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‘Fairyland’ Star Emilia Jones on the Challenge of Going From ‘CODA’ to AIDS Crisis in Sundance Drama

Sundance 2023: The star of last year’s Best Picture winner plays the daughter of an artist who falls victim to the deadly epidemic

When ‘CODA’ began its run to the Best Picture Oscar at the Sundance Film Festival, the pandemic left lead star Emilia Jones watching the premiere at home. Now, with her new film “Fairyland,” Jones is enjoying the full Park City experience alongside the cast and crew.

“I was doing ‘CODA’ virtually and director Sian Heder told me, ‘You don’t know what you’re missing!'” said Jones, who is also promoting the film “Cat Person” at the festival. “And now I’m here and I get it. It’s great being in the snow with everyone here….seeing the film with an audience, I’m very grateful,” she said.

Jones was joined at TheWrap’s Portrait and Video Studio at The Music Lodge by producer Sofia Coppola, director Andrew Durham, and co-stars Andrew Lambert and Scoot McNairy to discuss the feature, which is an adaptation of a memoir by writer Alysia Abbott.

Jones plays Alysia as she grows up in 1970s San Francisco with her single gay father, Eddie (Scoot McNairy). As she comes of age, they become part of a tight-knit community of artists and writers, only for that community to fall apart when AIDS takes many of their lives.

Durham said the film’s early scenes in the ’70s were shot handheld with a 16mm camera to capture the busy, exciting nature of San Francisco’s artistic community and Alysia’s childhood, but transitioned to a steady digital camera as the film moved into the ’80s and the AIDS pandemic began to spread across the country.

“We wanted the film to tonally mature as our characters matured,” Durham told TheWrap deputy managing editor Adam Chitwood. “As their lives get more grown-up and the story got more sober, the shots got more stable and composed and slower.”

Adam Lambert, who plays one of Eddie’s boyfriends in the film, believes that by shining a light on the homophobia of the past, “Fairyland” shows the connections to the homophobia of today.

“One of the things we’re being attacked for is gay people around children, and the weird, toxic messaging around that,” Lambert said. “What I love about our film is that it is so beautiful, their relationship. It is a universal father-child relationship, and I hope people seeing this film who aren’t necessarily part of the community can see it in a different way.”

See more from TheWrap’s interview with the cast and crew of “Fairyland” in the clip above.

TheWrap’s Portrait and Video Studio at The Music Lodge during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by NFP along with support from Sylvania and HigherDOSE.