Jersey Boys cast admit Clint Eastwood was a 'strange choice' to direct movie

The film version of the musical 'Jersey Boys' is released this week, and Clint Eastwood is its unlikely director. The cast tell Tom Teodorczuk about how he made their day

The notion of Clint Eastwood directing a film based on the hit musical Jersey Boys may be puzzling to many. The 84-year-old director and actor has specialised in crime dramas, Westerns and sports films. Why now the tumultuous tale of the 1960s pop group the Four Seasons?

Yet it shouldn't feel so strange. Eastwood composes many of the scores to his films and his previous work includes the Charlie Parker biopic Bird (1988) and the country-music drama Honkytonk Man (1982).

Jersey Boys is no mundane jukebox musical since it intersperses the Four Seasons' hits ("Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Sherry", "Walk Like a Man") with the group's backstory, which is rich in betrayal, crime and revenge as four impoverished New Jersey musicians rise to fame and record sales of 100 million worldwide.

Jersey Boys movie review

Eastwood doesn't flinch from depicting the Four Seasons' ties to the Mob, the prison past of half the group and the fallout that stardom unleashes on family life.

John Lloyd Young, who originated the role of the Four Seasons' lead vocalist Frankie Valli on Broadway, before going on to play him in the West End where Jersey Boys has been running since 2008, reprises the part in the film.

He admits that Eastwood initially struck him as a surprising choice of director: "It did feel odd and I think it's because Jersey Boys has an interesting, strange communication problem when it comes to its legacy. It won best musical at the Tony Awards and people call it a jukebox musical. But it's unlike any other jukebox musical. When you look what Jersey Boys is – a drama about a band – you see the connection of Clint Eastwood to a Broadway musical in this instance makes complete sense. There is a compelling biographical story. If you just heard the music you wouldn't necessarily know that a bunch of Mobbed-up boys from New Jersey were responsible for it. That underbelly, that shadow within the light, is Clint's signature style."

Jersey Boys: A scene from the film Jersey Boys: A scene from the film Eastwood retains the Four Seasons' songs but his Jersey Boys plays up the drama. "It's not about the music," maintains Erich Bergen who portrays Bob Gaudio, Four Seasons' band member and co-writer. "It's about four guys living their lives. These four guys happened to be in one of the great rock'n'roll bands of all time. The media call this a musical but that's not really what this is. This isn't Grease or West Side Story. No one breaks out into song."

Mamma Mia! was a recent musical film where people broke into song to stellar commercial effect, but the flop all-star movie versions of Nine and Rock of Ages illustrated the perils of bringing musicals into celluloid being. In this case Eastwood has eschewed celebrity casting, instead plucking three of his four Jersey Boys from the stage show (the fourth, Vincent Piazza, who plays guitarist Tommy DeVito, plays Lucky Luciano on Boardwalk Empire). In fact, the most famous actor in Jersey Boys is Christopher Walken, who has a supporting role as a Mobster.

Lloyd Young is grateful that Clint kept the faith. "The idea of a Broadway actor who originates a role being pushed aside for someone else in the Hollywood film adaptation is one that unfortunately has come true more often than Broadway fans would like it to have been," he says. "For me there was a very uncomfortable feeling of, 'I'm on the cast album, I won the Tony Award, this is a role that means a lot. How will it feel to go through the rest of my life knowing someone has taken this role on screen and that someone isn't me?' I'm very relieved that someone is me!"

Prior to Eastwood coming on board, Jersey Boys had a convoluted journey to the screen. Martin Scorsese was among those reputedly keen to make the film before Iron Man director Jon Favreau signed on to film a script by screenwriter John Logan (Skyfall) that supposedly significantly deviated from its stage roots.

When that version fell through, the film was assumed dead only for Eastwood to revive it. "Clint went to see the show and loved it so much that he went back to the stage script," says Bergen. "That was very smart of him. That's no dig at John Logan, who is a brilliant writer, but what Clint fell in love with was what we all felt when we saw Jersey Boys for the first time."

Bergen was personally chosen for the film by the real-life Bob Gaudio, who told Eastwood that Bergen was the actor who most resembled him. Jersey Boys, in not being standard blockbuster fare, is perceived as a gamble for release during the summer season, but Bergen says that's in keeping with its history. "When I did the first national American tour of Jersey Boys they kept being worried that it wasn't going to work – and it kept working. I think we have the same thing with the film. There is so much fear because this show is so beloved by so many. We all had our doubts, not because of Clint Eastwood but that Hollywood was going to mess it up. But there's relief – not just relief that they didn't screw it up but that Clint Eastwood made a fantastic film." Bergen goes further: "The fact that Warner Brothers is giving summer moviegoers this big, deep, Clint Eastwood film is the first sign that we're trusting the audience. Us being hired to do our parts from the stage version falls right in line with that."

Eastwood himself makes a cameo appearance in the film when a short clip from his 1960s Western TV series Rawhide is shown. "It was actually my suggestion," says Bergen. "I was in a scene watching TV and there was nothing on. They were going to add in special effects later. Jokingly, I said to Clint, 'You should put on Rawhide'. He smiled and walked away and went behind the camera. Then I see the movie and it's in there!"

The Four Seasons themselves took some persuading to let their story be told on screen. "The Four Seasons, more than anyone, had stuff to hide," says Bergen. "So I don't think originally they were into letting this be seen and I know Frankie is still struggling with what stories are told and what stories aren't told. The flip side of that is that it has introduced his music to a whole new generation."

What does Valli make of the film? "Frankie in some ways would prefer that there be a documentary about him where he can set the record straight on the facts of his life," says Lloyd Young. He cites a scene in Jersey Boys when the Four Seasons are waiting to go on the prestigious Ed Sullivan Show only for news to break that Tommy DeVito has mired the band in debt: "Those two things didn't happen at the same time in Frankie's life. So when he was on set, he said, 'That's not how that happened'. But I think he's come to terms with the fact that because of dramatic licence, sometimes things overlap that might have happened in actual time at different points. Now I think Frankie's very happy. He seems very snobbish that his story has been turned into a movie by Clint Eastwood!"

'Jersey Boys' opens on 20 June

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz