LOS ANGELES - For Lily James, who has already done everything from Tolstoy to Shakespeare to Cinderella - not to mention Downton Abbey - in her rising career, the decision to do the packed-to-the-brim-with-buzz film Baby Driver came down to its director, Edgar Wright.
"I just love his movies! So I was excited to meet with him and work with him," said James of how she met with Wright in London to talk about playing the film's female lead/love interest, Debora. "One story about Edgar that shows the insane scope of his brain...is that when I was shooting the last part of Baby Driver, I was learning my lines for Romeo and Juliet, which I was doing next..and Edgar had done it at school and could remember more of the lines (than I could)!"
James explained that one of the other reasons Baby Driver was so appealing to her is because everyone already had a vision of Cinderella and Juliet.
"I think it's very rare to do an original script or original idea - something that is not an adaptation from a TV show or something," she said. "This is an original, new idea that Edgar has created, over the course of 20 years, with these phenomenal lead characters that feel totally iconic and vibrant.
"As an actor, to get the chance to sort of invent your character and be part of (a) director's vision is very, very, very rare. It's not a comic book. You know? It's a new thing.
"It was such a departure from what I'd been doing recently. It was a breath of fresh air."
In a tale in which almost everyone else are part of the dark, criminal world and Ansel Elgort's Baby is a getaway driver straddling good and evil, James' Debora - who meets Baby while working as a waitress in a diner - is the one character who has a true innocence about her. But will it last?
"I feel the fact that you almost only see her in the diner is cool and romantic," James said. "She doesn't have much going on in her life.....all she knows is she wants to get out ... and he finds her. She had been resigned to her life and then she meets this guy and they're like old souls.
"They connect and they bond and I think she's kind of baffled," James continued. "She finds a guy and makes an impulsive decision to go with him, because she figures she has nothing to lose - and that's very human."
This leads to some unpredictable situations where the Debora is forced to make some tough choices.
"It's fight or flight and she decides to fight," James said. "She probably never knew that about herself until it happened, but she'd rather risk danger and death than just going back to the diner doing nothing all day. I think once she feels alive and like she's really living for the first time, she can't go back.
"I think that again is really beautiful and romantic and REAL - and I love that about her."
The 28-year-old British actress also sees Baby Driver as her first real Amerian film.
"Cinderella felt very English and the whole cast was British," she said laughing. "This felt new and fresh and Ansel (Elgort) and Eiza (Gonzalez) and I think all three of us would say that working with outstanding actors like Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm was the best experience in the world. I remember going to take their order and they were all in a booth and it really blew me away! When you work with actors of that caliber, it raises your game. "
Additionally, the story, she said, is very unpredictable.
"There's so many twists and turns you never know where it's going to end up. You introduce these brand new characters 40 minutes in. It's very unconventional. But what I think Edgar does is make the audience fall in love with every character - even the really bad guys.
"He's made these characters so lovable and interesting, so cool and human - and then keeps putting them into these dangerous situations where you don't want any of them to die."