Damien Chazelle’s Babylon gets a 2021 release date from Paramount, with Emma Stone and Brad Pitt in talks for starring roles. The acclaimed young director became an instant sensation when his big-screen sophomore effort Whiplash arrived in 2014, garnering three Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay.
Whiplash was so successful that many critics wondered if Chazelle could match it with a follow-up. Any doubts on this front were quickly extinguished when Chazelle dropped the 2016 musical La La Land. The charming tribute to classic Hollywood musicals starred Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as a pair of struggling artists in Hollywood, and it took box offices by storm. La La Land doubled Whiplash’s three-Oscar tally, bringing home six awards including a Best Director Oscar for Chazelle and a Best Actress trophy for Stone. Yet despite the success of both Whiplash and La La Land, Chazelle failed to repeat his highly successful formula with 2018’s First Man. Though the film brought back La La Land collaborator Gosling, it failed to match the soaring heights of Chazelle’s previous efforts. It also marked the first time in his career that the successful filmmaker didn’t write the material he was directing.
Perhaps learning his lesson from the experience of First Man, Chazelle’s newest feature, Babylon, will be written and directed by the 33-year-old. The new film remains somewhat under wraps, but as Variety now reports, Paramount has beaten out Lionsgate for distribution rights. At present, Babylon is set to arrive during the Christmas 2021 movie season, and rumors continue to circulate that Stone is currently in talks to star, as well as Brad Pitt, with an all star cast expected to make up the rest of the production.
The existence of Babylon was first reported early summer last year, though the plot has been kept quiet. At present, little more is known about the film’s story, only that it takes place during Hollywood’s silent film era as it transitions into the era of talkies. Apparently, the film offers a mixture of real-life and fictional characters, but whether music will play a part in any of Babylon (as it has in Whiplash and La La Land) is unknown. The silent film era has previously been a goldmine for critical claim, as the tremendous success of Michel Hazanavicius’ 2011 The Artistcan attest to. It should be interesting to see if Chazelle’s film mixes in silent components to better illustrate Hollywood’s bygone era of silent film.
As previously mentioned, this time around Chazelle will be resuming duties as both writer and director. The personal touch of writing his own material has been a successful formula for the young filmmaker, and with a potentially star-studded line-up on board, Chazelle’s latest effort could see a return to Oscar glory. At the same time, however, should Babylon fail to match up to his past acclaimed efforts, studios could begin to lose interest Chazelle’s future work. It’s way too early to bet on the success of Babylon, of course, but if Stone and Pitt are secured, Chazelle has the sort of proven track record that manages to make big stars shine even brighter.