Stories from the red carpet at “Ricki and the Flash,” where everyone except Meryl Streep did press. Streep plays a ne’er do well rocker, Ricki, leader of a bar band called the Flash. They’re all real musicians and everything was recorded live.
Famed studio musician, 66 year-old Joe Vitale, who is the drummer in the Flash, said the process of portraying a band member was the same as for any of his other gigs. “I’m a musician for a living so it wasn’t very different for me. I’m not an actor and there’s always these cameras and lights but we basically showed up and rehearsed and started filming.” He told me they put in eight-hour days for three weeks.
As for what surprised him about Streep, Vitale said, “We already knew she could sing. But I was told she started learning guitar in April and we started in September. That’s not much time to learn a musical instrument. And she nailed it.”
He added of Streep, “Her timing, her intonation, her coordination, singing and playing at the same time. That’s not easy.”
When I asked if she could be a real rocker he told me she should keep her day job. “I think she could probably make a better living being an actor,” he laughed, “but she was having the time of her life and I think it shows in the film.”
The terrific playlist, Vitale told me, was something Streep and director Jonathan Demme put together, including tunes by Pink, Lady Gaga, and the Rolling Stones. The director “Demme “wanted to a cross section of as many weird artists as he could fit into the film,” Vitale laughed.
As for his favorite Meryl Streep scene, “She’s out in the crowd playing guitar, singing ‘Wooly Bully,’ I think. And she’s rocking and rolling and she comes back to the stage and she tripped and fell on her back and we’re like, ‘Oh, no!’ and she’s still playing the guitar and screaming. I was like, ‘You’re a pro,” he laughed.
Don’t look for that scene. “That’s not in the movie,” he told me. “I wish it was. It was so real. I’ve seen big stars I’ve worked with do that and they keep going. People think its part of the act.”
As for the believability of a film featuring rockers in their 60’s, Vitale told me, “We invented rock and roll. We’re not dead yet!”