Come December, a small little film is released upon the world. It will undoubtedly rattle as many cages as last December’s cinema going experience. Whilst last year was foremost a sequel and a continuation of an on-going, exceptionally popular franchise, this year we have the first in an expected long line of potential spin-offs to further this galaxy of hidden adventures. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits UK screens on December 16th, helmed by Monsters and Godzilla (2014) director Gareth Edwards, providing a new vision for the franchise that, noticeable from the trailers alone, appears in a much darker vision.
Whilst the film has been heavily under wraps from the get go, i think it’s made all too frank that recurring cast members from the initial saga won’t be reprising — i think those cameos will be saved for further sequels, like next years Episode VIII, directed by Looper’s Rian Johnson. So who’s taking front and centre with Rogue One?
British actress Felicity Jones tackles one of the heftiest roles in her career as she’s introduced to a galaxy far, far away, unlike anything she’s ever dealt with before.
Born in an affluent suburb in Birmingham, Jones’ impressive schooling from a young age to a glimmering adult has truly paid off. Some, like myself, may know her from ITV’s The Worst Witch series, starring in it’s pilot season, followed by a handful of other British TV programmes that spanned from 2003 to 2009. It wasn’t until 2009 that Jones’ big break hit, starring alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates and a dozen British talents such as Toby Kebbell, Rupert Friend and Tom Burke in the period drama Chéri, followed by the Ricky Gervais drama Cemetery Junction. Both proved worthy of all talents involved, and really Jones’ career began to lift.
Drake Doremus’ critically acclaimed Like Crazy, however, is Jones’ career-blossoming moment. Her portrayal as Anna was acclaimed and garnered the young actress a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and truly an unforgettable chemistry with on-screen partner — the late, great Anton Yelchin — had them improvising a large chunk of their script, thus proving Jones’ talents.
She later showed her energetic side, starring alongside Gossip Girls’ Ed Westwick in a lighter-than-air romantic comedy Chalet Girl. Jones withstood two months of snowboarding lessons to prepare for the role and actually worked undercover in a chalet in St. Anton. She has since released a statement that this role was something of a “relief”, ably letting her hair down and having fun performing something lighter than her usual titles. Soon after, she rejoined forced with director Doremus for the romantic drama Breathe In.
The Academy soon caught an eye full of Ms. Jones, however, come 2014 when she starred as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The film, though brimming with powerhouse performances from all, gave Jones the ability to ultimately flesh her acting chops. And in turn, the attempt at playing in a biopic with such an emotional gut punch worked stupendously well for the actress, paralleling with the great Eddie Redmayne in the lead role and both highlighting the true complexities of falling in love and the lengths you go for one another. The performance was met with adoration from all, including nominations for Best Actress at the Oscars, a BAFTA for Actress in a Leading Role and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. The nominations and all the praise was justified, and those that recognised Felicity from previous works, like myself, were sprouting with glee that this talent was finally getting noticed.
In 2016, Jones has three projects in the pipeline. The first, pairing with Tom Hanks in Dan Brown’s latest crime thriller Inferno, directed by the unstoppable Ron Howard in a film that’ll no doubt have the actress running for her life one way or another, and the second is based off a novel of the same name by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls. Visionary director J.A. Bayona directs Jones alongside former cast mate Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and newcomer Lewis MacDougall in this visually enticing fantasy drama where a young boy seeks the help of a tree monster to help deal with his mother’s illness.
Last but not least, Rogue One. Jones’ foot in the saga’s doors has her playing the lead, Jyn Erso, as the film’s setting is that before the events of A New Hope. The film itself will focus on a group of Rebel spies on a mission to steal the plans of the Galactic Empire’s new weapon, the Death Star. The film is based off an original idea from visual effects supervisor John Knoll.
Jones’ career has revved from British period piece to enormous big-budget blockbuster, but it certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t prove her talent as one of the biggest talents to come out of our shores this decade.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is released in UK cinemas on December 16th.