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Academy Awards: For J.K. Simmons of 'Whiplash,' the beat never slows

J.K. Simmons, on first reading the 'Whiplash' script: 'It just leaps off the page'

The life of an Oscar nominee is a busy one, indeed. Veteran actor J.K. Simmons had just flown in from Atlanta, where he's filming "The Accountant" with Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick, and was having a quick breakfast on a January late morning near his Studio City home while nursing a lingering cold.

The odds-on favorite to win the supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of a ferociously manipulative jazz instructor in the best picture nominee "Whiplash," he's already scooped up a number of statuettes for the role, including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award, which he won not long after this conversation.

He was set for an early flight the next morning to New York to prep for and host NBC's "Saturday Night Live." In the two weeks that follow, he'll have gone back to Atlanta for more filming, returned to L.A. for this week's Oscar nominees luncheon and then will fly to London for the British Academy Film Awards.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015

But you (mostly) won't hear him complaining. "It's to the point now I don't have time to even watch my ballgames," he says. "But it's all good; well, more than good, really."

Do you remember your initial reaction to the "Whiplash" script by director Damien Chazelle?

I remember it much more explicitly than I remember almost anything. I got it in an email from Jason Reitman. From that first page I felt in my being something extraordinary; I get tingles talking about it. It was — is — so amazing on paper. It just leaps off the page. It's hilarious, harrowing, mature, thorough. It's just an amazing, amazing piece of writing.

I'd imagine, since you don't appear to be an angry guy, it'd be hard physically going from 0 to 1,000 volts to 0 and back up again constantly?

The only way that was hard was technically, vocally. I started out in theater and I know how to use my voice, and I was a singer and all that, but this wasn't something where I could apply any kind of vocal technique or be careful about anything. I just had to go insane and scream from the bottom of my shoes. And I couldn't do that all day, every day for three days in a row, so Damien wisely scheduled the days so that if I was screaming a lot on Monday I wouldn't have to scream again until Thursday.

What's it like seeing yourself terrorize someone in panorama on-screen? That must be an odd experience the first time you see the film.

Except for some chunks in the editing room, the first time I saw it was at Cannes. It's funny. My wife and I debated whether our daughter, who'd recently turned 13, if it was appropriate for her to watch it, partly because of the language, obviously, but also just because of the psychological terror of it. We decided it would be OK.

So it was just my daughter and I in the car, and I said, "Mom and I talked about it and we decided that it's OK for you to see the movie when we go to New York." And she said, "I don't think I want to see it. I heard you're really, really mean in it." But we all did see it as a family together in New York. I've seen it now four times all the way through.

Speaking of New York, you're hosting "Saturday Night Live" [Jan. 31]. How did that gig come about?

When they first approached me, I thought it was amazingly cool, but I'm doing this movie in Atlanta and I'm working that week. So I said I'd love to, but I can't. I went home and told my wife and she lost her mind and said you can't not do it. Our kids just recently started watching it, and they were losing their minds, and so I called my agent back and said, "Let's see if we can make it work." ... I'm 60, so I remember Season 1.

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