InDepth InterView Exclusive Preview: Jeremy Jordan Talks LAST FIVE YEARS Film
Earlier today I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Broadway headliner and SMASH Season Two breakout star Jeremy Jordan. In discussing a wide range of topics and covering the vast majority of his career thus far in anticipation of the upcoming New York Pops Stephen Schwartz concert event, THE WIZARD & I: THE MUSICAL JOURNEY OF STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, on April 12 at Carnegie Hall, Jordan revealed preliminary information about the forthcoming feature film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown's celebrated Off Broadway musical THE LAST FIVE YEARS, co-starring fellow Broadway/Hollywood crossover Anna Kendrick, and what follows are some of his initial impressions of the project, as well as new details about what we can expect from the highly anticipated Richard LaGravenese-directed movie musical that begins rehearsals this weekend, set to start shooting in June.
More information on THE WIZARD & I: THE MUSICAL JOURNEY OF STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, conducted by Steven Reineke with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall on April 12 is available here.
Be sure to stay tuned to BroadwayWorld for the complete InDepth InterView: Jeremy Jordan coming next week in which Jordan and I discuss his work in NEWSIES and BONNIE & CLYDE and he gives us the 411 on what's coming up on Season Two of SMASH in addition to all about the New York Pops special Stephen Schwartz event.
The Next 10 Minutes
PC: THE LAST FIVE YEARS on film could be the launching pad for your rising star to rise even higher. Do you anticipate that?
JJ: Yeah, I hope so! I mean, while it is still a musical, it is really next-level material - it's hardcore, heavy, intense and fun, too. I am so excited about it. I can't wait to get started.
PC: So, filming starts in June? Where will you shoot?
JJ: Yeah, we are scheduled to start shooting in June and we will be filming mostly in New York, as far as I know. That's the plan. I have my first rehearsal on Sunday, actually.
PC: A Happy Easter it will be!
JJ: Yeah, Anna [Kendrick], the director and I will be having rehearsals all through April. So, we are starting off and then she has to go film a movie or something and then when she comes back we will hit the ground running.
PC: Have you two worked together before at any point?
JJ: No, no - I've actually never even met her in person yet. We've spoken on e-mail and stuff, though. We were trying to get together recently, but I guess she doesn't live in New York so it is a little difficult. Hopefully, we will get a drink before we start rehearsals and everything and, I don't know, get to know each other's favorite colors or something. [Laughs.]
PC: You will need to have quite a rapport for these two roles, don't you think?
JJ: We will. I can't wait to get started on rehearsals.
PC: Will there be any other actors in the movie?
JJ: Yeah, it is not going to be just us - the whole movie, at this point, is about ninety-five percent sung-through with a few lines of dialogue here and there. A couple of people get to say other things, though - you'll see Elyse, the girl that Jamie ends up leaving Cathy for. And you will see Jamie's agents. You'll see all the people at the summer stock theatre in Ohio, too.
PC: No way! Even Wayne the Snake?
JJ: I think that's that plan! You know, it's the real world, though - it's taking place in the real world. When we do our songs, even if they are solos, when we do the songs in the scenes I will be singing to her and she will be there in the scene and reacting but I will be the one singing and vice-versa. But, that's just the way that it is right now - things could change. That is the sort of concept that we are going for at the moment. I think it is going to be incredible.
PC: It sounds revolutionary.
JJ: Yeah, it's kind of experimental in the way that it is structured, though - you know: solo, solo, solo; for a movie, that's kind of weird and different.
PC: The score is so remarkable. Have you ever sung Jason Robert Brown's music before?
JJ: I haven't. I haven't ever sung it in a professional setting, at least. So, I am totally, totally pumped. I think the album came out right before I went off to college, so I remember it being a huge, huge thing at the time.
PC: You can say that again - I'm 28, too; I remember.
