In the latest installment of Off the Cuff, Peter Travers sits down with J.K. Simmons to talk about the actor’s spellbinding film festival-favorite Whiplash. In the film, which screened at the New York Film Festival before opening nationwide in early October, Simmons plays a no-nonsense drum teacher named Terence Fletcher who wreaks havoc on a talented pupil played by Miles Teller. As Simmons tells Travers over tea at New York’s Shun Lee West restaurant, the role was cathartic for him. “I wish we shot longer than 19 days, I would’ve got more of that bullshit out,” Simmons says.
Whiplash shows both the physical and mental abuse Fletcher unleashes on his music-conservatory student as both characters strive for perfection and genius. “[Teller] was reluctant to be slapped really hard dozen of times, and I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t enjoy that, that level of acting and commitment,” Simmons jokes. As the actor tells Travers, Whiplash did cause a rift between him and his daughter, since she – like every teenage girl in America – has a crush on the up-and-coming Teller, thanks to roles in The Spectacular Now and Divergent.
Travers has praised Simmons’ performance in the film as Oscar-worthy, but our resident film critic can’t coax the actor to give us sneak peek at his possible Academy Award acceptance speech. In this Off the Cuff, Simmons also shares about why he’s billed as J.K.: When he joined the Screen Actors Guild, there was already a member named “Jonathan Simmons,” so the actor was forced to appear using his initials, Jonathan Kimble.