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Bergen still in awe of film production


Come June, Erich Bergen will be starring in a film version of his own redemption.

And if that isn’t the definition of landing on your feet, there’s this: Directing the show is Clint Eastwood, who has two best director Oscars for “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

“It doesn’t get bigger than this,” said Bergen, who landed in the “Jersey Boys” film adaptation after being mysteriously dumped from the Las Vegas production of “Jersey Boys” in 2009.

In just his second feature film, he’s cast in the same role, as Bob Gaudio, the songwriting force behind the legendary Four Seasons.

Six weeks of filming ended in October, but Bergen, who turned 28 on New Year’s Eve, and his cast mates return to Los Angeles this week for post-audio work.

“Jersey Boys” was filmed in and around Los Angeles and on the Warner Brothers lot.

“The final two days were in New Jersey, right on the streets,” said Bergen, one of the original Las Vegas “Jersey Boys” when it opened in May 2008 at The Palazzo.

“I’m not sure if I’ve totally taken in what this is yet. Every day of filming you woke up, went to work, did your job,” he said. “I don’t think it will really hit me what we’ve done until we see the show.”

One scene featured the re-creation of the original “American Bandstand” set, including hundreds of teenage extras.

“It was like going to ‘Jersey Boys’ fantasy camp,” said Bergen, “especially with the real Frankie Valli sitting right there (on the Warner lot).”

Working with Eastwood was surreal, he said.

“There’s no ego there so he doesn’t come across when you meet him as a movie star. He’s just your boss,” Bergen said.

“People had to remind that’s ‘Dirty Harry’ giving you instructions. That movie star vibe does not come across.”

Bergen approached Eastwood before a scene and asked for some input.

He got straight talk, “Dirty Harry”-style. Eastwood told him, “I hired you to do what you do. Now do it.”

His departure from the Las Vegas “Jersey Boys” will remain a mystery, he said, because “I’d rather not go into it. It’s all in the past, and those people are dear friends to me.”

“The hardest thing is that it got weird at the end,” but, he said, “you have to let go to have any kind of career.”

He’s not the only Vegas connection in the film.

Renee Marino, who was in the Las Vegas cast, plays Mary Delgado, Valli’s wife. Jackie Seiden, who was in “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood, has a cameo as “Angel No. 2.”

Steve Schirripa of “Sopranos” fame and former Riviera entertainment director, has a small role, his second outing with Eastwood. Rob Marnell, who is currently playing Gaudio in the Vegas show, plays Joe Long, who later becomes one of the Four Seasons.

Look for Marnell in scenes with Bergen. “It all comes full circle,” Bergen said.

“There was always a part of me,” he said, “that knew my time with ‘Jersey Boys’ wasn’t done. But I never expected the phone call to come would be this one.”

A VERY GOOD YEAR

Not many teenagers had a better New Year’s Eve than Ray Winters. The 2013 Bishop Gorman High grad was pulled out of the crowd by Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth to sing with her at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Winters, the first winner of the Nevada High School Musical Theater Awards, “killed it,” Myron Martin, Smith Center president and CEO, wrote on Facebook. Winters, now studying in New York, sang the duet on the same stage where he won best male musical theater student.

THE SCENE AND HEARD

It was a record New Year’s Eve crowd at XS, with about 6,000 pouring through the doors, according to a club rep. Hakkasan at MGM Grand declined comment on its big night, but all parties involved are celebrating, I’m told, because the 80,000-square-foot newcomer is expected to gross $100 million since opening in April.

THE PUNCH LINE

“It would be a shame if that bandleader ever lost his magnificent head of hair.” — From David Letterman’s Top 10 Things Overheard at Our First Show

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.