Where is the line between genius and madness – and should greatness be nurtured gently, like a beautiful flower, or forged under relentless, crushing pressure, like a perfect diamond? Those are the questions at the heart of Whiplash, the Sundance award winner about a jazz-drummer prodigy (Miles Teller) whose dreams are in the hands of his school’s intense music teacher (J.K. Simmons).
Director Damien Chazelle based the story on his own high-school music trauma, and this scene perfectly captures the mental and physical abuse that Simmons’ character, Terrence Fletcher, wields at his students. The film’s title refers to a jazz composition composed by Hank Levy, but it may as well refer to the damage inflicted by Fletcher in this scene.
“I remember when I first met [J.K.], I just sort of told him, ‘Remember how you were in Oz? I want to make that guy look like the teacher in Mr. Holland’s Opus,‘ “ Chazelle said at Sundance this winter. Watch Chazelle and the cast discuss the movie with EW’s Anthony Breznican in the clip below.