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Jonathan Groff on Taking Woodstock

Published September 1, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders
Taking WoodstockTaking Woodstock
Viewers of Taking Woodstock are getting captivated by film newcomer Jonathan Groff as Michael Lang, the orchestrator of the landmark concert. They are also admiring his hair, a big curly ’60s fro.

Review: Taking Woodstock


“It was a wig,” Groff revealed. “It was a total wig. I grew my own hair. I grew it out, I grew out my hair because originally they were going to use my real hair and they were going to perm it. But then they decided with the humidity it was going to be too unpredictable and the hair, the Michael Lang hair is so iconic and so specific and they were like, ‘We have to get this just right, we can't chance it.’ So they put my head in plaster and gave me a wig.”

Lang possed that sort of free love mentality, totally confident that Woodstock would happen no matter what stood in his way. Groff conveyed that in the film. “It was incredibly daunting because people that know Woodstock not only know the name Michael Lang and know all the important things that he did, but they also know what he looks like, what his hair looks like, how he dressed, how he interacts with other people, how he smiles at people. He's a very specific magnetic guy that is very beloved and people really know him. So there's a certain quality about him that you have to have, that you have to really capture when you're playing him in the film version. I guess I sort of achieved that through all of the research and the direction and the guidance that the amazing Ang Lee gave me.”



Of course, there was also the real Michael Lang to turn to. “I spent a lot of time with Michael. He came to see me in <B>Hair</B> in Central Park last summer and stayed afterwards and said, ‘Here's my phone number and here's my email and if you need anything, if you have any questions I'm an open book to you.’ And I did, I used him, and I spent the weekend with him and his family in Woodstock, with his wife and his two kids and really got to see him, see his mannerism, see the way he walks, see the way he talked, see the way that he interacted with other people. I felt really lucky because what better homework can you do than to spend time with the actual guy?”

Groff will be a new face to moviegoers but he has had quite a run in theater. The transition was smooth. Even the long camera setups didn’t phase the theater vet. “Maybe it was because it was my first one. That could be it, but at the end when they called wrap, you know, it was like I wanted to keep going, I wanted to do more takes, I wanted to try it again. When I wasn’t shooting, I was on set watching because I thought, ‘I'm on an Ang Lee film, I might as well learn as much as I can.’ And I loved it, I just loved, I think there's something really romantic to me still about making a movie and that's part of it, but also it’s a totally different skill set and a totally different medium and a medium that I never dreamt that big when I was little to be in film. To it’s surreal and challenging and exciting. It never really felt tedious, if I'm honest.”

Taking Woodstock is now playing.

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Fred Topel
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