'Last Letter From Your Lover': Felicity Jones shares downside of romance in the rain (exclusive)
The dramatic and passionate clinch in the rain is a staple of romance movies over the years, from Breakfast at Tiffany's all the way through to Four Weddings and a Funeral and, of course, The Notebook.
But for Felicity Jones, the reality of filming one of these moments with co-star Nabhaan Rizwan for The Last Letter From Your Lover was decidedly lacking in classic Hollywood glamour.
"Because of the fake rain they use, the raindrops are massive. They come out of these huge shower heads almost," Jones tells Yahoo Entertainment UK.
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"It's not like normal rain, where you can actually open your eyes. With this fake rain, the raindrops are so huge and they're bashing on your eyelids.
"You're trying to open your eyes. I was trying to look at Nabhaan to do this really romantic scene and I could hardly even open my eyes."
She adds: "Even despite having the umbrella, those scenes are always a little bit of a struggle. And then you get completely soaked after every take."
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The 37-year-old reveals she got off a lot easier than Rizwan, who had to appear dry for the scene and so, as a result, was blasted with a hairdryer between scenes.
"I was quite lucky so I shouldn't really complain too much. I had an umbrella and a heavy coat, so I was fine," says Jones.
The movie — based on a novel by Jojo Moyes — stars Jones as journalist Ellie, who joins forces with archivist Rory (Rizwan) in order to investigate mysterious love letters they find in the newspaper archives.
Meanwhile, a second strand of the story follows the affair discussed in the letters, in which married socialite Jennifer (Shailene Woodley) bonds with dashing reporter Anthony (Callum Turner).
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"I think you can be cynical and in some ways it's easy to be cynical with a romance film. But that's sort of the joy of it," says Jones.
She adds: "You have to get on the ride and just enjoy it. It's incredibly feel-good really in the end.
"I think what's brilliant is that it doesn't get too sentimental or soppy. It's quite a truthful portrait. But in the end the good guys win, which is always good in cinema with this type of film."
Read our full interview with Felicity Jones, in which she discusses getting back into cinemas, her research into the journalism world and the intricacies of eating a croissant on screen...
Yahoo Movies UK: I can't remember the last time I saw you in a present day-set film?
Felicity Jones: That was a massive draw, actually, to be playing a contemporary character. As you say, I did a film called Chalet Girl years ago and I had wanted to do something similar for ages. So when I read Last Letter and the character of Ellie, I just leapt at it. It was that opportunity to not be in the past and not be in the future. Just to be bang in the present was so enticing.
Were you familiar with the book at all before you were sent the script?
I hadn't read the book. Jojo [Moyes] and I had met years ago. We were looking for something to do together and then, by coincidence, this script came along a year or so after that meeting. Then I read the script and went to the book, obviously, to help inform playing Ellie and understanding what the changes had been from the book to the screenplay.
I understand the book is quite a hefty one in terms of size?
Yes, but Jojo has such an easy way of writing. It's very readable and you whip through it. It's a very enjoyable read. I would recommend it.
As I was watching the movie, I was thinking of all of those Nicholas Sparks adaptations we got a decade or so ago. It has a similar feel to those.
I think there has been a bit of a gap for this kind of drama. There's something so joyous in it and I feel as though the word joyous hasn't been used in terms of films for ages. As you say, it has probably gone slightly out of fashion. But I think particularly now with everything we've been through, there's a real appetite for something celebratory and humorous that you can get completely lost in. It's a fantastic, feel-good film.
And in this country, of course, it's in cinemas.
I think it'll be the kind of thing that people would like to see. It's lovely to go with a group of friends and it's definitely a communal film to watch and be transported. After everything we've gone through, being in the cinema just feels like absolute bliss to be taken away with a magical story.
I think this film gets the newsroom vibe pretty spot on. Did you have any experience of visiting newsrooms to help you get into playing the character?
I spoke with different journalists and wanted to get a feel for what it was like to be a contemporary journalist. It was interesting that often you don't spend a lot of time actually writing in the office these days. The office is a bit of a counterpoint to your home, even before the pandemic. You'll go in and have the meeting with the editor and get the information you need, but a lot of the actual heavy lifting of the writing is done privately. We actually changed a scene so that Ellie could be at home rather than writing it in the office. I find as much experience and information and research as I can get. I'm quite academic with finding the way into the role, which is really helpful.
And did you have any specific inspirations? It feels like there's a bit of Bridget Jones in there.
Hadley Freeman was a big inspiration. Her kind of writing as well. It's often quite autobiographical but there's also a political edge to it. She was a good model for Ellie's writing.
I wanted to ask about the scene where you have to eat a croissant all in one go. How "method" were you there?
I was actually really excited about it. I couldn't wait to be munching on croissants all morning. I'm a big croissant fan. But then, as we got to sort of take six, I was thinking: "This is a little bit too much and it's not quite as enjoyable as it was when we first started". So then I had a bin. I could chew and then spit it out. But with that kind of scene, it does take a little bit of time to get it right because the timing is so key. You've got to get the timing so precise, so I did end up having to eat a lot of croissant in order to achieve that.
Of course you share a lot of those scenes with Nabhaan Rizwan. Your chemistry is really great in the film. How did you go about establishing that bond?
