In spite of the very few hours of sleep, the water boat trips and the lagoon-humid weather (that would have personally knocked me out in no time), Noah Jupe had the freshest look and the smoothest chattiness, shooting out excitement for the day ahead of him, the day of the première.
Landed in Venice to present “Dreamin’ Wild”, Noah recalled his experience on Bill Pohland’s fictionalized recount of the Emerson brothers’ story and their “lastly but not leastly” re-discovered record Dreamin’ Wild.
One of the things that struck me from our morning chat was the way Noah cherishes the passing of time, missed chances, and vulnerability with an approach to life that’s way wiser than you would expect from a young man like him. After all, his talent is way more impressive than you would expect from a young actor like him, or rather, from actors of any age. Because it’s almost never a matter of age, to be honest, it’s rather about the life experiences and education you’ve got to embrace along your journey. Noah has been living his life and career path with full support from the people around him, which we agreed to be the absolute key to success, and which was the key to the success of the Emerson brothers.
Playing Donnie Emerson in his younger years, the years of the first musical experiments and identity shaping, has no doubt helped him come to terms with certain beliefs and realizations about himself, like his huge passion for the 60s/70s/80s music, for starters, and his dependence on it to be able to feel safe and happy wherever he goes. Dreaming the wildest dream of all: giving and getting from the world only life-changing twists and accomplishments.
“Dreamin’ Wild” tells an inspiring story of how success sometimes comes in small doses. And it’s all true, the Emerson brothers really made this album which was really only discovered decades after having been recorded. What was your first reaction when you read the script and learned about the whole story?
What was interesting for me reading the script for the first time, was that I didn’t think I knew who Donnie and Joe Emerson were, but then I started reading the script and was really into it, and I thought, “You know what? I should definitely play this album”. So, as I was reading the script, I played it, and suddenly realized I knew them, I’d been listening to some of the tracks for years, but I just didn’t connect the two dots!
I realized how amazing their music was, and they made it when they were 16 and 18, which is incredible. I was already invested in the script, but then the fact that I also knew their music just connected the whole thing together.
You play young Donnie Emerson: how did you work on your character? Did you have the chance to meet real-life Donnie or any other member of the family? If so, what were the first questions you asked? If not, what would have they been?
I guess with Donnie it wasn’t questions, it was more just spending time with him. The first time I met him, I went into his studio and just watched him work and make music, which was pretty special, he’s an incredible artist, so to watch that was special. I actually learned more from seeing him in his craft and how passionate he was about that, for my character, than I did from asking him questions.
Then, obviously, there were his son, Chance, and his daughter Avéa – I hung out with them a lot and became very close friends with them, so I was very connected with the family. But just watching him make music did so much, it was so inspiring for me.
“I guess with Donnie it wasn’t questions, it was more just spending time with him.”
Did they give you any advice on how to be the most authentic as possible?
I guess it was about channeling that passion, my passion for my job, acting, and directing it towards music.
I also grew up loving music, I’m obsessed with music, I used to play a couple of instruments, I wish I continued more… But it was about having that pure kind of desire and dream that Donnie did at that age – it just takes up your entire life and I think that, for my side of the character, that’s all that it was, it took up his whole life, and his imagination went wild.
A father who believed in the brothers, in their passion, and in their talent, alongside hard work, of course, was the key to their success: what’s the key to success in your opinion?
I think the same thing, having people believe in you.
I’m so lucky to have my parents who would do anything for me, and they’ve made so many sacrifices for me, just like Donnie’s dad. So, it’s just to have people who love you for who you are, no matter what, even if you fail, even if you succeed, and keep pushing you to be your best version.
“It’s just to have people who love you for who you are, no matter what”
Did Bill Pohlad make you do something for you and the rest of the cast to build this strong connection and support between the members of the family before filming?
I’d say what was interesting, specifically about me and Jack [Dylan-Grazer], who plays my brother, was making our connection good. They rented out this theater and they gave us a guitar and drums, and we spent hours in this theater getting to know each other, practicing, and by the second week, we were best friends. It was amazing and I think it shows on screen how close that connection was, and the brothers were as close, as well, they had a great relationship.
“Dreamin’ Wild” is the story of two brothers with the wildest dream of all (making rock and roll music): what’s your wildest dream?
