Telling a Story through Song: A Conversation with Richard LaGravanese for the release of The Last Five Years on Friday
A touching story of heartbreak and passion, THE LAST FIVE YEARS, based on the hit off-Broadway musical, stars Academy Award® nominee Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan in this honest and funny portrayal of the highs and lows of a five year relationship.
Told almost entirely through song from a score by Jason Robert Brown, THE LAST FIVE YEARS, which received its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, is directed and adapted for the screen by Academy Award® nominee Richard LaGravenese and will be released across the UK in Spring 2015 through Icon Film Distribution.
Filled with the lively energy of New York City's cultural milieu, the film tells the story of the five-year relationship between rising novelist Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan) and struggling actress Cathy Hyatt (Anna Kendrick). As Jamie's new novel vaults him to the top of the literary scene, Cathy is still doing summer stock in Ohio, and their diverging levels of success pose pressing and dire challenges to their love. The film tells Cathy's side of the story in reverse order, starting from the end of their marriage, while Jamie's version of events begins when the couple first meets.
The Fan Carpet’s Melanie Crossey in association with ActingHour had the please of talking to Richard LaGravanese ahead of the release of The Last Five Years, he tells Mel about working on a Musical, working with the phenomenally talented Anna Kendrick and being a fan of Musical Theatre...
You’ve written and directed some absolutely amazing films, “The Fisher King”, “Freedom Writers” and “Behind The Candelabra” to name a few but, to my knowledge, you’ve never worked on a full musical before. What was it that made you want to work on a musical now and this one in particular?
Well, I think I’ve always had the urge. Even in my first film, “Living Out Loud” I had a musical number inside of it, so I’ve always loved that. I love musical theatre. I was a theatre major at school, I did Summer Stock as a teenager, so I love musical theatre. This score in particular, among musical theatre lovers, is very well known and is a classic. It’s one of the top ten scores for us but it’s not as well known to the general public. So this became sort of a passion project for me to do, independently.
Musicals are notoriously difficult to capture on screen. Audiences either love them or hate them. How did you approach adapting this to film whilst keeping the magic of the stage show?
Well, that was the goal. My respect for, and intention to keep “The Last Five Years” in its original form as much as possible. Meaning, don’t cut any songs, keep the structure exactly the same, the two time periods and cast actors to sing the score brilliantly. The only difference I made was that in the stage version, the songs are sung as monologues. They are sung to the audience, sort of fourth wall, not to each other, except for one song where the time periods overlap. In the film, the difference I made is that I had them sing to each other when appropriate so the songs, instead of becoming monologues, they became playable scenes. That was really the only difference I made. Other than that, I kept it very close to the original.
You mentioned the cast. I’m personally a massive fan of Anna Kendrick. She’s done some fantastic work both on screen and on stage. Had you seen much of her work before? Was there something in particular that made her stand out and made you want to work with her?
Yes! A friend of mine (Todd Graff) wrote and directed an independent film called “Camp”, which was about a musical theatre camp here in upstate New York. It’s a very funny, very wonderful little movie. Anna was a supporting player in it and she kind of stole the movie! Ever since then, I just thought she was a great talent and then of course her performance in “Up In The Air”. Those things combined, by the time I was ready and looking for cast, she was my first choice and we were lucky enough to have her interested and agreeing to do the film several months before “Pitch Perfect” came out. When “Pitch Perfect” came out, she became even more popular and that really helped us.
THE LAST FIVE YEARS IS OUT FRIDAY APRIL 17