Jersey Boys. Out now on DVD and Blu Ray. A Q and A with Director Clint Eastwood & some members of the crew.

 

Clint Eastwood, a name that any film fan knows. Composer, Producer, Actor and Director. Clint has many strings in a very talented bow and has tackled many genres of films over the years. From westerns to war films, from comedies to dramas, from action films to prison films. Clint Eastwood appears to shy away from no genre.

In his latest directorial project. Clint tackled the true story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons.

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Jersey Boys.

Based on the Tony Award winning stage show which features many of the cast who have taken the same roles in the film.

What follows here is a Q&A session with some of the cast and crew of the film.

A CLINT EASTWOOD (Director) Q&A

Clint

 and some of the cast & crew of Jersey Boys

JOHN LLOYD YOUNG (plays Frankie Valli), ERICH BERGEN (plays Bob Gaudio),

MICHAEL LOMENDA (plays Nick Massi), VINCENT PIAZZA (playsTommy DeVito),

RICK ELICE & MARSHALL BRICKMAN (are the filmsScreenwriters)

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QUESTION:  Mr. Eastwood, what led you to decide to make Jersey Boys your next film? 

CLINT EASTWOOD:  It seemed like something to do.  [Laughs]  It’s funny because I hadn’t seen the play, but I had heard a lot about it over the years, and somebody said, ‘Would you be interested in doing that?’  And I said, ‘I’d certainly be interested in looking at it.’  And they sent me a script.  It was by a very good writer, but then I found out later through a series of events that that wasn’t the script of the play, so then I asked him, ‘What was the script for the play?  Where can I find that?’  And a friend of mine, an agent, said, ‘Well, I represent the guys who did that.  Mr. Elice and Mr. Brickman.’  So I said, ‘Maybe I better look at that.’

So I read it and liked it very much, and then I went and saw three different versions of the play, in New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas.  I saw all these wonderful actors and thought, ‘What a nice project to be doing.’  So I said, ‘Yeah.’

QUESTION:  Mr. Eastwood, we know you’re such a jazz fan.  Were you a fan of this music, and when was the first time you ever met Frankie Valli? 

CLINT EASTWOOD:  Well, I met Frankie Valli years ago in passing.  I was never a fan of music of that particular era; I came along before all that.  But I did like The Four Seasons a lot.  I thought their music was far superior.  ‘You’re Too Good To Be True’ is one of the real classic songs of that era, and would have been a classic song in the ‘40s, ‘50s or any time in history.

And all of their stuff was very energetic music and great fun.  They had great, fun songs, and certainly superior for that particular time in history, I believe.  So, it was a pleasant challenge to do, and then work with the actors that had a great influence on the play, on its run throughout the country.  It was great to be using the original people.

QUESTION:  For the actors, there were certain socioeconomic factors that were occurring in Belleville, New Jersey, at the time, as far as kids from the street trying to make it in music, which still happens today.   Did you notice that dichotomy and did it affect the way you thought about the roles?

VINCENT PIAZZA:  In terms of Tommy DeVito, I felt that it was something certainly to pay attention to in the work—certain stigmas, maybe, at the time, about Italian Americans leaving, transcending the barrio or the pocket community from which they’re from.  It fueled a fire within these guys to get out, to make it.  So, we tried.  At least it was alive within me and, hopefully, was apparent in some of the work and some of the scenes about getting out of the neighborhood.

JOHN LLOYD YOUNG:  There’s a line that is now a famous line from the show, which is written by Mr. Elice and Mr. Brickman, that Tommy DeVito says, and he says it in the film, too.  ‘There are three ways out of our neighborhood.  You get mobbed up, you enter the army or you become a superstar.’  The movie adds a little twist to that.  It says, ‘For us, it was two out of three.’  [Laughs]

I think there’s that sort of desperation to get up and out.  And what I’ve learned about these characters, both from on stage and working with Vince on the film, Tommy is like a big brother to Frankie, and they both have egos.  Frankie has an ambition and a talent, but might not necessarily know how to get it out there.  But this guy knows how to break down walls and get things out.  So Frankie relies on Vince and on his brawn, ingenuity and craftiness to get their music out.  He really needs him, and I think that that’s sort of the seed of that relationship; it’s that big brother/little brother relationship.

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QUESTION:  Mr. Eastwood, what did you think was the biggest challenge in bringing this from the stage to the screen—you have famous songs and you also have actors speaking directly to the camera?

CLINT EASTWOOD:  I didn’t think it was too much of a challenge.  It’s a wonderful play and it had a lot of excitement in it, but I could approach it more from a realistic angle.  In other words, when you watch the play and you watch John Lloyd having a scene at a table, then all of a sudden you see another actor come over and they start talking about something else.  The actor who was in the scene has to put the chairs up on top of the table and run off stage.  There are a lot of things that you can do in a movie that you can’t do in the stage because they have to keep things moving and be very practical.  So I just tried to open it up and give it a certain realism, maybe.

