The hottest star in Hollywood – who owes it all to Ambridge

Felicity Jones (aka Emma Grundy in 'The Archers') wins top prize at Sundance Festival

It is a long way from Borchester to Hollywood. But Felicity Jones, who worked her way into the nation's affections playing village tease Emma Grundy in The Archers, is now being touted as the movie industry's hottest young talent.

This weekend the 27-year-old Oxford-educated star of the long-running BBC Radio 4 drama was hailed as the leading light of the Sundance Film Festival when she was awarded a special jury prize for her performance in Like Crazy – an independent film about the joys and strains of a transatlantic love affair.

Having already been snapped up after its world premiere by Paramount Pictures last week, Drake Doremus's quirky long-distance love film was also selected for a prestigious grand jury prize. Presenting the award, Ugly Betty star America Ferrera said: "The 2011 Sundance Film Festival will go down as the year of the actress."

According to the LA Times, Ms Jones and her co-star Anton Yelchin "couldn't be more appealing as they sort through their issues, green card and otherwise". It is heady praise indeed for Ms Jones. As well as being the most talked about performer at Robert Redford's independent film festival in Utah, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, comparisons are also being drawn between her and fellow Briton Carey Mulligan, who similarly took Sundance by storm in 2009 for her role in An Education.

Ms Jones began her acting career at the age of 11 at the Central Junior Television Workshop in her native Birmingham and has been talked about as the heir apparent to Keira Knightley for some time. But while British audiences may know her best as serial heartbreaker Emma Grundy, success looks certain to lead to a deluge of offers for starring roles in 2011.

Yet it is unlikely she will have to go to the same lengths for her next part as she did for the last one. Aware that other actresses were chasing the Like Crazy part, she decided to show Mr Doremus exactly what she could do. "There's a scene in the shower with no words, but it conveys so much and I felt it would get the director's attention, so I clambered into my shower and shot the moment. I had a handy assistant to hold the camera and that was it," she said. Having posted the home-shot video to Los Angeles, the rest was sorted out in a series of telephone calls with Mr Doremus.

In Like Crazy she plays Anna, a young British student who falls for an American while studying in Los Angeles. Their love is put to the test courtesy of the US's notoriously bureaucratic immigration system.

Although Hollywood beckons for Ms Jones, she has insisted that The Archers retains a unique place in her affections and even covets a return. She first played the role of Emma Grundy (née Carter) when she was just 15, but gave it up last year, to be replaced by Emerald O'Hanrahan.

Her career as a child star was interrupted by her studies at Oxford, where she read English at Wadham College, though she continued to act. Since then, she has appeared in ITV1's Northanger Abbey and a number of stage plays at the Royal Court Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse, where she starred in a revival of The Chalk Garden. Last year she was cast in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's Cemetery Junction. Later this year her fans will be able to catch her in romantic comedy Chalet Girl, alongside Bill Nighy.

Ms Jones was unable to collect her award in person as she had to return to the UK to finish filming for David Hare's BBC film Page 8.

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