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"Every actor wants to work with him," John Lloyd Young, who plays the lead role of Frankie Valli, said of Eastwood at the Los Angeles Film Festival's closing-night screening of the film Thursday. "He's a man of very few words, but the words that he shares with you have a deep impact and completely change your performance."
Erich Bergen, who left the Las Vegas "Jersey Boys" show after three years with the production, said Eastwood "gave him a second chance" at the role of keyboardist and songwriter Bob Gaudio.
"I don't know if I'll ever get a chance like that again," Bergen said of working with the director. "He's so collaborative and he wants to know what your first instincts are as an actor. I've never had that …. I'm so used to being micromanaged."
After several false starts in development, the "Jersey Boys" film opens this weekend, seeking to capture some of the buzz that has made it a stage hit in numerous cities since winning the Tony Award for best musical in 2006.
Based on the rags-to-riches musical about Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, the film follows lead singer Frankie (Young), guitarist Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and keyboardist and songwriter Gaudio (Bergen) from their humble beginnings to the top of the pop heap.
For Piazza, one of the few non-stage players in the film, being a newcomer had its challenges and advantages.
"I felt like I had to be very diligent about the work," he said. "[But] all the fears I had in my head dissipated after meeting Mr. Eastwood and the guys."
Despite the skepticism that a stage-to-screen adaptation engenders, principals said they believed the change of media would change the experience for the viewer.
"People sort of say, 'Why do 'Jersey Boys the musical in a film version?'" Lomenda said. "I think it's because you can delve into the psychological journey these guys went on." He added, "You get to zoom in on people and really see their eyes."