JJ: Of course! Of course! Yeah, man, it was this huge thing! You know! I just remember everyone being like, "This is the holy grail of musical theatre recordings!" I was actually talking to Anna about it, too - she's the same age as us. So, yeah, it's just amazing we're doing it. THE LAST FIVE YEARS is this quintessential piece and every song is an actor's song and every song is incredibly difficult and incredibly powerful and incredibly amazing. It was one of those things in college where, like, you gauged how good you were by how well you were able to pull off a song from THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
PC: That's so funny - and true, too.
JJ: Yeah, I mean, if you could do "Moving Too Fast" and "Nobody Needs To Know" really, really well, you kind of knew you would make it someday, somehow! [Laughs.]
PC: Have you discussed if the profanity will stay in or not? To qualify for a PG-13, a f-bomb or two might have to go.
JJ: [Pause.] Wait, this is supposed to be PG-13? [Laughs.]
PC: I assumed so. Is it?
JJ: Well, I don't know - the script that I read actually had quite a bit of nudity in it, but I think they ended up taking a lot of that out. I think that it can still be PG-13 how it is, though. I don't think there are that many "f*cks" in it, are there?
PC: At least three or four.
JJ: Yeah, he says it once or twice and she says it twice, I guess, so I guess you are right - but, that's not a lot, really. There is no way I can foresee them changing any of it because of that, though.
PC: Are you considering live singing for any of the film?
JJ: Well, I think that some of it needs to be sung live - at the same time, I think that a lot of it can't, though. Some of the production numbers would be too difficult to do live onset, I think - especially on something with a low budget like this.
PC: Can you give any examples yet, even at this early stage of the game?
JJ: I think some examples would be "If I Didn't Believe In You" - something like that - or "A Miracle Would Happen"; some of those sort-of spoke-sung songs you kind of almost have to do live because they are so spontaneous and in the moment that to focus on lip-synching and trying to get the exact perfect placement of every word in while also getting to that emotional place that you have to get to to bring off the song, you're not going to be able to commit one-hundred-percent to the scene and the action and the emotion of it if you are thinking about getting the lyrics properly placed just like when you recorded it two months ago.
PC: So, pre-record can be perilous on a movie musical, too.
JJ: Yeah, I mean, I think that with things that are more sort of rhythmically in place - songs like "Shiksa Goddess" or "Moving Too Fast" have a really rhythmic through-line and so those songs are a little bit easier to follow along to on a recording as opposed to some of the songs that are more spoken and have more freedom or more legato, which is a lot of the score, too. So, I think we will be doing lots of stuff live, but not all of it.
PC: The SMASH experience has prepared you well, no doubt. Baptism by fire, in a way, would you say?
JJ: Oh, yeah - it really has. And, also, the fact is that when you are filming something and you are doing fifty takes of a scene, some of that stuff you can really only sing through three or four times a day and then your voice is done. That's another thing about live singing.
PC: Particularly with some of these tricky LAST FIVE YEARS songs.
JJ: Exactly. You have to think logistically as a singer at all times, and, you know, to give a one-hundred-and-fifty-percent performance over and over and over and over again - multiple takes, from multiple angles - that can be too much to ask of somebody sometimes.
PC: The director can use it to the vocal's advantage or disadvantage, as well - "Bring Him Home" in LES MISERABLES was reportedly the final take, number nineteen or thereabouts.
JJ: And, also, with LES MISERABLES, a way that they sort of cheated all of what I was talking about was by using the ultra-close-up shots of everybody - so, you know, the director could pick and choose among shots and not have to worry about the people in the background matching up or whatever. If you are stacked tight on somebody like that, in ultra-close-up, you can cut back and forth from it and use multiple takes and it all works better. The way that they stylistically did it made it all feasible to sing the whole thing live, I think, though, which was a great choice for them.
PC: Did you enjoy the film?
JJ: Well, I haven't seen the whole thing, but I have seen bits and pieces of it and I have liked what I have seen.
PC: REEFER MADNESS is a masterful little indie movie musical along the lines of LAST FIVE YEARS, budget-wise. Have you happened to see it?
JJ: [Laughs.] Oh, yes, I have!