QUESTION:  For Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman, can you answer the same question in terms of the challenges of reworking the script for the screen? 

MARSHALL BRICKMAN:  Well, they’re two different media, really.  I mean, as Clint said, there are things that you can’t do on the stage and things that you can do in a movie.  What we tried to do in the screenplay was just to deepen it a little bit.  A two-and-a-half-minute song on the stage in performance will hold an audience.  There’s something mystical and wonderful about being in the room with the actual live performers on stage that works.  On film, that doesn’t work, so you’re dependent on a certain kind of invention and a brilliant director to keep the thing moving along and keep the music in.

So, what we tried to do was to deepen it a little bit, and I think to compare the movie and the stage play, the music and the story on the stage play have about equal weight.  What Clint did, and I thought it was sort of a brilliant solution—some of it provided by the screenplay, of course  [laughs]—was to put the story a little more in front, because the story is really everything in a movie.  And now I’m going to toss it to Rick.

RICK ELICE:  Well said, Mr. Brickman, who, of course, knows what he’s talking about, but I’ll say something anyway.  The music in the theater functions as the close-up.  When a character sings in the theater in a spotlight, what the spotlight does is gets you to look exactly where the director wants you to look and the character opens his soul.  But because you’re watching from a distance, we do it through music.

In film, of course, you can actually push into a close-up, and that’s why I think Clint was so clever to bring the story more to the front than the music.  It will always be a story about music.  It’s a story about four guys who made music and made music that speaks to a whole lot of people, but with the advantage of cinema and what that brings to storytelling, we were able to shift the balance of it a little bit.

MARSHALL BRICKMAN:  I was going to say that, actually.  [Laughs]

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QUESTION:  Mr. Eastwood, we have four very different stories about four very different people.  What characteristics do you relate to most in each of The Four Seasons? 

CLINT EASTWOOD:  Well, I try to relate to the whole thing.  I grew up in a neighborhood and I went to a school which was about half Italian Americans.  I had a lot of friends in that community and it was a very friendly and fun era to be in.

With these four characters, a little bit has been touched on here, which is that you don’t forgive a lot of things.  I mean, there are certain idiosyncrasies—when you get on the bad side, you’re on the bad side forever.  I don’t know if that’s true nowadays, but there is sort of a historical feeling about that.

And then going over to New Jersey, Tommy DeVito has a street named after him and there’s a little bit of a culture thing going on still with those guys because of this play.  There’s no street named after me in Oakland.  [Laughs]

JOHN LLOYD YOUNG:  Give it time. [Laughs]

QUESTION:  Mr. Eastwood, there’s a clever director cameo in the film.  That moment reminded me that as The Four Seasons were trying to make their mark in the music industry, you were another young guy trying to make his mark in the entertainment industry. 

CLINT EASTWOOD:  You’re talking about my Hitchcock moment kind of thing?  [Laughs]  Yeah, well, that was actually Erich’s suggestion.

ERICH BERGEN:  I’m glad it went well, then.

CLINT EASTWOOD:  We were sitting there talking about doing the scene where he’s going to be watching television, and he said, ‘I’ll be sitting there watching Rawhide, and I started thinking, ‘Yeah, it could be,’ because, after all, that was about the right timing.  So I thought, ‘Maybe.’  Then I put it out of my mind.  And then somebody who works for me, a woman who handles all our television stuff, just went ahead and did it.  And afterwards I just said, ‘Okay, I’ll live with that.’  [Laughs]

It was at about the same time, 1959/60, that I did Rawhide.  It was my first break after doing years of bit parts and unappealing roles.  So it was a chance to gain a lot of experience and spend five or six years working with various directors and stuff before Sergio and Segal and all those guys.

QUESTION:  For the cast, you must all have good stories about when you met Mr. Eastwood for the first time.  Can you tell us about that?

MICHAEL LOMENDA:   Yeah.  I had been touring with the first national tour of Jersey Boys and we were coming to the end of the tour, which Erich opened, so we bookended it, I guess.  It was after about a year and a half of touring, with about two weeks towards the end, and Mr. Eastwood showed up in the lobby one day unannounced.  And I didn’t believe it was true.  It wasn’t until I was in my second act break, when I was sitting in my dressing room in my underwear, I got a text from our swing, who had taken a picture with Mr. Eastwood in the lobby.  That’s when it sort of became true.

And frankly, at the time I thought the movie had been cast, and, as a Canadian with minimal film and TV experience, it was a little bit off my radar, so I gladly met him afterwards and didn’t expect to get a call about three weeks later to audition in New York.  I flew down to New York that morning and it was raining.  I stood in Columbus Circle trying to catch a cab for about 45 minutes in the pouring rain and was soaked from head to toe, and arrived to my audition after $140 cab ride.  [Laughs]

CLINT EASTWOOD:  He made it back.

