Jeremy Jordan is a name to keep an eye on over the next couple of years as he continues to make the transition from theatre to television and film. He returned to the big screen over the weekend as he teamed up with Anna Kendrick for the adaptation of The Last Five Years.
The Last Five Years is based on the off-Broadway musical and sees Richard LaGravenese in the director's chair and penning the screenplay - this is the first time we have seen the filmmaker tackle a musical project for the first time.
We caught up with Jeremy to chat about The Last Five Years, taking on a project that he loves so much, and the chance to work with both Richard LaGravenese and Anna Kendrick for the first time.
- The Last Five Years is set to hit the big screen in the UK tomorrow, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
The Last Five Years is a story about the five-year relationship between Jamie and Cathy - from the very beginning through to the bitter end. What is so unique is that it is told from two very different perspectives; his story is told linearly from beginning to end and her story is told from the end to the beginning and they converge in the centre and get married. It is sung for the most part and there are solos and each actor trade off solos - it will be Jamie, then Cathy, Jaime, then Cathy and then a duet. It is a strange he said, she said telling two versions of the same story but told in an intriguing sort of way.
- You take on the role of Jamie in the film, so what was it about this character and the script that was the major appeal when you read it for the first time?
This is an adaptation of an off-Broadway musical and I have known this story for about twelve years - I was in college when the original recording came out and I fell in love with it. Long before it was conceived as a movie, I knew it word for word. Being a part of this has always been a dream of mine and it really is one of my favourite pieces. When I got the script and I saw Richard LaGravenese's adaptation of it, which is set in the real world and in New York as opposed to singing a solo on stage, I just found it to be a very exciting prospect.
- The Last Five Years is a musical score that really is loved and admired - I read that you are a big fan of the soundtrack as well - what do you think it is about this music that makes it so acclaimed?
I think the composer Jason Robert Brown found a way to tap into relationships in a way that hasn't been done so well before in the musical realm - it is the small details and the nuances that we all experience. Everyone who sees the show or the movie find something to connect with because we have all been in relationships and I think we can all connect with multiple aspects of the story. I was eighteen or nineteen when I first heard it and I immediately connected to it.
I think that we can really see ourselves in theses character because they do have a little bit of a universal quality to them. I think the story that we tell is one that we don't often tell in terms of one person being successful and the other person feeling that they are in the other's way. This story deals with issues that we experience so often and yet we find it difficult to musicalise and in musical theatre can become cliché but here it feels raw and real and you feel that they are two real people who are struggling. I think that is something that people really do connect with.
- This is a musical where the songs are packed with so much emotion and tell much of the story. You sang the songs live on set - how important do you think that was for the film?
It was of the utmost importance and something that I really advocated for. Richard is the director and has adapted the screenplay but has never done a musical before - he was a musical theatre nerd but he has never done this before. Generally, the norm for making a musical is to pre-record and then lip-sync, as it is the easiest thing to do when it comes to sound quality and for the editing process. However, with this, the whole thing is sung through, every moment and every emotion is told through the lyrics of the song and the emotion, and the pain really does come through within the songs.
I think if you rehearse the songs for a few days and then go into a studio to pre-record them you would be in a lot of trouble because you wouldn't have a full and developed character and when you get on set you are stuck with this one choice that you have made in the studio vacuum with no room to explore. I think it was incredibly important to be live so we could try each song and each take a million different ways to try to find what worked and felt best.
- Richard LaGravenese is in the director's chair for the film, how did you find working with him? And how collaborative a filmmaker is he?
Incredibly collaborative and certainly the most collaborative I have worked with in terms of film and television. Richard was interested in creating a show between all three of us - all four of us if you include the director of photography - it really was a group effort. We all love the piece so much that we wanted to make it as good as possible. We would sit down and have long conversations about the best way to physicalize these incredible and emotionally rich stories that Jason Robert Brown had already set to music and how to put them in the real world.
They were originally written to be sung solo, on a stage, without the other person there. However, we decided to put each other in the other person's songs and that added a whole new reactive element, which was often more important than the person who was singing. There is song that I sing called If I Didn't Believe In You and, if you notice, the camera is pretty much focused on Cathy the whole time. I'm singing the song but we are seeing how it is affecting her - or rather, we see the wall that she has put up to not allow his words to reach her. I think that this adds a whole other dimension to an already beautiful score.
- The relationship between Jamie and Cathy is key in this film and there is a great chemistry between yourself and Anna Kendrick. How did you find working with her? And how quickly did you develop that chemistry and dynamic?
What really sucks about doing these sorts of things is that we filmed in three weeks and that is that we had had a few rehearsal sessions before that and a pre-record session. It was my idea to have a bit of an icebreaker with Anna and we went out for a drink the first night that we met, possibly had one too many, and shared some very intimate stories about each other (laughs). You have to learn to dive in and blindly trust the other person - that is easier for me given Anna Kendrick's pedigree but I think it was a little harder on her end not really knowing me.
The first week or so we were still feeling each other out but by the end of the filming process, we knew each other really well. We actually saved a lot of the really emotional stuff until the end of the filming, which was smart because you can't just jump into that kind of chemistry. I think the key to chemistry is friendship and trust and Anna and I tried to build that as much as we could in the very short time that we had. She is so incredibly giving on film that it is very easy to fall in love.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you move between TV, film and theatre, so how do the mediums compare? How important to you as an actor to have a balance of all three?
I think it is incredibly important. I grew up as a theatre actor and have only spent the last three or four years delving into film. I think my heart still lies in the theatre and I think it always will. The more I do TV and film, the more I enjoy it and the more I am leaning about it. I would say that the main difference as an actor is the amount of control that you have - as a self-proclaimed control freak, theatre does call to me a little more.
When you are filming something you get a bunch of takes and you can try things different ways and have your own input but, at the end of the day, it is taken back to an editing room and they figure out what they think is best. In theatre, you are the final product up on stage, you can feel the audience and the reactions, and there is an improvisational element to it that makes it work. There is also this adrenaline rush because you cannot just say cut - it is unlike anything else. I will say that the theatre is my favourite but there are incredible benefits to TV and film as well.
- Finally, what's next for you?
I filmed a pilot about a month ago called Supergirl. It is a great pilot and I think it has some really great prospects. We have our fingers crossed that it is going to be picked up for a full series and if that is the case, I will be going out to LA and filming that over the next eight months or so. I also have some concerts coming up in New York and a little bit around the U.S.
I am working on coming to London eventually, but we are going to have to see what happens with the show first. I have got many fan requests to come over the London. I am also working on my first album, which will be a collection of original music and not musical theatre.