Nabhaan is just incredibly funny to work with. He has a really good sense of timing and there was a very natural rapport between us and a similar sense of humour. The script was very well-written and we could pivot off that and try things out. We would improvise a little bit around the script. But Nabhaan just has a really natural way and a natural flair.
One of the things I really appreciated about the film is that it's not afraid to run headlong into the romance movie clichés. It just indulges in them and enjoys them, which I really liked about it.
I think you can be cynical and in some ways it's easy to be cynical with a romance film. But that's sort of the joy of it. It's an homage to so many old romances of the 40s that, as you say, you have to get on the ride and just enjoy it. It's incredibly feel-good really in the end. I think what's brilliant is that it doesn't get too sentimental or soppy. It's quite a truthful portrait. But in the end the good guys win, which is always good in cinema with this type of film.
And you get your running to the doorstep in the rain scene, which must have been fun?
Exactly. You can't really have a romantic comedy without a scene in the rain. It's sort of obligatory now.
Was that a fun one to film or were you just like a drowned rat?
Well, because of the fake rain they use, the raindrops are massive. They come out of these huge shower heads, almost. It's not like normal rain, where you can actually open your eyes. With this fake rain, the raindrops are so huge and they're bashing on your eyelids. You're trying to open your eyes. I was trying to look at Nabhaan to do this really romantic scene and I could hardly even open my eyes. Even despite having the umbrella, those scenes are always a little bit of a struggle.
And then you get completely soaked after every take. So poor Nabhaan, after each take they were hairdrying his shirt to make him look like he'd just come from indoors. They are a little bit laborious.
At least you got the umbrella. Poor Nabhaan.
Exactly, I was quite lucky so I shouldn't really complain too much. I had an umbrella and a heavy coat, so I was fine.
We've spoken a lot about how movies like this are uplifting comfort movies, especially over the last year. Are there movies you reach for in situations like that, when you're at home and it's a bit rainy outside?
Definitely, there's those classic films like Dirty Dancing and Bridget Jones's Diary — I think I've seen that about a million times — and Four Weddings and a Funeral. They're funny and they're very well-written so you just keep coming back to them. They just work. I always love watching those films, so it was quite fun to be in one.
As well as being in this film, you're also credited as an executive producer for the first time. What form does that take for you?
It's formalised and gives a credit to what tends to happen when you're playing a lead. You are quite involved in the early development process and you'll be having discussions and script changes. With this, it was a very collaborative process. Augustine Frizzell was very open, and Pete Czernin who produced the film and Shailene [also credited as executive producer] and I. We were able to have a voice throughout the whole process from beginning to end.
Of course you're sharing top billing here with Shailene, but presumably you never met while you were making the film?
Unfortunately we didn't have any scenes together, which was quite sad when we realised that was going to be the case. I had wanted to work with Shailene for years. I think she's a brilliant actress and I've loved watching all of the work she has been doing and the choices she has made over the last few years.
So it was a bit disappointing that there's not a single moment or a scene together, but I think spiritually there's a lot of interaction. These two women are speaking to each other through the years, even though they aren't literally on camera at the same time.
And of course you have this nostalgic quality of letters which, as your character says, have fallen by the wayside in the last few decades. Was that a big selling point of the story for you?
I love the idea of letter writing, though I don't always get to write them or have the time. I think letters are a fantastic way of communicating honestly and with vulnerability. That's what Ellie taps into when she's reading them. She becomes completely obsessed and entranced by these letters because of their honesty. It felt like a great story to tell, which has this sweeping, enduring love. It's a love that goes beyond its time. To have it counterpointed with this contemporary story of two people falling in love felt like a novel way of telling the story.
You mentioned your connection with Jojo before you were attached to this movie. Would you be keen to work with her again in adapting some more of her stories?
Absolutely. I think she creates such empathetic characters, who do translate incredibly well to the screen. She really captures their vulnerabilities and flaws and humanity. So without a doubt, I'd love to.
What's up next for you on the horizon?
I've got various projects coming up and I'm looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into something. I'm developing different projects and I've optioned books, so there's a lot going on to keep me busy.
We mentioned earlier that this has a cinema release in the UK and a streaming release in some other places. Is there any regret that some audiences won't get that communal experience we spoke about earlier?
Well, I think we're in a moment right now where we have both and we can relish both. I think definitely people are desperate to get back to cinemas and it's such a special experience, but what has been fantastic about being able to watch content at home is that I think the stories have got so much more grown up and we've got such a variety of storytelling. We're definitely in a new epoch of some really fascinating drama. I think the two can co-exist and can exist quite happily because they serve different masters.
I think that's true. We've talked for a long time about that sort of mid-budget movie kind of disappearing. Part of me thinks streaming gives that a real opportunity to come back?
Yes, and interestingly it has probably come back more in terms of television series. But exactly. That used to be the mainstay of going to the cinema — those middle-budget, more grown-up stories. We've suddenly been allowed to see them again. And on streaming, there's a massive demand for them and you're reaching out to people who can't always get to the cinema for various reasons. You've just got a different kind of story being told than traditionally was starting to happen at the cinema.
The Last Letter From Your Lover is in UK cinemas from 6 August.