MICHAEL LOMENDA:  Yeah.  [Laughs]  But I will say that in that cab ride I was actually sitting there soaked, thinking, ‘I should just get out of this cab.  This isn’t working out.  I should just go home.’  But thankfully—it’s giving me chills now—I don’t know what it was, but something stopped me and said, ‘No, you should go.  You should really go.’  So I got there finally, being a half-hour late, and I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom and just said, ‘You know what?  You’ve got this.  You’ve got 1,200 performances under your belt and you can go in there and at least you should feel confident in that.’

And I did, and I was so grateful for it, because about a month after that I got a call that I had booked the film.  And then I officially met Mr. Eastwood after about a six-hour costume fitting in L.A., and we sat around in the room and just talked about the show and all the different wonderful aspects of it.  And, also, incidentally, there’s the fact that he filmed part of Unforgiven on my uncle’s land in Drumheller [Alberta, Canada].  So it was really coming full circle.  It was something else, in so many ways.

CLINT EASTWOOD:  See, superstition has to do with everything.  [Laughs]

ERICH BERGEN:  I hadn’t done the show in about three or four years, so it was one of those things that I heard about and thought, ‘Well, I hope they make a good movie and I’ll buy tickets along with the rest of us.’  And when the movie came around, which was then with a different director, I auditioned for it and about a week after my audition, the casting director called my agent and said, ‘He’s not really right for the role.’  Which I played for three years.  [Laughs]  Then the movie ended up in the proper hands and with the right writers and the right director, and I went into that audition.  It was one audition, no call back.  And about a month later, I was at the gym on 74th Street and got the phone call and thought, ‘Okay, I’ve worked out enough today.’

Actually, I didn’t meet Mr. Eastwood until we were in the rehearsal studio in L.A., working on, I think, ‘Walk Like a Man.’  The four of us were looking in the mirror, trying to match everything up with Sergio Trujillo, our choreographer, and all of a sudden, in the mirror we see Clint walking behind us and we think, ‘Oh, should we stop?  Should we say hello?’  So there was no formal meet and greet.  It was work from the get-go and it was just very casual.  I don’t really remember much of this whole thing—it’s a bit of a blur.

JOHN LLOYD YOUNG:  I had been in the original cast of Jersey Boys the first two years and had been away from the show for several years, and then was invited back to do the role again in 2012 and 2013 on Broadway.  During that return to the stage, I caught wind that Mr. Eastwood had been attached to the movie and was going around and watching the companies around the country, and also caught wind that he was going to be interviewed by Darren Aronofsky at the Tribeca Film Festival on a Saturday afternoon.  I was doing one show a day, not the matinees on a two-show day.  So I had that Saturday afternoon free.

My manager and I went and watched his interview with Darren Aronofsky, and we had a hunch that maybe he might be at the matinee the next day when I was performing.  And in the wings, before I was about to start work, we heard that there was a standing ovation in the audience because they had seen Clint Eastwood walk into the theater.  [Laughs]

So I knew that he was going to be there the whole performance and it was a joyful performance, because I felt that no matter what happened with the movie, it was great to have somebody who has dominion in his world seeing me in the one thing in my life so far that I know I have dominion over, which is this role in this production on stage.  And afterward, I met him on stage, said some hellos and that I enjoyed his interview with Darren Aronofsky.  And the next time I saw him was a month later on his set.

VINCENT PIAZZA:  For me, it was somewhat similar to Erich’s description of the dance studio.  For a while Mr. Eastwood was the man behind the curtain, because I was cast on the project without meeting him.  And I remember 30 or 40 days into choreography and singing and all that other stuff, we were in the room.  Basically eight men were trying to teach me how to dance.  And Mr. Eastwood walks in and I turn and shake his hand and two days later we were shooting the film.

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QUESTION:  Mr. Eastwood, being a fan and an aficionado of music, how do you approach movies that are about music, like this or your film Bird, compared to your other films?

CLINT EASTWOOD:  Yeah, I’ve done movies on country music, jazz and pop music of the ‘50s and ‘60s.  I like music of all kinds, so I just immerse myself in it.  But, yeah, I love to do films that have music or are about musicians, or, in this case, singers.  And, of course, this one was easy because of the guys, but there were a lot of oddities, as they’re telling you.  I got a standing ovation for actually going to the men’s room when I was at the Broadway show.  [Laughs]  I thought, ‘That’s the first time and probably the last time that’ll ever happen.’  But I enjoyed the play so much.  And by that time I had seen Michael Lomenda in the San Francisco one, and I had partly cast him from that.  Erich I have to attribute in part to Bob Gaudio because I said, ‘Of all the people who have played you, who do you think was the best?’

