas you always want to keep it as that human being. And Jacob and I are very different. It’s still the challenge of making sure that you are always within that place. It’s the challenge but it’s also what’s so exciting about it is that you get to live this person’s world so intensely.
What would the movie have been like if there was a comma after “Like” and an exclamation point after “Crazy”?
AY: (in Valley Girl voice) “Like, Crazy!”
FJ: [Laughs.] It would be like a high school movie instead. (obnoxious high school voice). “Like, crazy.”
AY: It would then become ironic, which I think Drake actually is not [ironic] at all. He’s very emotionally connected. He doesn’t treat these people with irony or their relationship with irony.
FJ: No, he doesn’t want the audience to stand outside [of their relationship]. He wants you to be involved.
Anton, what would you say to someone who sees “Like Crazy” and says, “Oh, poor guy, having to juggle two beautiful women.”?
AY: I’m sure they’re right to some degree! I think it’s hard if you’ve never been through that to understand it. But most people do get it. We tend as a culture to believe there’s one right person for you at all times, but there isn’t. Everything is a kind of process and a process of understanding, and I think to that person I say, “[Bleep] you.”
AY: No, I can understand that point, though. But to be honest—
FJ: But different people bring different things out of you.
AY: Exactly. And in that place—
FJ: And that’s the whole point of the film. It’s not trying to be too black and white.
AY: It’s not. It’s gray. And that’s the thing is he loves Sam but it’s not the same as with Anna. And so he can’t tell Sam he loves her because he knows there’s a different kind of love reserved for someone else. It’s an emotionally taxing situation.
Felicity, what do you want to see out of the new “Star Trek”?
FJ: I want to see more of Chekhov. [Laughs.]
AY: (nudges her) Great.
FJ: Is that your character?
AY: Yeah, that’s his name.
FJ: [Laughs.] I think it should all be about Chekhov.
AY: He should be improvising.
FJ: I think Chekhov should be improvising a love story in “Star Trek.”
Yeah, why don’t they do more “Star Trek” spinoff movies?
AY: I don’t know.
FJ: There should be more improvised “Star Trek.”
AY: Yeah, more improvised “Star Trek.” We have a lot more money on “Star Trek,” so we have a lot more time and freedom to improvise everything.
FJ: And you can improvise for hours!
So what can we expect?
AY: I have no idea. They don’t tell me that until I get to actually work. So I have no idea.
Do you know when it starts?
AY: Some point next year. It’s pretty gray, my understanding of it.
Felicity, Drake says you were the only person who auditioned by sending in a tape of the last scene of Anna, in the shower. Tell me why you did that, and Anton, what went through your head when you heard about it?
FJ: [Laughs.] Just by getting naked.
AY: I was like, “Well, obviously.”
FJ: “She just filmed the scene in her shower.” … I don’t know, it’s extremely flattering. The whole thing has felt so instinctive all the way, and I’m just lucky to have found Anton and Drake.
AY: I feel the same way. Drake sent me a tape after Felicity auditioned. I just thought it was great when we got together; it just felt lucky to be on this team together. On this team! Goin’ for the gold!
FJ: [Laughs.] Team! Team!
Plus: Director/co-writer Drake Doremus, 28, on…
Treating every scene like a sex scene: “I think whether it is a sex scene or whether it is just two people having an intimate conversation on the floor in front of a bed, every scene is treated as if they’re nude. Because they’re so emotionally nude that I don’t want a bunch of grips and a bunch of people standing around watching. I want it to feel as intimate as possible so they don’t feel like they’re in a movie. That they’re just actually in a real moment and the camera just happens to be off to the side. We had a 15-person crew but really at the end of the day there was nobody on set. The crew was outside in the Winnebago. We’d set up the scene and then everyone would leave. And we’d just stay in there until we got it.”
How people will feel about love after seeing “Like Crazy”: “Hopefully people are excited about love and hopefully people feel romantic when they watch the movie. I feel like it’s a very hopeful look at love in a way. What’s exciting about it is you can’t help who you love and in a way it’s scary but in a way it’s exciting.”
On what onscreen love stories get wrong: “I think sometimes onscreen love stories can be real plotty. You feel things coming or you feel it forcing a relationship to go in a certain direction. And I think hopefully what we tried to do with this film was to just get the little moments and the real moments and the moments that actually add up to a full relationship. Not just the ones that feel very story driven but the ones that feel like you’re entrenched inside of a relationship.”
What he wants to do in Chicago: “I want to go to a Blackhawks game, but they’re not here. I’m a big hockey fan. [I root for the] Ducks. I’m from Orange County.” (What Yelchin wants to do: “Go to Chess Records.” And Jones? “Go swimming on one of those rooftops.”)
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