Teller was a no show (no surprise there following his “Divergent” remarks earlier this week), so it was up to Chazelle and Simmons to discuss the making of the film, which opens in October via Sony Pictures Classics. Here are the highlights from the wide-ranging discussion.
Before acting, J.K. Simmons was a studied and paid musician. The actor joked about getting paid “tens of dollars” while studying to be a classical musician in college. Although having no prior conductorial experience, his musical background made learning techniques for the film easier. He also joked about his mediocre piano-playing abilities, which was something he had to work on for a short scene.
Simmons became involved with the help of Jason Reitman. Reitman worked on “Juno” with Simmons (Juno’s dad!) and was the one to send the actor Chazelle’s script. Simmons saw two scripts, one for the short film, which was made to prelude and build up hype for the full length. In the short, actor Johnny Simmons (“The To-Do List” ) plays the role of Andrew.
The film has autobiographical elements. Chazelle was a drummer in high school and was part of an extremely intense class with a very tough professor. Moderator Amy Taubin mentioned how before band practice Chazelle would throw up out of nerves.
Miles Teller also has a musical background. Simmons revealed that Teller had experience as a rock band drummer before coming onboard. Teller was always Chazelle’s first choice, but his challenge was adjusting to the different playing style.
“Full Metal Jacket” An audience member made a comparison between R. Lee Ermey’s character in “Full Metal Jacket” and Simmons’ Terence Fletcher. Simmons acknowledged the validity in the comparison and mentioned that references to the Kubrick film were made on set.
Miles Teller helped Simmons deliver such a powerhouse performance. Although Simmons cited well known maniacal jazz legends and Chazelle’s script as inspirations for his character, he also gave a shoutout to Teller: “I would look at Miles — he’s such a slappable little bastard.” There you have it.