Performance

J.K. Simmons to Aspiring Actors: Listen, Listen, Listen

J.K. Simmons to Aspiring Actors: Listen, Listen, Listen

Photo Source: Courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media

Oscar winner and self-professed “journeyman” J.K. Simmons is the kind of actor who pops up in just about everything, and often when you least expect him. (It was easy, for instance, to miss last year’s super-quick cameo reunion with “Whiplash” director Damien Chazelle in “La La Land,” no?) His latest project, however, puts him front and center as a widower and father who, after moving across the country for a new teaching job, learns to love again. “The Bachelors” is a heartfelt and touching comedy with newcomer writer-director Kurt Voelker—and it also showcases a never-better and emotionally exacting Simmons.

The veteran actor recently talked to Backstage about his latest film, his love of sharing the screen with young talent, and the importance of listening.

How did your role in “The Bachelors” first come about?
It was just one of many scripts that my agent sent me. A big side effect of getting all the trophies handed to me [for “Whiplash”] was there were a lot more offers coming my way, so I could now actually afford to be as selective as I have always tried to be. This came, it was just something that early on in the script, I had a sense of not only is this guy [Voelker] a good writer and these are characters that I believe, but this was a character that I felt like I could understand and get into. It’s definitely a two-step process. I read a lot of scripts that I think, Oh, this is good, but it’s not necessarily a character that I feel like I’m the right actor for. Bill was a character that I felt like I could understand.

Writer-director Kurt Voelker is pretty early in his career. Do you enjoy the opportunity to work with young filmmakers and help their projects get made?
I like working with people that I think are really talented and have something to say. And that could be Jason Reitman, who doesn’t need my help getting his movie made, or, yeah, if it’s a less experienced guy, now that I am sort of in a position to help get something made, that’s a nice little fringe benefit. But really, the thing that hasn’t changed is I’m just looking for really good material that I believe I’m the right guy for. And I’m finding more and more that I’m less interested in having, “Oh, we want to build this project around you now because you won a bunch of trophies!” I prefer something like “Whiplash” or in this case, “The Bachelors,” where Kurt, he had a story to tell, and he put it down, and then they went around looking for somebody to play Bill. That’s always the way, I guess, that I will continue to want to work. But working with a writer-director that’s got a dozen features under his belt and a track record of success, I don’t mind that at all! I’m working with Jason Reitman right now, so I love working with people that I have established relationships with. But if somebody comes along that I have never heard of and has something really exciting and wonderful, I’m happy to be a part of it.

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By Benjamin Lindsay | Posted Oct. 20, 2017, 3:30 p.m. 

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