PC: It's a perfect little gem - just like LAST FIVE YEARS could potentially be.
JJ: Totally! Totally. I think that's true.
PC: Have you begun work with Richard LaGravenese one on one yet?
JJ: Oh, yeah - we've met multiple times. We had a Skype meeting and then I had a couple of auditions with him - he's a really, really cool guy. He's very, very insightful and knows that score better than anyone. It's ludicrous - he's just so into it!
PC: Do you anticipate the score will have a similar sound to the original orchestration or will it be opened up and/or contemporized at all?
JJ: I don't know for sure at this point. I mean, it's not a big budget film, so I imagine they will probably keep it all fairly simple. I don't see why they would change it too much - I mean, if it ain't broke...
PC: Precisely. The original sound is pretty classic.
JJ: It's totally classic - they were incredible; Sherie [Rene Scott] and Norbert [Leo Butz] are just so amazing.
PC: Norbert appeared on SMASH last season, as well, so you share that kinship.
JJ: Oh, yeah - I know. I watched the show last year, of course, you know! He was fantastic. I've never gotten to meet him, but, God, I hope I do get to meet him at some point during this whole process - he's such an inspiration to me. I am such a big fan of his.
PC: Let's hope for some Norbert and Sherie cameos in the film. Maybe somewhere in the park for "The Next Ten Minutes"?
JJ: [Laughs.] Yeah, I think that would be really wonderful. I mean, I don't see why at least Sherie wouldn't make a little cameo appearance at least.
PC: Especially since her incredibly talented husband, Kurt Deutsch, is involved on the producing side of things.
JJ: Yeah, Ghostlight is an amazing label. I mean, just that original recording they did is so incredible. And, I worked with Kurt when we recorded NEWSIES.
PC: Of course.
JJ: Kurt was actually there at one of the auditions I had with the director [for THE LAST FIVE YEARS]. So, I know him fairly well now and I look forward to getting to know him even better now that we are doing the movie. He's a really, really great guy and I am so excited about all of it.
PC: Do you think LAST FIVE YEARS has an added hurdle to navigate since it is not a Broadway title and it originally had a short run?
JJ: Well, I wouldn't say LAST FIVE YEARS was unsuccessful, I just don't think it was ever a Broadway show - it wasn't trying to be. It never had that sort of scope or feel, I don't think.
PC: Have you seen the new revival yet?
JJ: I think we are all going to go together, so I am waiting to hear from them about it. I have worked with Adam [Kantor] before, so I am excited to see him do it.
PC: Has Jason Robert Brown written anything new for the film? A new song perhaps?
JJ: Not that I know of - there isn't one in the script. I haven't gotten to meet Jason yet, so I am really excited to get to meet him and sort of pick his brain about all of it. Not only is the music so great, but the lyrics are just so relatable and so incredibly moving. It's pretty special.
PC: It's autobiographical to a point, as well, clearly.
JJ: Right - that's true. And, I think that is one of the reasons that it is so relatable and so touching and moving - I think that everybody can find something to relate to in it, if not multiple things to relate to, in both characters. I mean, I've never heard a song before where a guy is cheating on his wife and you still feel for him like that [in "Nobody Needs To Know"] or a guy with a wandering eye can still at the end of the day be seen as a good guy [in "Moving Too Fast"].
PC: Such rich characters - and such a detailed score.
JJ: It's going to be an interesting line to walk - to keep Jamie relatable and likeable and have people still feel for him while he does these crappy things. But, at the same time, Cathy isn't not to blame, either, for her various shortcomings. So, it will be very interesting to see how people react to all of that. I am very excited to explore it all. And, Anna is an incredible, incredible actress and I can only hope to try to meet her at her level.
PC: The news of your casting was received extremely well judging from the overwhelmingly positive comments on BroadwayWorld.
JJ: [Laughs.] That's really, really nice to hear. I am so honored to have fans that are so supportive and cool.
Photo Credits: Walter McBride, NBC Universal, etc.