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Rick Springfield taught Meryl Streep band chops for new film
"Ricki and the Flash" isn't Rick Springfield's first time in the movie ring.
But when you're acting alongside Meryl Streep, he acknowledges, the stakes are a little higher.
"Yeah, you've got to bring your A game, and I knew that and worked real hard on the part," the 65-year-old "Jessie's Girl" (and more) hitmaker says by phone from New York City while in town for "Ricki's" premiere. The Australian-born Springfield plays Greg, the guitar player in the Rockets and the love interest of Ricki Rendazzo (Streep), who had left her family in Indianapolis in order to follow her rock 'n' roll dream.
Springfield is also part of a band of A-list musicians -- keyboardist Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic, Talking Heads), the late bassist Rick Rosas (Neil Young) and drummer Joe Vitale (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and more) -- who play mostly covers of songs by Tom Petty, Edgar Winter, Bruce Springsteen, Dobie Gray, Pink, Lady Gaga and more, all of which are featured on the film's soundtrack album.
"(Greg) is a musician, but it's really about their relationship," Springfield explains. "He's kind of the rock as far as Ricki is concerned, which is kind of weird for me 'cause I'm so NOT the rock in my real life.
"But the great thing about the movie is they're all really flawed people. Even Greg has (messed) up majorly in his life, but he's a little more at peace with where he is, at 65 and didn't make it (big) but is still playing guitar and he's playing guitar with a woman he's in love with. So he's much more at peace where he is now than where she is -- than where they all are, her family too."
On the set Springfield -- who submitted a couple of original songs for the film's soundtrack that ultimately "weren't right" -- was also something of a rock for Streep as she learned to play rock, including guitar.
"I supported her as she asked questions," recalls Springfield, who's previously acted in films such as "Hard To Hold" and Legion" as well as TV series like "General Hospital," "Californication" and "True Detective." "She would ask, like, what looked better for ending a song and how she should hold a guitar at this point. I showed her a couple of easier ways to play certain chords, just stuff like that.
"So I supported her as Greg the character would if they were real people. It helped our relationship, so it was easier to carry that relationship onto the screen. And it was actually comforting to see her a little nervous about something -- not her acting, of course, but the whole guitar-playing and singing thing. It made her a little less...intimidating."
Springfield doesn't think the film will steer Streep towards her own album, though he says, "I bet someone could talk her into it. She's definitely got the chops." Meanwhile, he's planning to release a new album during early 2016 and is working on a sequel to his first novel, "Magnificent Vibration."
Ricki and the Flash opens Friday (Aug. 7). Check listings for theaters and showtimes.
Rick Springfield performs with Loverboy and the Romantics on Sept. 18 at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights. Call 586-268-9700 or visit www.freedomhill.net for details.
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