While filming Blue Like Jazz (see our review on page 80), Marshall Allman—who plays the Donald Miller character at the center of the story—was to ride an unsteady "tall bike" across Portland, Oregon's Hawthorne Bridge. Director Steve Taylor, concerned that Allman might "plunge over the rail" into the Willamette River, considered a stunt double, but Allman declined. Says Taylor, "For Marshall, it's all just part of the work, and he approaches it with both a singular intensity and a great sense of play."
Allman, 28, has received thumbs-up for his acting—for Blue Like Jazz as well as recurring roles in TV's Prison Break and True Blood. He recently finished filming Jayne Mansfield's Car, a 1960s-era drama starring Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon, and Billy Bob Thornton. Taylor believes Allman can go a long way: "He takes the craft of acting very seriously, and he wants to get the role right."
Allman was a soccer star and award- winning art student in high school, but ultimately pursued acting instead because of a knee injury and the likelihood of earning a steadier income in acting than as an artist. "When I discovered the art of acting, and that it combined the physicality of soccer with the craftsmanship of art, I thought, Why paint when I can be the painting? For me that was enough."
Question & Answer
How did you get this role?
I got an e-mail from Steve Taylor saying I was on his shortlist. I hadn't read the book, but I was really excited when I read the script. I e-mailed Steve and said that I was 1,000 percent in. He responded that he loved my enthusiasm but it wasn't an offer yet—he wanted to meet in person. We met for lunch a week later, and he told me I had the part.
What did you like about the script?
It was funny and moving at the same time, which is rare. And though it dealt with issues of faith, it wasn't trying to force any beliefs on anyone. It just happened to be a story about a kid wrestling with his beliefs and his identity. That's a story anyone can identify with.
How did you capture Don's personality?
It wasn't a literal interpretation of Don's book or the actual person; I wanted to capture the spirit of both. I watched videos of Don and read all his books; I basically stalked him. Eventually, I got to know him and found those two to be consistent. The main qualities that struck me about Don are his pursuit of adventure and a razor-sharp sense of humor.
Did you "become" Don for the role?
That's what makes acting sort of like magic. If people believe I am Don, then I've done a great job. As an actor, I strive to be no more than a vessel for the story. Here to serve you, the audience.
How would you describe the film?
A Southern Baptist kid is set to go to seminary, but gets burned by the very church that raised him. He instead attends Reed College in an attempt to run as far away from his upbringing and God as he can. And it's funny too.
For a more in-depth interview with Allman, click here.
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Learn more about Marshall Allman and the film Blue Like Jazz at their respective websites.
Previous "Who's Next" sections featured Michael Patton, Bethany Hoang, Bobby Gruenewald, Julie Bell, DeVon Franklin, Shannon Sedgwick Davis, Jon Tyson, Jonathan Golden, Paul Louis Metzger, Amena Brown, David Cunningham, Timothy Dalrymple, John Sowers, Alissa Wilkinson, Jamie Tworkowski, Bryan Jennings, L. L. Barkat, Robert Gelinas, Nicole Baker Fulgham, and Gideon Strauss.
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