Should things keep going the way they’re currently going for writer/director Damian Chazelle, not only will the 31-year-old Oscar nominee’s name become synonymous with critically acclaimed filmmaking, but his latest feature La La Land will be the talk of Hollywood in 2017. Not that the film isn’t already making big waves amongst critics and those who’ve seen it, of course – the modern day throwback to the heyday of Hollywood musicals has already broken several indie box office records.
For anyone who’s seen Chazelle’s 2014 film Whiplash, it’s easy to understand how audiences get caught up in his work. A huge fan of music – and particularly jazz – the intensity of Chazelle’s filmmaking relies on a perfect marriage between music and cinema. Based on synopsis alone, few would have predicted the success that found Whiplash upon its release (5 Oscar nominations, 3 wins – including a best supporting actor Oscar for J.K. Simmons) and perhaps even fewer would have expected La La Land’s current acclaim.
But while Chazelle’s successes behind the camera are certainly no fluke, in a new interview with Jon Favreau, conducted for THR, the young director reveals that he feels luck played a big role with regards to his career falling into place. Particularly when it comes to La La Land, Chazelle acknowledges it had long been a struggle to get anyone in Hollywood to consider it – that is until the success of Whiplash cast him into a more desirable light:
JON FAVREAU: It’s astounding that you can come off the success of [Whiplash] and then the next at-bat, you can hit another one.
DAMIEN CHAZELLE Well, I was lucky, just in the sense that I wrote La La Land before Whiplash and the best thing that happened to me was everyone saying no to La La Land.
CHAZELLE It was like, years of trying to get La La Land made in Hollywood, everyone saying not just no, but, like, “Please go away. We don’t want to hear about original musicals.” I did Whiplash out of necessity a little bit. Whiplash was a much smaller movie that I was able to actually put the money together for. But the whole time I was making Whiplash, I was hoping if this doesn’t entirely suck, it will give me some kind of calling card to make La La Land.
There’s plenty of inspiration to be found in Chazelle’s story of not giving up when faced with constant rejection and while luck obviously did play some part in his success, it’s important not to discount the obvious level of talent and hard work involved. Taking a somewhat antiquated genre like the musical in a time when franchise studio films rule the roost and not just succeeding, but thriving – especially in an indie capacity – is nothing short of miraculous.
Now that La La Land has received a nationwide release in the United States, word of mouth alongside positive acclaim from critics will do much to elevate this Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone Oscar contender. Luck may have had something to do with La La Land getting made, but should this indie hit find its way into the Oscar limelight, that feat can only be attributed to the sheer quality of its filmmaking.
La La Land is now playing in U.S. theaters.