JK Simmons – Whiplash: “I had to rest my voice so I could yell at Miles all day”

Damien Chazelle’s critically acclaimed film will return to France 4 tonight.

whiplash, of Damien Chazelle with JK Simmons, Miles Teller and Paul Reiserwill return this evening on France 4. To wait until the rebroadcast of this drama which was a hit at the 2014 Deauville festival, here is an interview with one of its two main actors, JK Simmons.

Damien Chazelle: “I wanted Whiplash to be violent and brutal, like a gangster movie”

Before getting the role, you already had a solid musical background. What did you have to do to prepare yourself?

I had no jazz experience. The bulk of the work consisted of learning the scores. I must have seemed to know them like the back of my hand since I’m supposed to be a great conductor. But it helped to be able to read the notes and to have a musical background. The other important thing was to rest my voice, so I had enough energy to yell at Miles all day.

What kind of music did you study?

I started as a teenager strumming my guitar in coffee houses, then I studied very classical music, studied singing, composition and a bit of each instrument, enough to be able to write for each of them. But I didn’t know if I wanted to become an Elmer Bernstein or a singer. So I drifted towards musical theatre, and from drift to drift, I arrived where I am.

Did you continue to play?

I have never played any instrument well, not even the piano. I had to rehearse, even to play the very simple ballad that I have to play in the film. I had to practice because I have poor hand coordination. The music goes through my brain and my heart, but not through my hands. Yet another technical trick to work on. But in college, I was a conductor, singer and composer. Subsequently I happened to sing on occasion. The last time I walked on stage was before I left New York, around 1995.

How did you develop your character? Your gestures are precise to a manic point.

It takes a bit of practice, but it comes quite naturally. One of the interesting things about this character is that he’s a jazzy. These people don’t act like they’re leading a marching band, they’re precise but casual. But the obsessive-compulsive nature of this almost military-disciplined guy led me to look for a combination of a jazz bandleader and someone much more precise and constipated. And then humanly, he is very unhappy. He needs to hang on to that kind of precision.

You divide yourselves harmoniously between TV series and movies. Do you continue the theater?

My theatrical career is for me very distinct. I started there, but since I’ve been playing in front of a camera, I haven’t gone back there. It was at the theater that I met my wife. We had children, then, 11 years ago, we decided to stop doing theater and therefore to leave New York to settle in LA. Where there is more work. And I drive my agents crazy because I mostly choose my roles based on geography. I have children at school and I don’t want to be away from them. I try not to travel too much. That’s why I love filming in LA. For whiplash that said, I would have gone anywhere to shoot, but luckily we mostly shot in LA.
Interview Gerard Delorme

Whiplash: JK Simmons is huge in this film by Damien Chazelle [critique]

The story of whiplash : Andrew, 19, dreams of becoming one of the best jazz drummers of his generation. But the competition is fierce at the Manhattan Conservatory where he trains relentlessly. His goal is to integrate the jewel of orchestras led by Terence Fletcher, a fierce and intractable teacher. When he finally spots him, Andrew embarks, under his direction, on the quest for excellence…

Trailer :

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