Jersey Boys
Clint Eastwood, left, directs "Jersey Boys," a film adaption of the Broadway musical written about Frankie Valli, right, and his iconic rock group Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. Warner Bros.

When asked why he chose to turn the successful Broadway show “Jersey Boys” into a movie, Clint Eastwood had one simple answer: “It seemed like something to do.” The crowd of journalists broke into laughter. At 84 years old, the Hollywood veteran retains his gruff and matter-of-fact sense of humor. Latin Times recently had an opportunity to hear Eastwood talk about his upcoming movie. The Warner Bros. Entertainment film is set to hit theaters Friday.

“Jersey Boys” is a historical musical about the iconic 1960s rock group Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons and their rise to fame. The group had a huge impact on music, producing famous songs like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like Man” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” But, their rags-to-riches rise to fame was rocky.

The movie seemed an unlikely choice for Eastwood, who is most well known for his Westerns and biopics. The last music-themed movie he directed was in 1988 entitled “Bird.” However, he’s always been a music man. “I did like the Four Seasons a lot,” Eastwood admitted. “Their music was far superior. ‘Can’t take my eyes off of you … 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 30s or any time in history.” Eastwood said he’d often leave the set after a days work humming a tune.

Surprisingly, this “Jersey Boys” film-adaptation has no movie stars in it. Eastwood decided to cast majorly the Broadway actors who played the roles on stage for the film. The musical was first staged in 2005, and the actors in the movie had done over 1200 performances before the idea for the movie was even conceived. The main characters are four young Italian Americans living in New Jersey in the 1960s -- “The Voice” Frankie Valli (played by John Lloyd Young), guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza, who is the only non-Broadway actor), bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and keyboardist and songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). “It seemed like the group just came together so well,” said Eastwood about the casting process. “... 1200 performances, that’s an experience you just cannot buy.”

Eastwood said that to him, casting a film is one of the most important things next to the writing. “If you cast it properly, everything kind of takes place very easily.” The director said he felt very lucky this time around with the “Jersey Boys” cast and crew, which he referred to as a “family.” He revealed that it doesn’t always happen that way, but this time, it did.

Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood directs "Jersey Boys." Warner Bros.

The writers of the screenplay and musical book, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice spoke highly of Eastwood’s cleverness in how he chose to move this musical from the stage to the big screen. Brickman pointed out that in the musical, the music and the storyline have about equal weight. “What Clint did, which I thought was a brilliant solution -- some of it provided by the screenplay, of course -- was to put the story a little more in front because the story is really everything in a movie.” Elice agreed. He said in musical theater the music acts as the close-up because when you’re in the audience, you can’t see the actors faces. “When a character sings in the theater, in a spotlight, what the spotlight does is that it 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 forefront than the music.”

Clint Eastwood In Jersey Boys
Clint Eastwood directs "Jersey Boys." Warner Bros.

Although, clearly this is still a story about music, no doubt. Fans of the Broadway show will be pleased to see that the movie was very true to the storyline of the musical and gives us clips of all the hit songs for a great soundtrack. The actors were filmed singing live because Eastwood wanted to maintain the feeling that the show evoked for viewers for so many years on stage. As for the actors: They were just grateful to have had a chance to work on a project they love with the one and only Clint Eastwood.

“You walk onto a Clint Eastwood set and there’s no ego there. The respect for everyone from the actors to the catering truck, especially the catering truck … ” remarked Bergen before he was slyly interrupted by his director, Eastwood.

“Especially the catering truck,” Eastwood whispered with a laugh. “He’s getting down to the important things now.”

“I agree. I honestly think I’ll spend the rest of my life just trying to chase that experience that I had on that set,” Lomenda said humbly.

Jersey Boys -- Official Trailer

Jersey Boys -- "Meet the Jersey Boys" Featurette

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