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.