J.K. Simmons as Fletcher in Whiplash
Born: Jonathan Kimble Simmons was born January 9, 1955 in Detroit, Michigan
The Role: Writer/Director Damien Chazelle's festival hit first came to attention with its screenplay that was featured on the annual Black List in 2012. The film follows a first year drum major (Miles Teller) at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music that joins the elite Jazz orchestra headed by a sadistic conductor named Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher is well respected and can make or break a young musician's career, although his methods of achieving perfection (violent outbursts, name calling, and physical abuse when he actually throws a chair at Teller) are somewhat unconventional.
To fund the feature length film, Chazelle first made an 18-minute short (an excerpt of the complete script) that was shown at Sundance in 2013, with Simmons as Fletcher, that won the Jury Award in short film. When it came time to make the full-length film, there was talk of re-casting Fletcher with a bigger name (Kevin Spacey, Kevin Kline, and Jeff Daniels were all considered), but Simmons ultimately was able to reprise the role he created. And the film received the Audience Award and top Jury Prize when it premiered at Sundance this past January.