Right now? Skydiving.
I’d love to go skydiving, that’s the wildest thing I can think of.
Music can be a passion, a hobby, an obsession, a necessity: what does it represent for you in your life? Has your musical taste changed after making this movie?
Yes. Actually, my musical taste changes every day, it’s ridiculous. I’ll listen to pretty much any music, somebody could just be hitting a play and it’s music to me. Especially after this, I think I can now appreciate how much goes into making music. I guess it’s easier nowadays to make it, you can just open GarageBand and make a song, but back in the late 70s, it was much harder to do that, and I’ve learned to appreciate how Donnie and Joe thought about every single component and how it all came together to make that album.
When I listen to music now, I think more about how it was made than I did before.
“Especially after this, I think I can now appreciate how much goes into making music.”
So, have you developed a passion for 70s music that you maybe didn’t have before?
I guess I have, for the late 70s/early 80s music. I’m a huge fan of 80s music, and I was already before the film, so that’s good, but I think I also got to appreciate more of the 60s/70s music, and I got into more soul music a bit, like Etta James, that sort of things that I didn’t really listen to before, and which was Donnie’s favorite music – I learned so much from talking to him about what music he loved.
In an interview I’ve recently watched, Donnie Emerson says that he’s always had a feeling that something big was going to happen in his life, ever since he was a little kid: have you ever found yourself having similar feelings despite being so young?
I’d be quite upset if something big didn’t happen in my life and I lived my life and it was pretty normal. If that happened, I’d be pretty sad because I feel like I’m a risky person and I love the pressure, the danger of it, and I’d love something huge like that to happen. And if it doesn’t, yeah, I think I’d be quite sad.
“Dreamin’ Wild” is definitely a story about how second chances can oftentimes save your life, or at least change it for the better: was there an occasion in your life where you would have liked to have had a second chance? Do you give people second chances?
No, I don’t think I would like to have had a second chance at anything that’s happened to me so far in my life. I think you should live your life without expecting second chances at things. All your failures are just as important as your successes. Having said this, I believe everyone deserves a second chance, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.
“All your failures are just as important as your successes.”
As the movie teaches us, it’s never late for anything, especially for success and recognition: what relationship do you have with time? Do you tend to live in the moment or do you find yourself experiencing “time-running-out” anxiety?
I wish I could say I lived in the moment. I try as hard as I can to do so, but it’s a lot harder than it looks.
I’m not scared of time – it has to run out, we would never be able to appreciate anything otherwise and life would suck.
Your IG bio is “Currently in someone else’s shoes…”, which shoes you would like to be in next?
[laughs] Currently, the character I’m playing right now, he’s called Temple Franklin, he’s Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, and I can’t really think of anyone else’s shoes right now, I’m very much in that role.
What was your biggest act of rebellion?
Oh God, I have no idea… There are too many and too few! [laughs]
What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is probably going through life without something big happening, without something incredibly life-changing happening to me, and just going on and having a boring life. That scares the shit out of me! [laughs]
What’s a song or a musician you can’t stop listening to in this period?
I can’t stop listening to them! Their song “She” is probably my favorite right now, and then there’s “Territory”, which is one of my favorites, too, the music video for that is my favorite music video of all time.
What’s your must-have on set?
My mother! It does help a lot [laughs].
An epic fail on set?
The first time I played the guitar in front of people for this movie. You know, I’d been practicing in my room, and with Jack as well, and then I got on set and Joe Emerson’s there, standing there watching you, and there’s all the crew and the director, and I just froze, I couldn’t play. That really shows how much bravery you have to have to play in front of so many people because it’s such a vulnerable thing. I’m pretty sure that what I did was so bad you couldn’t even listen to it [laughs].
“That really shows how much bravery you have to have to play in front of so many people…”
What’s your latest binge-watch?
“The Rehearsal”, which is a documentary series on HBO with Nathan Fielder. I watched that and I just couldn’t stop, it’s such an interesting show, I loved it.
What is the thing that makes you laugh the most?
My best friend, Archie, whenever I’m with him, I just can’t stop laughing. And Jack [Dylan-Grazer], to be fair, that guy is the funniest person I know, there’s not even a point in trying to be serious with him, you just end up dying of laughter [laughs].