Jonathan Kimball ("J.K.") Simmons in the movie "Whiplash" . . . a role that could win him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor when they call for THE ENVELOPE PLEASE. As John Blackstone now tells us Simmons' path to the Red Carpet has been years in the making.
With his riveting performance in "Whiplash" as an explosive and brutally demanding music teacher, J.K. Simmons finds himself in an unusual position: the center of attention.
For the last 30 years in movies, on TV, and in insurance commercials, Simmons has often caught our eye, even if we didn't catch his name.
"You're a guy who, until recently, everybody knew your face -- lot of people didn't know your name," said Blackstone.
"It's changing, yeah," said Simmons. "Yeah. And I'm glad it's happening now and not 20 or 30 years ago, or 40 years ago. I feel like I can handle it. I feel like I'm a grownup, you know? It's not turning my head in an odd way."
"Whiplash," a small-budget movie made in just 19 days, has changed everything for Simmons.
"It's been a busy time and a hectic time, but it's also led to great opportunities for the future, too," he said. "Doors that were kind of ajar have been kicked open. So the attention that all the awards stuff has brought for me has been great.
As conductor Terrence Fletcher, he both encourages and torments a young drummer played by Miles Teller. The movie was directed by Damien Chazelle.
"When I met Damien, he started to assure me that conducting shouldn't intimidate me," said Simmons. "And I said, 'Well, you know, I got a college degree conducting and composing and singing at the University of Montana. So I got it covered!'"
Growing up in a musical family, he said his plan had been to be Leonard Bernstein.
"I was born in Detroit. More often than not, I'm wearing a Tigers cap."
His father, like his character in "Whiplash," was a music teacher and choral conductor. "But he was a significantly kinder, gentler conductor than Mr. Fletcher was," said Simmons.