“Ricki and the Flash,” starring Meryl Streep as a 60-something rocker, had its glamorous premiere Monday night at the AMC Lincoln Square in Manhattan.
Co-stars Mamie Gummer, Streep’s real-life daughter who plays her movie daughter, and Rick Springfield, who plays her boyfriend/rocker, also turned up for A-list event and spoke to journalists on the red carpet.
Mamie told me it was fun to play her character, an angry young woman furious with her mother for abandoning her and her two brothers as a children to pursue her dream to become a rock superstar. Streep’s character Ricki, who never makes it as a rock star and has a weekly gig at a local dive as their house band, returns home on the opposite coast after her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) calls her to help their daughter who is suicidal after her husband dumped her.
I asked Gummer how she found her way into such an angry character, and she told me, laughing, “I have no idea how I did it, but it was a little alarming how easy it was.” She went on to say that their movie relationship “is so different from who we are in real life” that it was fun to play.
What she also loved was her wardrobe: she spends most of the film in comfy pajamas and a bathrobe. “It was great not to have to worry about being pretty, which is exhausting sometimes.” Another main draw in taking the film was Diablo Cody’s screenplay. “She always creates these unapologetic, nasty, complicated people.”
Veteran “Diff’rent Strokes” actor Charlotte Rae, who plays Kline’s mother in the film, was dressed all in red. Although her publicist said the 89-year-old actress was too tired to give interviews, she did pose for photos.
Other celebrity guests who turned up included Morgan Freeman, Stephen Van Zandt, Jennifer Esposito, Aidan Quinn and Christine Baranski.
I asked Van Zandt why movies that portray rockers seem to always get it wrong, although we think director Jonathan Demme got it right in “Ricki and the Flash.”
“It is tough to pull off and I’m not exactly sure why,” said Van Zandt. “Maybe because it’s an ongoing ever-present part of our lives and it’s hard to kind of fictionalize because it’s so always with us,” he said. “The Sopranos’ creator, David Chase, got it right with ‘Not Fade Away,’ but very few rock films are realistic. Rock and roll is kind of autobiographical so it’s very personal so when you are portraying it. It always has a false note to it.”
He added, “But if anyone can pull off playing a rocker, it’s Meryl Streep. And Jonathan Demme is a friend. He’s obviously a rock and roll fan, so I’m sure he’ll know what to do.” I told Van Zandt he has a surprise coming in Meryl’s terrific rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “My Love Will Never Let You Down” at a high point in the film.
Rick Springfield, who looked great, was particularly charming and generous with everyone on the red carpet. He said of Streep’s guitar playing, which she does for real, “I don’t think she really needed to play the guitar as well as she did because the character is so powerful, but she did.”
In between shooting takes, Springfield told me the band, comprised of veteran and well-known studio musicians, would jam with Streep.
Asked about what he was doing lately, he told journalists his busy schedule included another book (he has already written a novel and an autobiography) which will be out next year. His 18th studio album will be released at the same time.
Currently, he also has a role in “True Detective,” in which he wears false hair plugs and bronzer. He described his character as “kind of freaky.” The “Jessie’s Girl” singer said he’ll also be on the road soon for a short concert tour.
With so many fabulous songs in the film from the 70’s to present-day, including music by Pink, Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones and Springsteen, I asked Springfield what his favorite number was in the film, and he told me “American Girl.”
“It was really fun because it’s from my era. It’s a special song for Jonathan, too, because it was in ‘Silence of the Lambs.’”
That selection seems to be an ironic touch by the director; in his 1991 Oscar-winning movie, the song plays during a scene where a woman is listening to it in a car before she’s abducted by serial killer Buffalo Bill.
I asked Springfield if it was intimidating playing love scenes with the most Oscar-nominated movie star. “No, because by that time, we were pretty hooked in to what the characters were, and we just wanted to make it as real and honest as we could.”