Marshall and Rick, what were challenges of going from stage to the screen?
Marshall Brickman: Well, they’re two different media really, Clint said there are things you can’t do onstage and things you can do in a movie and what we tried to do in the screenplay was just deepen it a little bit … a two and a half minute song on stage in performance would hold with an audience, because there’s something mystical and wonderful about being in a room with the actual live performers on stage that works. On film, it doesn’t work so. You’re dependent on invention and a brilliant director to keep the thing moving along, keep the music in. So what we tried to do was deepen it a little and I think to compare the movie and the stage play … is that the music and the story of the stage play have people wait. So Clint thought up a brilliant solution. Some of it provided by the screenplay … was to put the story a little more in front. So that the story is really everything in the movie. And now I’m going to toss it over to Rick.
Rick Elice: Well said Mr. Brickman, who knows what he’s talking about, but I’ll say something anyway. The music in the theater functions as a close-up. When a character sings in the theater in a spotlight, what the spotlight does is it gets you to look exactly where you, where the director wants you to look and the character opens his soul. But because you’re watching from a distance, we do it through music. In film of course, you can actually push into a close-up. And that’s why I think Clint was so clever to bring the story more to the front and the music … it will always be a story about music. It’s a story about four guys who made music, and made music that speaks to a whole lot of people. But, with the advantage of cinema and what that brings to storytelling, we were able to shift the balance a little bit.
So Clint, we have four very different stories about four very different people. Can you tell us the characteristic of each of the Four Seasons of which you most relate?
CE: Well, I totally relate to the whole thing. You know, I grew up in a neighbourhood [and] I went to a school which was about half Italian American and in an era where it was quite an interesting era in California. So I thought I understood something about that community. I had a lot of friends in that community and we used to call each other, not like today where everything’s PC talking, but we called each the names “dago” and … when Dinah Washington came out with “What A Difference A Day Makes,” we would say “What A Difference A Dago Makes.” It was all a very friendly and fun era to be in, but … we did have a big understanding about the closeness of the Italian American community because of the ancestry.
So do you identify with, say, Tommy’s toughness or Frankie’s persistence?
CE: Yeah, well they do have the … you don’t forgive a lot of the things, certain idiosyncrasies and maybe clichés, maybe not but, the Italian community where you get on the bad side and you’re on the bad side forever. I don’t know if that’s true nowadays, but there is sort of a historical feeling about that. But I related to it and I found, I don’t know why, I couldn’t give you a reason why but I just related to it because of the people I knew in Oakland in that time and the friends I had. And going over to New Jersey and looking at Tommy DeVito as a street named after him and everything. There’s a little bit of a culture thing going on still with those guys ‘cause of this play. And I’m sure that’s why there’s no street named after me. Anyway, that’s as close of an answer that I can come to on that.
You had a really clever cameo, a director cameo, in the film that kind of reminds us that you were a similar age to the men in the film. And I wondered, as these were young guys, trying to make their mark in the entertainment industry, and you at the time, another young guy trying to make your mark in the industry, were there things in the script, in the story, that resonated with you? Or things that you identified closely with in their struggle with a similar thing?
CE: Are you talking about my Hitchcock moment? That was actually Erich’s suggestion.
Erich Bergen: I’m glad it went well then.
CE: We were sitting there talking about doing this scene and we just going to be sitting there watching television and this woman walks into the room and he says I’ll be sitting there watching “Rawhide” and I start thinking “Yeah”… because after all that was about the era, about that time, and then I put it out of my mind and then somebody who works for me, a woman who handles all our television sets, just went ahead and did it. And afterwards I said, okay I’ll live with that. But Hitchcock moments are distracting. He managed to disguise himself…some of the time…until he became a television star later on.
So what in regard to the relation of the struggle of being a young man in the industry at the same time?
CE: Yeah it was about the same time, it was 1959 or 1960, where this was going…it was my first break after doing years of bit parts and unfeeling roles so it was a chance to gain a lot of experience and five or six years working with various directors before Sergio and Siegel and all those guys.