It was easy to understand why J.K. Simmons would emerge as an Oscar favorite this year. And it wasn’t just his fierce, terrifying performance as the near-sadistic director of a college jazz ensemble in “Whiplash.” The 60-year-old has also had one of those careers that many in the academy’s actor branch — by far the largest group of voters — can relate to, built over several decades on strong but small supporting roles, from “Law & Order” to “Oz” to “Juno” to those Farmers Insurance commercials. Never the star, but always a solid performer; someone you recognize even if you can’t name him. A working actor in the best sense.
After accepting the prize for best supporting actor, Simmons told reporters backstage last night that the Oscar was “the cherry on top of this extraordinary experience that ‘Whiplash’ has been for me.” And an inspiration for all those other theater folks struggling out there?
Well, that’s not quite the way he saw it.
“I almost got back on the bus a handful of times,” Simmons said of his early days trying to make it, “and if I had had any reasonable options, I probably would have.”
Simmons continued: “I read a very romantic book when I was young, when I was in college, Rilke’s ‘Letters to a Young Poet.’ And I’ve always felt that if you are in any kind of an artistic, creative endeavor and you feel there’s something else you can do for a living and be happy, I think you should do something else. Because you’re much more likely to find comfort and happiness. If you can look deeply in yourself and say there is nothing else that can bring you satisfaction. That’s your answer.”
Hear that, kids? Don’t hang onto your dream. Unless you really really really want it.
Onstage earlier, Simmons had urged everyone watching to call their parents: “Don’t text, don’t e-mail. . . . Call them. Listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”
Aw. What about Twitter, another reporter asked? Will Simmons finally get on Twitter now?