Going into production on Florence Foster Jenkins, Simon Helberg probably expected to learn all kinds of tricks of the acting trade from Meryl Streep during the comedy drama’s production.
But while that was undoubtedly true, The Big Bang Theory actor has admitted that he also received some particularly frustrating, and rather pointless, advice from the 19-time Academy Award-nominated actress, too, which just left him bemused rather than pleased.
The scene that Simon Helberg needed assistance with comes towards the beginning of the film, when, because of the sheer incompetence of Meryl Streep’s titular character, Helberg’s Cosme McMoon is reduced to laughing in an elevator. But he does so spontaneously and while surrounded by people that are rather shocked by his fit of giggles.
Unfortunately for Simon Helberg, he just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of laughing. In fact, by the time that he had to start shooting the sequence, Helberg admitted to film critic Peter Travers, via ABC, that he was absolutely “terrified.”
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Helberg explained, “There’s a scene… where the whole scene is just me laughing in this elevator. And I was terrified. It was the dark cloud hanging over me because it’s a really hard thing to do as an actor. I feel like it’s harder than crying to just stand there and laugh hysterically and go into a fit.”
So, as you’d expect, Helberg decided to try and take advantage of the fact that in Florence Foster Jenkins he was working alongside one of the greatest acting talents of his and anyone’s generation.
Unfortunately, though, she couldn’t help him out. Simply insisting that, as an actress, she was usually able to immediately start laughing without much encouragement.
Helberg, who is most famous for his starring role in The Big Bang Theory as Howard Wolowitz, continued.
“Her answer was always really frustrating. Because it was like, ‘Oh, I just believed it. I just was laughing.’ Then I was sort of like, ‘But how do you? But how?'”
Thankfully for Simon Helberg, Meryl Streep finally was able to provide him with some helpful advice that he was able to use in his attempts to get through the scene, as he admitted, “Eventually she said, ‘Try to cry’. That always makes me laugh.”
As you’d expect, except for her suspect advice for how to laugh on cue, Simon Helberg admitted that working alongside Meryl Streep on Florence Foster Jenkins was a revelatory experience, and he revealed that she immediately tried to put him at ease during any scenes that they had together.
“I think she kind of cuts that tension right away,” Helberg declared. “[Streep] put me at ease as much as I could be put at ease, which is not as much as you’d hope. Because I’m just sort of constantly bubbling over with anxiety and fear and excitement and all of that stuff.”
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Despite feeling this hodgepodge of emotions during production, Helberg was able to put them to one side, but when he was in the moment of sparring alongside her in front of the camera, he could feel the legendary actress making him better.
“All of this, it was just like a lot of dreams coming true, particularly doing a scene with Meryl,” the 35-year-old actor admitted. “She makes you better because she is constantly finding something and living in that moment. And surprising, I think not just herself, but you. Sometimes I get lost just looking at her.”
[Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]