There may not be an obvious connection between Damien Chazelle’s horror script “The Last Exorcism Part 2” and “Whiplash,” but the adapted screenplay nominee drew heavily on his training as a writer-for-hire of horror films when penning the tale of a music student and his sadistic professor.
“Even though I was writing something personal in this case, almost autobiographical, I (used) the same technique I used writing thrillers,” says Chazelle. “Ultimately the script I wrote was a psychological thriller. As a horror writer, I (learned) how do you to keep people turning the page.”
Ten years after his performing arts high school experience with a barbarous conductor — he based J.K. Simmons’ character on his own teacher and on drummer/bandleader Buddy Rich’s legendarily brutal treatment of his musicians — Chazelle sat down to write the screenplay.
“I immediately knew what the tone and flavor would be, but the script itself was messy and sloppy and I had to tinker with it for a while,” he says. He ultimately winnowed it down from 130 pages to 100. Once Chazelle, who also directed “Whiplash,” handed it over to his agent, the script remained fairly intact: “I think there’s a particular kind of cruelty in music teachers,” he says. “That’s really what I wanted to capture.”