By: Lynette Carrington
All Photos © Sony Pictures Digital Productions Inc. All Rights Reserved.
If you have been to a movie in the past few months, you have undoubtedly seen the trailer for new Sony Pictures film “Ricki and the Flash” starring Meryl Streep and debuting nationwide August 7. Rick Springfield snagged the role of “Greg” the boyfriend of Ricki, portrayed by Streep, a three-time Oscar winning actress. As the side-man and guitarist in Ricki’s band, Ricki and the Flash, Springfield, who is a music, television and film veteran showed exceptional acting chops and held his own with Streep. In what some might consider an unexpected casting choice, Springfield shines brilliantly in a role that he owns in it’s entirely with charm, humility and feeling.
“I read the script and loved it,” says Springfield. “It was an audition process like most gigs are. First they wanted me to get together with Meryl and play guitar with her and see kind of how we looked and if I really could play guitar. That was the first audition. They really liked that and liked the chemistry and we did a quick reading-blasting through the script and they offered me the part. The people involved were a big draw for me.”
“Ricki and the Flash” explores the life of Ricki (a.k.a. Linda) who left her family many years ago to pursue her dreams of rock-n-roll stardom. When a family emergency with Ricki’s daughter (wonderfully acted by Steep’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer) beckons Ricki to go back and make things right, old wounds are reopened as she attempts to grasp what has become of her three grown children. Ricki’s ex-husband, Pete, is portrayed by Kevin Kline who plays a straight-laced, stable and well-to-do man who has moved on, remarried and been a rock for his children. Greg has been waiting for Ricki to make more of a romantic commitment but Ricki has been holding back; afraid to really jump into anything too serious. Throughout the film, Greg proves his worth to Ricki while continuing to show her how she is a good mother and shouldn’t beat herself up about her past life decisions.
“Ricki and the Flash” writer, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, has created a contemporary and relatable drama with richly conceived characters and smart punches of humor at just the right moments. “She was on set the whole time at the auditions and everything,” says Springfield of Cody. “I was amazed she is so young! I met her after I read the script and she’s talking about things she hasn’t lived yet-well, I’m sure she has in her own way, but she’s a very deep writer. When I saw the movie finally finished, I said to her, ‘You’re script is kind of the star of the show.” The film was directed by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” “Beloved” and “The Manchurian Candidate”) who lent the film a very warm and heart-felt quality.
“It’s a human story-that’s the main thing that drew me to it. It wasn’t just about musicians, it’s about two people,” says Springfield about the storyline that follows Greg and Ricki. The character of Greg has a reality much different from Springfield’s own musical superstardom. “It’s a different path than I took. I certainly played in cover bands when I was younger but this is different… All the musicians have kind of had their shot and missed and their settled in a bar band in Tarzana. It’s different playing that as a young guy than playing that as an older person. It creates a whole new reality for the character.”
“Greg’s very happy. He could be bagging groceries at Ralph’s but he’s playing guitar in and he’s in love with the singer. Although they’ve got a lot of problems and she’s a pretty wild spirit and he doesn’t know how to handle her a lot of the time, he does get it together eventually, I think,” says Springfield of his character.
Springfield relished the chance to gel with Meryl and the group of real musicians that came together to portray “Ricki and the Flash.” “I knew of the guys and they knew of me,” explains Springfield. “They’ve all been in famous bands-Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Talking Heads, George Clinton and Joe Walsh. Those players have all been in those bands and they‘re great musicians, so we instantly got the songs. The camaraderie was something we developed over the couple weeks of rehearsal we had for the music.”
Although Streep is not typically known foremost as a musician, like the pro that she is, she gave it her all. “We all knew what it took and she absolutely brought it,” states Springfield. “She was very much the star of the band and brought her own characterization to it and mastered enough of the guitar to really pull it off.”
Landing the role of Greg was a positive experience for Springfield. “It definitely upped my game as an actor for sure,” Springfield says. “Everybody was at the top of their game. You’ve got to bring it or you get kicked out. I got a lot of confidence in doing this as an actor. Acting is kind of a weird career. You’re only really working as an actor when you’ve got a gig, you know? As a musician, you can pick up a guitar any time and play or write a song... Working with those people has given me a lot more confidence as an actor and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
The release of Ricki and the Flash” comes on the heels of a fun role on “True Detective” and right at the start of a summer tour for Springfield with Loverboy and The Romantics. This week marks the 34th anniversary of Springfield’s monster anthem “Jessie’s Girl” hitting No. 1 and by the end of 2015, he’ll be releasing his 18th solo album. The paperback version of Springfield’s novel and “New York Times” best seller “Magnificent Vibration” just debuted and is available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold.
“Ricki and the Flash” opens nationwide in theaters everywhere Friday, August 7.