Interview with HUMANITAS Trustee Richard LaGravanese

Muttering over a script for a TV pilot audition and white-knuckling a ginger ale, actor Jeremy Jordan seemed less like novelist Jamie, the character he portrays in the terrific movie musical "The Last Five Years," and more like Jamie's wife, Kathy, a struggling actress played by real-life actress Anna Kendrick. But once our official interview began - I was moderating a chat with Jordan and "Last Five Years" director Richard LaGravenese in front of a live (and rapt!) audience - the handsome star's charisma kicked into high gear.

About the challenges of adapting the "he-sang/she-sang" format of this Off-Broadway musical to screen (Kathy recounts their relationship from its end; Jamie recounts it from the beginning, and they only sing one song together), LaGravenese said, "I love musical theater and wanted to keep this as pure as possible. This is why we did this independently rather than in Hollywood. The only thing I changed was having the actors sing to each other rather than the audience." In the original production, each sang alone on isolated sets to emphasize their alienation from each other.

"It worked so well on stage because the audience had to imagine the other character's reactions," Jordan said. "In the film we wanted to keep it natural ... for me, it became about how much the other person was actually listening to each other, which is always a question in real life."

LaGravenese said, though it was commonly assumed he'd only used hand-held cameras through the film, he often used "steadi-cams that he destabilized a bit, to capture the romance ... to get that old Hollywood feel." He added that he tried to use New York locations that had not been captured on film together. "I didn't know the city had a water taxi!"

About whether Jamie was a sympathetic character (the couple had a stormy relationship), Jordan said, "As an actor I always have to be sympathetic to the character I play. It was important to me that the audience understood where Jamie was coming from even when I was doing terrible things." Joking that he "only does musicals" - Jordan also is a Tony-nominated Broadway actor and the star of the now-canceled TV musical "Smash" - he said, "I try to work in the same way regardless of the format. But sometimes on film it's just behind the eyes."

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UncategorizedJosh Neimark