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Jeremy Jordan on ‘The Last Five Years,’ a ‘Newsies’ Movie and the End of ‘Smash’

Jeremy Jordan is a four-time Broadway star (Tony nominated for 2012’s “Newsies”) and TV heartthrob (thanks to NBC’s short-lived “Smash”); now he can add movie actor to his resume. The 30-year-old is the lead in “The Last Five Years,” based on the cult stage musical, about a young husband and wife (played by Anna Kendrick) who croon about the highs and lows of their dissolving relationship.

To get the part, Jordan had to audition three times for director Richard LaGravenese (“P.S. I Love You”) in the spring of 2013. The indie was shot in only three weeks that summer, and Radius-TWC later picked up U.S. distribution. (The film opens in theaters and on VOD on Feb. 13). Jordan spoke to Variety about live singing in the movie (a la “Les Miserables”), if there could ever be a “Newsies” remake and the backstage fighting on “Smash.”

I hadn’t seen the play.
I’d never seen the play either. But I’ve seen the movie.

That’s because you’re in it.
Naturally.

Does the movie make you cry?
No, because I’m just sitting there, analyzing myself. The first couple times you watch a movie with yourself in it, you think, “How could I have done it better?” Or, “What is that face?!” You think of yourself as what you see in pictures or your mirror face. So when I see myself laughing or being stupid, I’m like, “Is that what I look like?” I’ll turn to my wife, who will say, “Yes darling, that’s what you look like.”

Were you familiar with the material?
I went to school for theater and it came out right when I started college. I became obsessed with the soundtrack. By the time the auditions came around, I knew all the songs by heart.

Did you have to audition?
Ooooh yeah. They had Anna Kendrick. I’m sure they had some auditions with young men of her caliber in terms of A-list and such. But I guess they didn’t find what they needed, so they came to us lowly Broadway folk and gave us a shot. I had a bunch of auditions. Richard didn’t know my work. He’s a big theater nerd, but he hadn’t seen the four Broadway shows I’d done. Some theater nerd!

How many times did you read for the part?
I hadn’t done enough on film to really show all the facets of Jamie. The first time I came in, I had to prove I could sing all the notes. The second time I came in, it was the dramatic stuff. The third time I came in, it was the comedic stuff, and then they finally gave me the job. It took a few weeks of auditioning and crossing my fingers and clenching my butt cheeks.

Unlike most movie musicals, there were many uninterrupted takes during “The Last Five Years.”
That was the best stuff to do. Like my song “If I Didn’t Believe in You,” which is toward the end, is done in a seven-minute long shot. The whole argument before the song and the song itself is just one shot. We did it 14 times, and we used take 12.

Was all the singing live?
Almost all of it. Only two songs are done off the track. Her song in the car wouldn’t have worked. That was pre-recorded. Half of my “Moving Too Fast” song was pre-recorded. It’s done in 30 locations. I would have done those songs live if we could have.

Most movies rely on lip-syncing.
I know. They don’t have to anymore. We have in-ear monitors, we have multi-direction sound. If you do it live, you’re not a slave to one choice you made a month ago in a recording studio. They discovered that with “Les Miz.” We did it a little bit with “Smash,” although that was mostly a timing thing. And also there were so many producers that had to approve a song before they could even film it. If we filmed it live and they didn’t like it, you’d have to do it over again — and that cost money.

Do you think there could ever be another season of “Smash”?
No, it’s not coming back. Nobody is going to invest in the show again.

Was it not fun to work on?
It was a blast to do. But there were too many cooks in the kitchen, and nobody got along backstage and behind the scenes, because everybody had different ideas. It never found its audience. But the cast loved each other.

You starred on “Newsies” in Broadway. Do you think there could be a remake of the movie?
I hope so.

Why hasn’t Disney called you?
I’m too f—ing old now. The first movie was such a flop, they might be a little scared of it. We only did it on Broadway because there was a large demand for licensing. Schools wanted to do it around the country — they had to create a musical to license it. That’s all we made it for, and it turned out to be a surprise hit.

You’ve done film, TV and Broadway. What do you prefer?
I love doing movies, but I think I’ll always prefer the stage. Stage is telling the whole story all the way through. If you f— up, you can do it again the next day. It’s in the moment; nobody is videotaping it. There’s an instant gratification to it. In TV and film, you do your work, and six months later it’s being produced and it’s gone through many hands. Onstage, although you’ve been directed and lit, you are providing the final product. As a self-proclaimed control freak, that’s very gratifying.

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