It is a seasonably brisk, sunny morning in The City, but in the Ritz-Carlton hotel a tempest is brewing, as Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, the handsome young stars of the acclaimed romantic drama “Like Crazy,” fiercely debate their favored methods of online procrastination.
“Words with Friends is stupid!” exclaims Jones, 27, the Birmingham, England, native (last seen, appropriately, in Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest”) who obviously prefers classic Scrabble. But Yelchin, 22, who regularly plays Words on his iPad, isn’t having it.
“There’s nothing an iPad can do that a laptop can’t,” interjects Drake Doremus, 28, who wrote and directed “Crazy,” a loosely autobiographical account of a long-distance relationship complicated by wandering hearts and expired visas.
“My laptop dies after 20 minutes, and it’s covered in [bodily fluids],” Yelchin shoots back, leaving Doremus rolling his eyes.
It is not, perhaps, an exchange for the ages, but it shows the chemistry that makes “Crazy” seem so authentic. Clearly, these three have a natural rapport — all playful testiness aside — that proved critical once the cameras started rolling.
Doremus, whose mother, Cherie Kerr, was a founding member of the Los Angeles-based improv troupe the Groundlings, began his theatrical education at age 6. He has incorporated the techniques he learned there into his own productions, recruiting actors who were willing to create scenes with him, contributing their own ideas and dialogue.
Yelchin and Jones admit the responsibility was intimidating, but they relished the license it gave them to put their stamp on Jacob and Anna, whose difficult courtship proves an obsessive quest to recapture the exuberance of early romance.
For Jones, that process began in the movie’s first stages. While Yelchin came to the project on the recommendation of “Crazy” producer Jonathan Schwartz, the actor’s onscreen love interest auditioned by filming herself in the shower.
The idea wasn’t entirely her own. With Doremus in Los Angeles and Jones in England, the director suggested she record two scenes from his bare-bones screenplay. She shot three.
“I used this awful, old-fashioned camera, and sent him a horribly low-quality video,” she says. “But I had to do something.”
“I got tons of tapes like that,” Doremus adds. “I told all the actresses — ‘Get in the shower! Frame it wide!’ But seriously, she owned it. Her scenes were backlit, like what you see in the movie. All the other actresses kept the light on their faces, so they were really bright and you could see every detail, like, ‘Look at me, I’m an actress!’ Felicity was more interested in capturing a mood.”
Starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones
Written and directed by Drake Doremus
Running time 1 hour 29 minutes