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Interview: Felicity Jones on A Monster Calls

Felicity Jones is in Hollywood to talk about her latest film , A Monster Calls. The night before, she hosted a cocktail reception at Gracias Madre, the following day, Jones was fielding interviews with journalists.

The film ranks up there as one of the year’s most poignant tearjerkers, a truly moving story of illness and grief based on a children’s book written by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the screenplay.

Jones plays Conor’s mother, a young woman battling cancer. Ness never mentions the C-word as we watch her deterioration. Conor has regular nightmares in which a tree outside his house turns into a monster and tells him stories. Each time, the monster tells Conor a different story. The fourth story is Conor’s to tell, the story that brings the whole film together in a gut-wrenching climax.

SPOILER ALERT… It’s Conor’s story and how a boy learns to let go.

I caught up for a  brief chat with Jones to discuss the film.

Awards Daily: This film is a real tearjerker. I’ve never seen so many people cry while watching a film. What was it like for you while you were reading the script?

Felicity Jones: I was completely blown away by it. I read the book and found it an emotional punch in the gut. I loved the fantasy elements of it, and how it also told a human story about difficult emotions. Through those elements, I found it interesting and thought it was unusual and wanted to be a part of that.

Awards Daily: How did you come to it?

FJ: Though Patrick’s version. That’s what I read, but you can feel the authenticity of Siobhan’s experience. I think that’s why it affected people so deeply because it was true to the human experience?

AD: What did you and J.A talk about?

FJ: I met him early on. We hit it on straight away, and I loved the authenticity he brought to the project. He has this Hitchcock approach to filmmaking that I like, and we all got together first in Manchester, and then Barcelona, so we actually had a long time to do improvisations, and rehearsals, and doing everything we could to make it relaxing by the time we got to the set.

AD: I loved the bond that you had with Lewis. How did you connect with him?

FJ: He’s a true actor. He takes it very seriously, and he works incredibly hard. He’s devoted, and we got on with each other, having a good laugh. We both wanted to do good laugh, and even with Sigourney, and there was just so much respect.

AD: What was your reaction when you found out Sigourney was going to play your mother?

FJ: It was a fantastic part. Everyone brought something so unique to the film.

AD: What did you have to do to get into this character’s head?

FJ: I spoke to women who had gone through the experience. They were really candid about what had happened, and they were great inspirations for the role. I’m not a mother myself, so I had to try to understand that dynamic. So, I had to stop myself from being too sweet to him. The parental-child relationship is tough love, so I was keen to show her in all her complexities. I was keen to show the characterizations of how the illness changes her body and her soul, and voice and the way it changes her.

AD: I love that there’s no mention of cancer. It’s just an illness and something is wrong.

FJ: That’s something true to the book. That he’s not fully aware of what’s happening, and he knows something isn’t right.

AD: What about the end scene ? When it all comes together. It’s such a beautiful story in the end about loss. What was it like seeing the film for the first time with all the CGI put in?

FJ: It was wonderful and magical. It was unusual, as I hadn’t seen anything like that before. When you watch something, I watch it from an analytical process, but I do ask my family and friends to give me an accurate picture of it. If they feel moved by it, I know they got it right.

AD: Do you remember what book gave you nightmares when you were a child?

FJ: I think The Witches. I was fascinated by them scratching their heads, and wearing gloves. I’d use to watch women and wonder if they were witches. It had that sort of impact on me.

AD: Did you see the film?

FJ: Yes. I was a big fan of Anjelica Huston growing up, and loved her work.

AD: How it is being a British actress for you here in Hollywood?

FJ: It’s international and you’re always looking at an international pool of scripts, and it’s a great thing to be a part of.