Why take Jason Robert Brown's intimate musical, exploring a flawed relationship — told theatrically through a series of solo songs, with one character moving forward and the other traveling backwards — and place it on the big screen? "I love it," explained director Richard LaGravenese, who envisioned the piece for film. "That's the only reason."
As family, friends, press and industry members filtered into the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center — including stars Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick and Tony Award-winning writer Jason Robert Brown, fresh off opening his latest Broadway musical The Bridges of Madison County — it was evident that "The Last Five Years" was a labor of love and a passion project for all involved.
"I was obsessed with the score, and I never saw the show initially," confessed LaGravenese. "I would listen to it over and over, and I just knew it… I just listened to the score, and I kept seeing it. I wanted them to sing to each other [in the film version] because it adds a whole other layer to the song, to the story and to what relationships are."
It seemed unlikely that The Last Five Years, Brown's semi-autobiographical story about insecure Shiksa actress Cathy Hyatt (Kendrick) and rising Jewish novelist Jamie Wellerstein (Jordan), would be a perfect match for the big screen — the material is comprised of over a dozen solo moments told out of order, leaving the audience to piece the doomed relationship together throughout the course of the evening. However, LaGravenese was insistent on bringing each moment to life, with Cathy and Jamie singing to each other throughout various locations in New York City (which serves as the setting of the musical and the third character of the new film).
"Probably, in some sort of fevered dream, I thought [a film] might happen," said songwriter Brown, "but of all of my shows, it was the least likely. I really thought it's so impressionistic and so theatrical that it was going to be very hard to do, [but] when I met with Richard about doing an adaptation, he was so passionate about it and had such a clear idea of how to bring it to life, that he totally won me over. But I was very skeptical until then. I don't know that I would have signed on if he had not been so committed to how to do it."
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