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updated: 10/20/2017 11:47 AM

J.K. Simmons on acting, Oscar, life and working with Ryan Gosling

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  • Video: "The Bachelors" trailer

  • Oscar-winning actor J.K, Simmons plays a sad widower taking his son (Josh Wiggins) on a cross-country trip in "The Bachelors," opening exclusively at the South Barrington 24.

    Oscar-winning actor J.K, Simmons plays a sad widower taking his son (Josh Wiggins) on a cross-country trip in "The Bachelors," opening exclusively at the South Barrington 24.

 
 

It's a J.K. Simmons weekend!

The popular movie and TV actor can be seen in two new films: as a grieving father in the domestic drama "The Bachelors" (at the South Barrington 24) and as a Norwegian politician in the serial killer thriller "The Snowman."

Simmons, 62, won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his dictatorial jazz band teacher, Terence Fletcher, in Damien Chazelle's 2014 drama "Whiplash."

I called Simmons this week and asked him a few questions:

Q. By playing the night club manager in "La La Land," you've been in two Damien Chazelle movies so far. Are you two becoming a thing, professionally speaking?

A. He wanted me to do something in "La La Land" because we both want to work together. He actually had a couple of cameo parts he thought I would want to look at.

We both appreciated the irony of me winding up playing a guy who hates jazz. And I wound up having fun working with Ryan (Gosling).

Q. How has winning the Oscar impacted your career?

A. It has brought an increasing number of scripts that I now get before they've been passed on to six other guys, so I have a lot more options to choose from. I got several of those (offers to play Fletcher-like characters). I've always turned down offers even when I couldn't afford to, and my agents thought I was crazy. I'm always looking to do something different from what I just got done doing.

I haven't auditioned much for several years now. These days it's better just to sit down with the director over lunch and discuss things, chat and check to see that you're both on the same page.

In "The Snowman," Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons plays a devious politician talking to a cop (Rebecca Ferguson) on the trail of a serial killer.
In "The Snowman," Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons plays a devious politician talking to a cop (Rebecca Ferguson) on the trail of a serial killer. -

Q. What do you find so attractive about acting that you've stuck with it for decades?

A. The initial attraction was 50/50, starting with the girls, because there are lots of them in theater, especially musical theater, which is where I started out. The other 50 percent was that I was just drawn to the romantic drama of being part of this world. It was a great outlet for a young, passionate, romantic guy to pour his soul into.

I'm still looking for characters that I can connect with, whether it's Bill in "The Bachelors," who is a profoundly sad and essentially sweet, kind, wonderful human being who finds himself trapped in this spiral of depression. Or characters like Fletcher, who is a genius/sociopath. I think that will continue to interest me for as long as I want to keep doing this.

Q. I thought your work as a motorcycle-riding romantic lead in "The Meddler" was quite charming. How did the shoot go?

A. It was a real treat to work on that movie, and of course, the chance to work with Susan Sarandon. She's just brilliant, one of those actors who's easy to connect with. Our very first day on the set, of course, we had our big kiss on the beach, one of those, "Hi, good to meet ya! Now let's suck face" moments.

Zipper, the character I play, was a retired motorcycle cop who's working security on movie sets. I've been around those guys for years. They really are a type, and I swear that 90 percent of them have the same mustache.

Q. Just out of curiosity, do you get many people humming the musical ditty from those Farmers Insurance TV commercials you're in?

A. Constantly. More people see those commercials than will ever see any of my movies all put together. Plus, it's a nice, catchy jingle. Usually, people will sing it in the mall or other places, Not very well, though. That's about all the interaction there is. A nod. A smile. Then we go on about our day.

Q. Bonus question: Has anyone ever tried to buy a policy from you?

A. No, but I have had a couple of people ask me if I could help them with their claims.

Dann Gire's column "Reel Life" runs Fridays in Time out! Follow him on Twitter @DannGireDHFilm.

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