STAGE TO SCREENS: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan and Richard LaGravenese Re-Examine The Last Five Years on Film

By Michael Gioia
25 Feb 2014

Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick in a promotional still for the film
The film stays completely true to its source material — which premiered in Chicago in 2001, opened Off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre in March 2002 and was, most recently, revived at Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre — and only enhances each musical moment. Viewers are invited into Cathy and Jaime's passionate bedroom, the Ohio stock theatre that Cathy reluctantly travels to each summer, Jamie's various book signings and office at Random House publishing company and Central Park, where the couple is engaged, among others.

"I was very excited because [the musical is] incredibly intimate, and that's generally what film captures really well — the subtle intimacies between people," said Jordan, who finds himself living out a dream as Jamie Wellerstein. The actor, Tony-nominated for his role in Newsies and recently seen on television in NBC's "Smash," first encountered the material in college.

"Sometimes you don't know your dream role is your dream role until you get it, and you're like, 'Holy shit!' But I knew this…," said Jordan. "The second I heard this [score] back in college when it first came out, I was immediately obsessed. I never actually seen the show, but I very intimately knew the soundtrack [and] — along with every other musical theatre lover — related to it instantly. I had it memorized before I even auditioned for this movie."

Kendrick, however, knew nothing of The Last Five Years before signing on. "When I got the script, I was really excited because Parade is my favorite musical," she explained, "but I actually had never listened to Last Five Years. I read the script without having ever heard the music, which was one of the most impressive things [because I was] weeping reading the script — just reading the lyrics on paper and reading screen directions. Then, the next day, I listened to the soundtrack while I reread the script, and I realized I could never listen to the soundtrack ever again. It was so beautiful, and I [thought], 'Oh, I can't ever listen to this again… I'm just going to have to learn it from scratch, otherwise I'll just be doing an impression of the CD.'"

Although the actress — a Tony nominee for High Society who is best known for her film outings in "Camp" and "Pitch Perfect" — was afraid of imitating original cast member Sherie Rene Scott (who appears in the film as a casting director at one of Cathy's many auditions), she is completely different from the actresses who played the role before her and relates to Cathy's strong need for validation.

"The thing about Cathy… She thinks that everyone is younger and thinner than her. Maybe they are, and maybe they're not. Cathy is her own worst enemy, and Cathy's fatal flaw is that she doesn't believe in herself, and she wants to see her confidence reflected through a man," said Kendrick. "You can't have somebody else be the person who is giving you confidence. I understand looking for validation elsewhere, and that isn't a long-term solution. So, I think Cathy's downfall comes from insecurity more than actually being a deeply flawed person."