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LIKE CRAZY

The Performances
With everything else so stripped away, much of Like Crazy would hang on the performances, which meant that casting was vital. For Jacob and Anna, the filmmakers needed two youthful actors who would not only be interesting in their own right, but could touch and tangle with each other like a real couple who feel compelled to try to be together, no matter what the world throws at them.

"The key to the film is that you really like and enjoy these characters,” says producer Jonathan Schwartz. "You had to have that likeability with Jacob and Anna, but also at the same time you had to have the complexity and emotional nakedness that make their connection authentic.”

First to come aboard was Anton Yelchin, a young actor whose work has already been both acclaimed and highly diverse, ranging from his breakout role in Hearts Of Atlantis to playing Chekhov in J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek to his recent leading role in the vampire-themed hit Fright Night. For Like Crazy, Yelchin would have to give his most stripped-down and vulnerable performance to date. The filmmakers began considering Yelchin early on for the role. "Anton is one of the most talented and sensitive actors in that age group and as soon as I met him, I knew he could embody Jacob,” says the writer/director.

Adds Schwartz: "I've been friends with Anton for a long time and have always wanted to work with him, but when Drake and Anton met, they clicked so well together, it was incredible even to me. They both wanted to get to something that would be very, very honest.”

Sperling notes: "There is even a little bit of a resemblance between Drake and Anton that is interesting. Anton is so smart and he matches Drake's passion in his own way.”

Yelchin's Jacob is a quiet, perceptive artist – a young man of few words but considerable depth, who opens up as he never has before in the catalytic presence of Anna. The actor was drawn immediately to the character – and, even more so, to Doremus' method of giving his actors unlimited room to improvise. "The opportunity for an actor to do an improv film like this is so rare,” he says. "It gives you so much more freedom to really get to know your character, to understand and feel every word that comes out of his mouth so well, to gain perspective on his every move. Drake and Ben wrote a beautiful outline – it was so moving and so emotional – but it was also just a beginning and the process itself was liberating.”

Part of that process was peering into Jacob's work as a furniture designer, which vies with Anna as the most important thing in his life. "The first really profound thing that informed Jacob was that Drake, Ben and I went to visit the artist who also created Jacob's chairs for the movie – this guy named Dakota,” explains Yelchin "He's an extraordinary artist and a fascinating man. I loved the way he talked about the importance of his furniture to him and his feelings of connection to it. Everything he said somehow magically mirrored what Jacob feels about Anna – he talked a lot about the wish to find something permanent in a world of impermanence. I think that's a lot of what drives Jacob with Anna – that wish to take a beautiful connection and try as hard as you can to make it last.”

In rehearsals that sometimes lasted 8 or 9 hours, Yelchin then began to hammer out the inner details of Jacob and Anna's relationship with Felicity Jones.

"We did exercises, we talked, we went to dinner, we acted out scenes, and over time, I think the three of us – Drake, Felicity and myself – grew together, learned about one another and began to trust the process,” he says. "It was a profoundly important rehearsal period. We'd map out the points that we were going to touch on, but we never went so far as to kill it or exhaust it because we wanted it all to happen in front of the camera.”

A palpable chemistry with Jones was apparent from those early days. "Felicity is wonderful,” Yelchin says. "She's extremely intelligent, and that intelligence informs her performance in the film. She's very different from Anna and I don't think either of us would have made the same decisions they do, but we both felt that as long as we knew who these two people were, we would know how to react with each other.”

He continues: "It was a very intense thing for both of us. There were times when it was just four of us in a room – me and Anna and Drake and the cameraman and it was so intimate, it was like Drake might as well have been under the covers with us.”

Like almost everyone, Yelchin knew first-hand some of the feelings that Jacob confronts. "It's such a relatable story,” he comments. "I've had the relationship where you are constantly stressed out because you're away from the other person, and I've known that feeling where you want to trust someone but you also have a fear of doing so. But what I think is most powerful about the film is that it's not about love as this fairy tale force that makes everything all right and it's not about love as this negative force that messes up your life. It's about how love can really be both things in the same day, even in the same conversation. It's a complicated thing and Like Crazy is honest about the complications.”

Complicating things further is that the same magnetic forces that draw Jacob and Anna together also seem to push them apart. "Jacob is very passive-aggressive and Anna's very emotional and forceful,” Yelchin notes. "It's what they're so attracted to in each other, but it also becomes part of what causes their relationship to suffer. Jacob sees in Anna someone he can trust with his being, but then he comes to question that.”

When Jacob begins to retreat from Anna, he finds refuge with Sam, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who despite her alluring sweetness, Yelchin sees as the film's most tragic character. "The way Jennifer plays her, Sam is so smart, nice, cool and beautiful – and you think, how could anyone not want to be with this wonderful person? But of course Jacob can't really be with her because he's also somewhere else,” he explains.

In the end, Yelchin says that trying to create something so raw and directly from the heart demanded some of the richest creativity of his young career. "Drake really wanted us to be honest, but to do that requires even more of a performance,” he explains. "You have to create so much from scratch, and at the same time you come to see that Jacob and Anna are also performing for each other, so there are several layers to it. It's a hyper-real place to be -- and sometimes Felicity and I did feel like we were going crazy! -- but I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was an extraordinary feeling to truly create a character and to be completely unbounded by anything except that creation.”

When Yelchin first joined the production, his co-star still remained a mystery. Doremus, Schwartz and Sperling had been auditioning young British actress after young British actress, but no one was fitting the bill. It was only five days before the start of production when rapidly rising star Felicity Jones suddenly emerged as the front-runner – after she submitted a rather unconventional audition tape.

"Felicity had climbed into her bathroom shower in London and shot the last, emotional scene of the movie,” describes Schwartz. "It just absolutely knocked us all over the head and Drake fell in love with her from that moment. It was pretty obvious that she was the right one for Anna.”

"I watched and watched and watched that tape,” recalls Doremus, "and even though we would have to cast her without ever meeting her in person or seeing her chemistr

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