Wagner Theatre alumna Renée Marino stars in ‘Jersey Boys’

Wagner Theatre alumna Renée Marino stars in ‘Jersey Boys’

Watch the Wagner College interview with Renée Marino, who plays Mary Delgado in Clint Eastwood's film version of “Jersey Boys,” opened June 20 — and scroll down to read Wagner Magazine Editor Laura Barlament's story about Marino's film debut:

Wagner Theatre product Renée Marino ’04 made her film debut in Clint Eastwood’s ‘Jersey Boys’ last week

As accomplished as Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood is, he still seems like the most unexpected of choices to have directed the new film version of the hit musical “Jersey Boys,” which opened last week.

But in casting Wagner College Theatre alumna Renée Marino ’04 as Mary Delgado — a role she played on Broadway and on national tour — he showed his mastery and good taste.

Marino is not only one of Wagner Theatre’s many successful alumni, but she’s also a true Jersey girl hailing from Linden, New Jersey, just to the west of Staten Island.

A veteran of the stage (including recent Broadway productions “West Side Story,” “Wonderland” and “Chaplin”), “Jersey Boys” was Marino’s first film role.

Tears well up in her eyes as she describes the moment when she learned she had been cast. She was at her childhood home in Linden, preparing for her brother’s wedding, surrounded by family, when she received the call.

“My mother said, ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘I’m going to be in a movie!’ I started crying. My grandmother, who’s 92 years old, she’s crying in her wheelchair. She goes, ‘I’ve been praying for you for this for years!’” Marino laughs. “So it was such a special moment, and I got to share it with my family, in New Jersey, which is where this story line takes place.”

According to Marino, Eastwood was the perfect director, for her and for this movie.

“Clint Eastwood is one of the most upstanding gentlemen I’ve met in my whole life. He is so genuine, so down to earth. He has no ego,” Marino says. “I had to keep reminding myself that I was speaking with Clint Eastwood, a legend.”

He’s also a man with a lot of musical background, including singing and playing the piano — topics she would talk with him about off-set. “So it’s really not as weird as people think that he’s directing a musical, and he did a really fantastic job.”

Marino says that Eastwood’s background in Westerns did influence his directing style in an unexpected way. “When Clint’s on set with you, he just kind of moseys up and says, ‘Whenever you’re ready,’ ” she says, leaning in and squinting at me with one eye in classic Eastwood fashion. That approach dates back to his early acting experiences, she said; yelling “roll!” or “cut!” would startle the horses, so directors would find a quiet way to start the action.

You may also hear a bit of authentic Marino dialogue in the scenes between her and Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young). Eastwood likes actors to improvise, she says. “We would finish the scripted scene, and he would keep the camera rolling. There was one time where Frankie and I were going at each other, back and forth and back and forth, for probably ten minutes. Then we finally cut, and he said,” (Marino here imitates Eastwood’s swaggering sneer), “‘That was great. I can’t wait to edit that.’

“You just got to do what you do as an actor. And I really appreciated that.”

As for the character of Mary, she says, it’s essentially the same as in the show — “sassy, sarcastic, spitfire, smart, charming; but with the magic of film, you just get to see more of her, and you get to see how she helped Frankie Valli, and how they had such a connection.” (Variety says that “the marvelously venomous Renee Marino gets a fantastic introductory scene as Valli’s first wife, Mary.”) Marino reveals that she doesn’t sing in this movie, but, she says, she’s not telling us whether she dances. We’ll just have to watch it to find out.

 — Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine