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CELINE BY HEDI SLIMANE.
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Still, on they marched, and through it became proper friends
- the real sort, with entwined social lives and shared
endeavours, who do all the things London thirtysomethings
do, such as try to sort childcare so they can go for grown-up
dinners à quatre with their spouses, or plan tennis meet-ups
that they never manage to make. They also share some
activities most do not. Take, for instance, last year, when
they spent several months together in a wicker basket making
a movie called The Aeronauts, about madcap Victorian
balloonists. Based on real events from the 19th century, when
gas balloons first soared to the heights of today’s commercial
passenger jets in order to predict the weather, the film
chronicles a circus-meets-science mission of daredevilry, for
which Jones’s character spends most of her time wearing a
corset at 37,000ft. Heartfelt and beautiful to look at, it should
come with a health warning for vertigo.
“When my agents sent me the script my first question
was,” says Redmayne, his voice dropping into feigned
diva-ishness, “‘Who’s playing Amelia?’”
Jones laughs. “I mean, you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a
basket with someone you didn’t get on with for months.”
By this point, they’ve tottered into the studio kitchen
and are sitting at a scrubbed pine table. Felicity – or “Fliss”,
if you’re Eddie – is relaxed, self-assured and, still in full glam,
looks very Bardot in the brunette years. At 35, there is
something of the eternal journeywoman about her. Her career
has ranged from playing Emma Grundy as a teen on Radio
4’s The Archers to headlining a Star Wars movie, and it’s left
her unflappable and curiously watchful. It’s as if, having
booked her first professional job at age 11, she has been
keeping a careful eye out for the next ones ever since.
Eddie, meanwhile, as anyone who has so much as glanced
at him can attest, has a vibe that lies somewhere between a
frolicking English Setter and the most popular history teacher
at a girls’ boarding school. At 37, he finally seems to be leaving
boyhood behind, and is squarely in young-dad territory, with
the Tipp-Ex white trainers and denim to match. “I’m about
to go on holiday,” he beams, instantly settling into effortless
small talk, “Italy!” One does sometimes worry how taxing it
must be for Redmayne to keep up the sheer pace of his
bonhomie, to give so much of himself to every passing well-
wisher. But, hey, it is not the worst problem to have – and it
makes him about as nice as they come.
Anyway, back to the film. It would be easy to assume The
Aeronauts was all green screen, but apparently Jones and
Redmayne spent a few days up in an actual balloon, packed
in next to a pilot with a small army of camera-laden helicopters
and drones in hot pursuit across Oxfordshire – which nearly
put an end to both of them.
“We were in our costumes going up and Felicity was having
to jump up and sit in the ring,” says Redmayne, who plays
straightlaced scientist James Glaisher to her swashbuckling
balloonist Amelia Wren. It already sounds terrifying –
“Petrifying,” Jones affirms – especially when they learned that,
to land a gas balloon, you need to be able to lose weight from
the basket very quickly so as to miss any obstacles on the way.
Trouble began on the first day of the shoot when, having
exhausted most of their sandbags, the pair, plus pilot, attempted
to land. Bumping towards some treetops: “The pilot says to
Felicity and I, ‘Throw out the ballast!’” says Redmayne.
“So we threw out everything in the balloon,” says Jones.
“And then we’d thrown out too much.”
“We were careening towards a forest and didn’t have anything
to stop us. We smashed into these trees...” says Redmayne.
“We were grabbing on to each other, thinking, ‘This could
be it,’” Jones cuts in. “Then we crash-landed in a field.”
“The horrific part,” says Redmayne, “was I heard Fliss
go ‘Aggghhh’ as her head smacked against the box. Then
there was just complete silence. The pilot was like, ‘Is everyone
all right?’ And Fliss was like, ‘I’m not sure I can move.’” >
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