Jersey Girl for Jersey Boys

Union County actress Renée Marino will star as Mary Delgado in the film version of the Broadway hit "Jersey Boys."

Under His Skin: Renee Marino with John Lloyd Young in the forthcoming film "Jersey Boys."
Photo by Keith Bernstein, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Renée Marino was not expecting much when she auditioned last summer for the film version of Jersey Boys. Clint Eastwood, who had signed to direct the film of the long-running Broadway musical, spotted the Elizabeth-born, Linden-raised actress playing the role of Mary Delgado in the theatrical cast. He suggested the audition.

“I really went there thinking I was trying out for one of the Angels singing ‘My Boyfriend’s Back,’” recalls Marino.

Much to her surprise, the 31-year-old landed the plum part of Mary, first wife of Frankie Valli, lead singer of the Four Seasons, the hit-making band from Newark whose story and songs provide the basis for the musical.

Eastwood’s Jersey Boys film, due in theaters June 20, marks Marino’s film debut. Her Broadway credits include West Side Story, Wonderland and Chaplin. On the set, she was most impressed by Eastwood’s desire to capture the essence of her home state. “He could have easily hired a bunch of A-listers, but he loved the authenticity of this area and literally did everything to preserve that homemade feeling,” she says.

To that end, Eastwood cast John Lloyd Young to reprise his Tony-winning portrayal of Valli. Erich Bergen appears as songwriter Bob Gaudio—an essential player in the group’s success. Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza play group members Nick Massi and Tommy Devito, respectively. Oscar winner Christopher Walken was cast as mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo.

While most of the footage was shot in Los Angeles, Eastwood made a two-day location visit to Essex County, shooting some scenes in Newark’s Stephen Crane Village where Valli grew up. Valli, one of the film’s executive producers, was present for the Newark shoot.

For Marino, Jersey Boys was a thrilling introduction to Hollywood. “Never have I felt such warmth and camaraderie,” she says. “We really were like one big family. Everyone was so genuine and down-to-earth, from Clint right through the technical people.”

Meanwhile, Jersey Boys continues its Broadway run at the August Wilson Theatre. The theatrical version has generated $1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales since opening November 6, 2005.

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