March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin discuss long-distance love

Friday, Dec. 16 — When it came to understanding the dynamics of long-distance love, “Like Crazy” stars Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin were already experts before the cameras rolled.
“I’m an actor, so I’m always in a long-distance relationship,” Jones explained in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “So I definitely empathized with how it feels to be away from home and in transit.”
Yelchin felt the same way.
“I think, inevitably, whenever you have a relationship, if you’re an actor it becomes a long-distance one,” he said. “You’re gone for three months (on movie shoots) and it’s hard for me to have people come to visit because I need my space, really, when I’m working and there are specific time periods when I really can’t have anybody there. Even when I select days when it’s OK for somebody to visit, I just feel weird. You feel bad: You’re always having to, like, worry that they’re comfortable and happy, and you need to be focused on your job. I’ve only had two serious relationships, but each inevitably became long-distance because I’d leave for work.”
“The whole point of being in a relationship is spending time with someone,” Jones added. “So to do it across Skype and e-mails is very difficult. But I think, like any relationship, it depends how much people want to be in it, and if you make the decision to make it work, you can make it work.”
The British-born, Oxford-educated Jones — who has a long-term romance in England — said she and her boyfriend do make that extra effort.
“I think we just made sure you speak as regularly as possible and I think, you know, if you’re with someone you have to give them the freedom to pursue what they love doing, and that’s part of the deal when you’re with someone who’s in a creative field. I think just being open and communicating as much as possible helps in any long-distance relationship.”
Playing a couple of college students that jeopardize their love by pushing boundaries, Jones and Yelchin have irresistible chemistry in “Like Crazy.” It’s a textbook case of opposites attracting. In real life, Jones is the epitome of cosmopolitan classiness, choosing her words carefully and often punctuating her sentences with warm, welcoming smiles.
For example, she gently sidestepped a question about whether she had turned down the Snow White role in “Mirror Mirror,” the fairy tale comedy with Julia Roberts and Arnie Hammer.
“I was doing a play in London,” she explained, “and I had worked with the director before, so it had been a long-standing agreement. But I like to move. It just all depends on the script and the character, and if you get a good feeling about when you read a script and feel you’re going to be excited by something, then you should do it. I tend not to get bogged down by generic identifications. I think you just have to make sure you’re doing stuff that excites you.”
Yelchin is earthier and less restrained, dropping F-bombs at regular intervals and frequently making fun of himself: At one point in the interview, he referred to the movie’s rehearsal and shooting process as “putting all the ingredients together and getting ready to put everything in the oven, but actually putting it in the oven on that day.” A beat later, he paused and rolled his eyes. “That’s a stupid metaphor,” he groaned.
He had an easier time discussing separation anxiety.
“Our whole culture is geared to this idea of unity,” Yelchin said. “But it’s really about fractured experience, you know? Because you’re made to think if you have Face Time, or whatever it’s called on your iPhone, that you’re with the person but you’re really not. I mean, they’re on a fuckin’ screen: You can’t touch them, smell them, feel them. Sometimes you can’t even see them well enough because they’re pixilated. And it becomes rather depressing at a certain point.”
Asked if he’s ever gone to great lengths to win a woman’s heart, Yelchin paused for a moment and then shared an anecdote.
“I feel like I did one really nice thing on Valentine’s Day where I set up all these little paper hearts that I cut out — and they were shitty, ‘cuz I can’t cut nice hearts out of Post-Its — but I cut them and I set them up all around our bedroom that led to the bathroom where I set up flowers and really cheesy ‘70s records. And I was proud of it. I was like, I’m fuckin’ nailin’ it right now. She loved it — at least she feigned loving it really, really well.”
Jones did not have to feign her admiration for Yelchin or director Drake Doremus, she said. After some initial nervousness, she said, everything fell into place.
“We never met before we started making the film, so it was incredibly daunting, knowing the journey we were about to embark upon,” Jones said. “And then we met at a Mexican restaurant with Drake, we all sat down and ate some nice food and I really quickly realized it was going to be fine. We were all on the same wavelength and we all wanted to produce something brave and exciting. And hopefully, we did.”
“Like Crazy” was largely improvised, with Jones and Yelchin shaping the scenes while Doremus coached them.
“There was an outline,” Jones said.” It has the beats and it has scenes. I just loved the tone of it. I had just finished doing a snowboarding comedy (“Chalet Girl,” which opened last spring in Europe), so I was ready for something a little more introspective.”
“Like Crazy” was shot in one month, and there was no time to waste since Yelchin was due to start filming on the 3D thriller “Fright Night” immediately afterward. The immersive process was both exciting and overwhelming, Yelchin said.
“We shot such long days and six-day weeks, and you just forget — you forget you have a whole other life and you live this other person’s life and that becomes you. And when you’re done, it’s ‘wait a minute.’ There’s another life that you live, with friends and I had a girlfriend at the time, and Felicity has her boyfriend and they’ve been together for a long time.”
Jones’ relationship survived; Yelchin’s did not. “I saw (my girlfriend) once that entire month,” he said. “It’s selfish, but if you don’t go there, the movie doesn’t work.”
Jones, whose character, Anna, is an aspiring author and reporter, spent much of her downtime working with words.
“The main thing was to write, because Anna is a writer and a budding journalist. I just wrote all the pieces that you see in the film. I just wrote for myself all the books that she does and the poem and the letters. It helps you to believe in the character. Then once you believe in the character, you can make other people believe in the character.”
She spent some time in the offices of Flaunt Magazine for research. “But the main thing was just having these rehearsals with Drake and Anton where we’d rehearse from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.,” she said. “Because Drake is not afraid to be unconventional about moviemaking, it means everyone immediately relaxes and you can test boundaries.”
Jones and Doremus, both 28, are older than Yelchin, but the 22-year-old said the age difference generally did not pose any problems — except once.
“The one time that I felt younger than them was when they made a ‘Dawson’s Creek’ reference,” Yelchin said. “And I was, like, ‘Awesome?’ But that’s the only time.”

“Like Crazy” is now playing at NCG Eastwood in Lansing.