ERICH BERGEN:  And he said William Holden.

CLINT EASTWOOD:  He did.

ERICH BERGEN:  Yeah, okay.  I was the second choice.

CLINT EASTWOOD:  [Laughs] I love William Holden, but he was deceased at that time, so I couldn’t get him.  With Vince, I hadn’t seen Boardwalk Empire at that particular time, but he did come in and do an audition and he was just spectacular in the audition.  So I said, ‘Okay, I think we’ve got the guys here.’  And John Lloyd, by that time I had seen three productions of the play, and a lot of good actors in all of them, but this group just all came together so well.  And, as Michael was saying, he had 1,200 performances.  That’s experience you just cannot buy.  I was kind of worried about Vince, because he was starting from scratch, but he fit right in right away.  So I was just lucky.

And casting a film is, to me, one of the most important things next to the writing.  Because if you cast it properly, everything takes place very easily.  But if you cast it improperly, you’re fighting an uphill battle.  So we do spend a lot of time on casting to make sure we try to get the right people.

QUESTION:  For the actors, having done this movie, does it inspire you to make good choices about the roles you will pursue on the other side of it? 

VINCENT PIAZZA:  Speaking for myself, any time you get a chance to play a great role, I consider all the qualities that I may or may not have attributed to that character and how I would fit into the story.  In making decisions after a project like this or several projects prior to this, I try to be thoughtful about what it says about the bigger picture.  I feel like the gift of working on a project like this is that it affords me an opportunity to be picky.  So I’ll hopefully keep that in mind in the coming months.

JOHN LLOYD YOUNG:  I just think that it’s so great to have been able to play Frankie Valli, a guy who’s still out there, still performing at eighty years-old, and to have gotten to know him over the years.  And in terms of the themes of the film, I think I’ll just quote the real Frankie Valli himself.  The first thing that he ever told me, before we had even opened the original production on Broadway, was in a rehearsal studio.  I talked to him after a rehearsal, and he was talking about the business.  He said, ‘They’ll tell you no, but they can never get at this.’ [Touches his heart]  And over the years, since then, in any creative endeavor, any creative career, there are ups and downs.  And during the downs I always remember what Frankie Valli said, ‘There’s always tomorrow and there’s always a new audience, and there’s always a new project.’  And I’m so happy that this new project was the movie of Jersey Boys.

ERICH BERGEN:  I think, especially as an actor in the theater, you’re always prepared to work at Starbucks tomorrow.  [Laughs]  And I mean that.  I know it sounds funny, but you are.  I can guarantee you that half the people in Broadway shows right now, who are up for Tony Awards, just want to make sure their show stays open for next weekend.

And I think as an actor who works primarily in the theater, that’s where we live and it’s sort of comfortable being scared not to get your next job.  To get a call like this was sort of overwhelming.  I just had to get to work.  I couldn’t really take it in.

But what I learned from this whole experience, especially working with Mr. Eastwood, is to, you know, cut the crap out of the rest of it—all the other stuff that comes along with show business and potential fame and all of this stuff.  You walk onto a Clint Eastwood set, there’s no ego there.  There’s respect for everyone, from the actors to the catering truck.

CLINT EASTWOOD:  Especially.  He’s getting down to the important things.

ERICH BERGEN:  It’s true.  The ego-free nature of that set for everyone involved taught me a lot about how if you have the talent, then everything else is sort of BS.  And I take that moving forward.

VINCENT PIAZZA:  Yeah, I totally agree.  I honestly think I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to chase that experience that I had on that set.  It was the most ideal environment to just dive in and play and have fun.  And I think that speaks to Mr. Eastwood’s respect and the fact that he’s an actor first and he creates that environment, because I think he probably would want to be in that same environment working on films.  So I guess I’m just so grateful, ultimately, to have been part of it all, because it was a real gift and it set a standard that I look forward to the challenge of trying to duplicate in the future.

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QUESTION:  Mr. Eastwood, any final thoughts on the project?

CLINT EASTWOOD:  No, I’m just very lucky, and this little saying.  I play a little golf once in a while and I always have that saying, ‘I’d rather be lucky than good.’  But I’ve just been very lucky by knowing these actors and watching them perform individually in different productions and then seeing them all together doing so great.  At the time, you just go, ‘Okay, this is as good as it’s going to get for me.’  And if I can get that on every production—and I’ve had it on some, but not on others—if I could get a family together like this one has been, it’s very, very lucky.

But then I also pay tribute to the writing.  The writer is a creative artist, and the director is an interpretive artist.  And actors are interpretive.  But the writer has got to take zero and make it into something, and that’s always amazing to me.  I’ve never done it myself, but I can just critique it and then go from there.  So, for Mr. Brickman and Mr. Elice, I’m lucky to have the material.

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 JERSEY BOYS IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM 10THNOVEMBER

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