‘Jersey Boys’ Star Michael Lomenda Interview On His Audition Nightmare & Working With Clint Eastwood
Michael Lomenda stars as Nick Massi in the big screen version of the wildly popular musical, Jersey Boys, that opens June 20. Although this is the Canadian actor’s first feature film, he also played the same part in the Toronto and touring versions of the theatre show, so he knows what he’s doing. And if Hollywood director Clint Eastwood chose him, he must be right for the part. Real Style had the pleasure of talking with Michael Lomenda about his foray into Hollywood. See what he had to say about his Jersey Boys audition and working with the legendary Clint Eastwood.
Real Style: How does the film version differ from the stage version?
Michael Lomenda: If you’re going to translate a musical to film I think Jersey Boys is a great one to do it because in its initial direction, Des McAnuff the director, wanted to capture a very cinematic feel onstage which is kind of unusual for a musical because stereotypically music theatre is breaking out into song and there’s tap dance numbers and there is that version and I love that version but Jersey Boys is its own entity in a sense. It’s not your typical music theatre, it’s more like a VH1 backstage pass.
Real Style: This is your first feature film, so how did you find transitioning from stage productions to film?
Michael: For me as an actor I think the weirdest thing is that there is no audience. I used to show up for work every night and I’ve a two and half hour one-take to get it right. I couldn’t go back, I couldn’t stop. It’s like a train that you jump on at the top of the show and if things go wrong you deal with them on the fly and that’s what the beauty of live theatre is. On the contrary, on set you get to work the same scene or the same song literally from every different angle so I really feel like you can dive in with the role and the relationships and in the world that you’re living in. It’s a bit more of a richer experience. I think it reaffirmed what I love about the stage but it also opened my eyes and made me fall in love with working on the film set.
Real Style: How did you change Nick Massi’s character for the Jersey Boys film?
Michael: The central part of jersey boys is the relationship between these four guys . . . it’s really the heart of the film and I wanted to meet (the other actors) and see what they brought to the table and I knew that my character and the way that I played Nick Massi would directly be affected by the way they play their characters. I was really excited about figuring out what our identity as Clint Eastwood’s Four Seasons was going to be and meeting them and hanging out with them and really working on the relationships that these four guys had. ultimately they grew up together these guys came up through the neighbourhood and really grew up together and had their rough times together so it was important to create those bonds and that’s what makes the film good.
Real Style: What was the audition process like?
Michael: It was very fast. I learned that Mr Eastwood likes to work very quickly from casting all the way down to shooting. I was doing the show in San Francisco as part of the first national tour of jersey boys and one matinees towards the end of that run Mr Eastwood showed up in the lobby to see our show. About three quarters of the way through the show I have a 15 minute break in the live theatre production. I was, no joke, sitting in my underwear in my dressing room reading a magazine and one of our cast members sent me a picture of him standing with Mr Eastwood in the lobby and so I was forced to believe it was true. I didn’t think he was there to cast the film, but I got a call about three weeks later. Because I’m a Canadian music theatre guy with limited to no film and TV experience, to get a call to come and audition for Mr. Eastwood kind of blew my mind. and then a few weeks after that i flew down to New York to audition and getting to the audition was the worst possible getting to an audition story I’ve ever had.
I flew down in the morning from Toronto to New York and I paid about $850 for the flight. I was staying with my friends in upper Manhattan and I had to get to lower Manhattan for my audition. They told me to take the subway down to Columbus Circle, catch a cab and you’ll be fine from there. I went down, I was in my suit, I had an umbrella and I was prepared. I had tons of time. I got out at Columbus Circle, it was pouring sheets of rain I spent 45 minutes in Columbus Circle, broke my umbrella trying to catch this cab, and I couldn’t catch a cab for the life of me and I was soaked from head to toe. I finally arrived to my audition after a $140 cab ride about 30 minutes late, soaked from head to toe. The audition actually took about two to five minutes, so that’s my life as an actor. you do these crazy things to get these auditions and it’s only about 2-5 minutes that you have in the room. So something like arriving in that fashion, being soaked from head to toe can really affect how you act in the room but right before I went in, i looked at myself in the mirror and I actually said this out loud to myself “You’ve got this, you’ve done this before,” then I walked in and did the scenes a couple of times and Jeff, the casting director, was amazing and I left and didn’t think anything of it. I did the best I could possibly do based on the circumstances and about 3 or 4 weeks later I got a call that I’d booked the film.
Real Style: Now the film is out and you’ve seen it how many times?
Michael: It’s my fifth time seeing it and my fourth time with an audience which is great. I love the fact that the same places that they laugh in the stage production, they seem to laugh in the film in the film. There’s lots of other great moments in the film that people really appreciate too that they didn’t necessarily get a chance to appreciate in a stage production. Even within the scene there’s a bit more fluidity to play with which was great especially because I’ve done the show the same way 1200 times up to that point.
Real Style: How was it working with Clint Eastwood?
Michael: Oh man, it was unbelievable. It’s hard to put into words simply because there’s just so many wonderful things about it. You go into a project with him and know he’s a legend and an icon and an excellent actor as well and you think he’s going to be calling all the shots and telling you what to do but he’s incredibly unassuming, incredibly collaborative, he’s patient, he’s really funny. Everybody that’s on set with him just loves working with him. People come out of retirement to work with him, that just speaks to his character and the kind of man he is. So you walk on set and you feel like instantly part of a family which for a film about family and brotherhood, it works really well to have that vibe on set.
Real Style: Does the film do the musical justice?
Michael: I think the film has done it justice and then some. It just adds to the Jersey Boys legacy that’s already out there right now. People really love this show and Mr Eastwood took this great show and in his words “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” and he brought another life and a really genuine and unique Clint Eastwood style to it that people love. You get a real grittiness that allows you to get the grittiness of the Jersey Boys story. A lot of people didn’t think of Clint Eastwood to direct Jersey Boys, but he’s the only man who should direct it because he does these stories so well and i think that’s what this show really needs.
Photos: Startraks, IMDB
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