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Actress Spotlight: Felicity Jones

"The Makings of a Star"

2016 has been a busy year for Felicity Jones. She already starred alongside Tom Hanks in Inferno and is set to appear in two movies this month: the emotional fantasy-drama A Monster Calls and some small sci-fi fare that people are probably not that interested in.

Jones was born and raised in Birmingham, the second biggest city in the UK. Her father was a local journalist and her mother worked in advertising – and she was close to her uncle Michael Hadley: a prolific TV actor. She got a taste for acting at an early age, attending the Central Junior Television Workshop, earning her first roles. Jones first appeared on screen in the TV family film The Treasure Seeker, an adaptation of an E. Nesbit novel. The film also gave Keira Knightley an early role.
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Jones then appeared in the first season of The Worst Witch – an ITV children’s show based on a series of books by Jill Murphy. It was essentially a TV version of Harry Potter. Jones played the antagonistic Ethel Hallow – a star pupil who bullied Mildred Hubble and her friends. Think Malfoy crossed with Hermione Granger. The role was recast for the following seasons but Jones did reprise the role in the sequel series Weirdsister College, which finds Mildred and Ethel attend a magical university in Cambridge. Their relationship evolved into a friendship as the series progressed.

Jones’ other big role in her early career was playing Emma Carter in the long-running radio soap The Archers. It was her longest running role, playing the part for a decade.
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Before Jones attended university she took a gap year and starred in the BBC period drama Servants – a show that lasted for six episodes in 2003. Jones attended Wadham College, Oxford and earned a 2:1 degree in English. While at university she continued in her role on The Archers and starred in plays, including a summer tour in Japan of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors for the Oxford University Dramatics Society. Oxford and Cambridge tend to be excellent training grounds for British actors and entertainers.

Jones returned to the screen after graduating university, leading a TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, starring alongside Carey Mulligan, JJ Feild (Centurion) and Liam Cunningham. She also starred with David Morrissey, Lucy Cohu and Harry Treadaway in the drama series Cape Wrath (Meadowlands in the United States) for Channel Four, which saw a family go into witness protection after suffering a psychological consequences. The show only lasted one season because of low ratings.
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Many of Jones’ early parts post-university were in period dramas – she had supporting roles in the 2008 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited and Chéri with Michelle Pfeiffer. She also played Margot Frank in the BBC/France 2 miniseries The Diary of Anne Frank and she appeared in the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp”. Like Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, Jones has done very well after appearing in an episode of the popular sci-fi show.

It was in 2011 when Jones truly came into prominence, having leading roles in two movies. The first was Chalet Girl, playing Kim Matthews, a former skateboarding prodigy who works at an Austrian ski resort and takes up snowboarding. It was a standard British teen rom-com, filled with montages and a soundtrack complete with pop songs, but Jones earned a lot of praise in the main role, being a cynical working girl who ends up working in a posh chalet and a witty presence despite the obvious direction. The other major 2011 film she starred in was Like Crazy: an American indie romance that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Jones starred as a British exchange student in the United States who falls in love with an American student, but the two become separated after her student visa expires. Like Crazy was made on a $250,000 budget and made $3.7 million at the box office and saw Jones appear with other young stars, like Anton Yelchin and a pre-Katniss Jennifer Lawrence.
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As well as these leading roles, Jones had supporting roles in three other films. Jones played Miranda in Julie Taymor’s The Tempest – a Shakespeare adaptation that had an ensemble cast – including Helen Mirren, Ben Whishaw, Alfred Molina and Russell Brand. Jones also appeared in the historic rom-com Hysteria which was about the invention of the vibrator and starred alongside Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay in the British dramedy Albatross. She also appeared in the BBC TV film Page Eight, playing Bill Nighy’s daughter, and respired her role in a follow-up film in 2014.

Jones was able to follow-up this success by starring alongside Ralph Fiennes in his second directional effort The Invisible Woman – a historical drama about Charles Dickens’ affair with Ellen “Nelly” Ternan: a woman that was almost 30 years his junior. The movie earned positive reviews in the UK – getting four out of five scores from The Telegraph, The Guardian and Empire and a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the 6.1 rating on IMDB suggests audiences were not as receptive. Jones also appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – playing Felicia Hardy, who was Harry Osborn’s personal assistant and if the series had continued she would have played the alter-ego Black Cat. But The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was considered a disappointment and the Spider-Man series is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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Due to Jones’ youthful appearance, she was able to play teenage and young adult characters for a long time. She can pass herself off as a recent graduate if she wants.

Jones’ gained awards attention for her performance as Jane Wilde Hawking, Stephen Hawking’s wife in The Theory of Everything. The Theory of Everything was based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s autobiography and focused her relationship with the scientist – from when they first met at university to the end of their marriage: a story that spans 30 years. The Theory of Everything was similar to A Beautiful Mind, looking at the personal health and relationship struggles of a famous scientist and mathematician. Jones was nominated for a number of Best Actress Awards, including the Academy Award, The Golden Globe and the BAFTA while her co-star, Eddie Redmayne won the award for best actor.

Jones’ Oscar nomination led to her being offered bigger Hollywood roles – the first being in the third Robert Langdon adventure Inferno. Jones played Sienna Brooks, an English doctor working in Italy who helps an amnesiac Langdon piece together a mystery involving Dante’s Inferno to stop a deadly virus that could wipe out half the human population. Inferno suffered the same problems of previous Robert Langdon productions – illogical plotting and inaccurate history and it was financially the least successful – however, Jones did perfectly fine in the role.

Jones was also cast in a key supporting role in A Monster Calls – a movie that we at Entertainment Fuse gave a perfect score. Jones played the dying mother of a 12-year-old boy – she had less screentime than in Inferno but it was a more emotionally meaty role as her character became weaker and has to say goodbye to her son; it was a movie that brought a tear to my eye.

Her biggest role is yet to come, – playing the lead character in the first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One. The anthology series is an attempt by Disney to expand the Star Wars film universe beyond the Skywalker dynasty, with Rogue One being the first in a series of standalone films. Movies about Hans Solo and Bobo Fett are set to follow. Rogue One sees a team of Rebels go on a suicide mission to get plans for the Death Star – leading to the events of A New Hope. Jones beat Rooney Mara, Kate Mara and Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany to the role and she leads an incredible cast – featuring fan favorites like Ben Mendelson, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk and Forest Whittaker.
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Rogue One recently had its world premiere and the early reaction has been positive – although this type of reaction should be taken with a pinch of salt. Director Gareth Edwards has stated [to Empire] that there will be no sequel to Rogue One. However, assuming the movie is a critical and financial success then a follow-up is possible because, well, money talks. Even if there isn’t a sequel Jones and co-stars could end up appearing in other Star Wars films – either in cameos or main roles.

Jones only has one film coming out after Rogue One – the American-German action film Collide – where she co-stars with Nicholas Hoult. The movie has already been released in nations like Japan and Germany but is set to be released on 3 February 2017 in the United States – the distributor would certainly mention that Collide has the stars of a Star Wars film and the X-Men movies.

With an Oscar nomination to her name and a major blockbuster Jones will have a blank cheque to do any project she wants.

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