La La Land will always be remembered for the awkward mix-up at the 89th Academy Awards, but the film will also surely live on as one of Damien Chazelle’s most notable works. Fresh off the heels of three-time Oscar-winning film Whiplash, Chazelle began working on a film that would pay homage to old Hollywood musicals. The film stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as actress Mia and musician Sebastian who are both struggling to make it in the City of Stars.
Despite not winning Best Picture, La La Land did manage to earn six Academy Awards, including Best Director, which made Damien Chazelle the youngest director in history to win the award. By now people know the music from La La Land by heart, but there are some things about the making of the film that fans might not know about. Here are 10 Things You Never Knew About The Making Of La La Land.
10 La La Land Was A Passion Project Of Damien Chazelle’s
Before Damien Chazelle would direct the award-winning Whiplash, he wanted to make his film called La La Land. La La Land has always been a passion project for Chazelle, but he didn’t get the opportunity to fulfill his dream until after he proved himself with Whiplash.
After Chazelle wrote the script for La La Land, he pitched it around and people actually had the audacity to tell him it wasn’t good, which forced him to work on a smaller project first. Chazelle began work on Whiplash, which was based on his teenage years as a drummer. Thanks to an investment from Jason Reitman, Chazelle was able to successfully direct Whiplash and then move on to his true passion project.
9 Eva Mendes Came Up With A Few Lines
For those that don’t keep up with celebrity romances, Ryan Gosling has been married to Eva Mendes since 2011. The pair acted together The Place Beyond the Pines and while she didn’t appear in La La Land, Mendes did come up with one of the film’s greatest lines. Gosling credits his wife for the line, “L.A. worships everything and values nothing."
Mendes apparently said it as a joke, but Gosling saw the truth to it, and thought it belonged in La La Land. The phrase "pishy caca," which basically means nonsense, was also a saying he got from his wife.
8 Damien Chazelle Was In A Band With The Pool Party Singer
One of the more humorous scenes in La La Land comes after Sebastian gets fired from his piano gig at Bill’s restaurant. Sebastian then joins a band that performs at pool parties. Mia finds herself at said pool party and she suggests the band play "I Ran" by A Flock Of Seagulls.
The singer in the band is American musician D.A. Wallach, who personally knows director Damien Chazelle. In college, Chazelle was actually in a band with Wallach, which is likely why he was chosen for the movie. To date, La La Land is the only film that Wallach has acted in.
7 The Hollywood Hills Dance Was Filmed In One Hour
One of the film's most iconic dance sequences takes place atop the Hollywood Hills. The dance choreography was one-of-a-kind, but to really make things look spectacular on film, Chazelle decided to film the scene during magic hour. Magic hour is a short time window when the sun sets (or rises), which makes the sky appear softer.
This meant that the crew only had 30 minutes to film the scene, which they were able to do in two days (equaling one hour). They were only able to get a few takes each day, but since Gosling and Stone had practiced the routine so much, the only issue they ran into was waiting for the right lighting.
6 J.K. Simmons Had A Choice Between Two Roles
J.K. Simmons was the star of Whiplash, so it makes sense that Damien Chazelle invited him back for La La Land. Simmons has a significantly smaller role in the latter, playing Sebastian’s boss at a restaurant. Despite not getting a very big role, Chazelle offered Simmons two different roles: Mia’s dad or the restaurant owner.
Since Mia’s dad doesn’t even speak any lines in the film, Simmons was lucky he chose the restaurant owner. Even though it’s a small part, Simmons is able to shine as a grumpy guy who hates classical jazz.
5 One Of Ryan Gosling’s Auditions Inspired The Film
While Sebastian is an aspiring musician, Mia desperately wants to become a famous actress. In the end, both get what they want, even though it meant they couldn’t be together. During one of Mia’s auditions, she is pretending to cry for a reading and one of the casting agents answers his phone, before telling her to continue.
It was a cringe-worthy moment, but it makes it even worse knowing it was based on one of Ryan Gosling’s real life audition stories. This same scenario apparently happened to Gosling when a casting director was unmoved by his performance during a reading.
4 They Shut Down A Freeway
La La Land opens with a bang with the song “Another Day of Sun." The scene shows several people dancing in the middle of a freeway after they get stuck in traffic. Instead of filming in front of a green screen, they wanted to actually film on location, so production shut down a freeway.
The scene was filmed on a weekend in September on the freeway that connected the 105 and 110. The scene was pulled off in 110-degree heat with 150 dancers working as hard as they could to get the scene just right.
3 Ryan Gosling Actually Learned Piano
Most of the time when an actor plays a character that knows an instrument, they will have the actor pretend to play the instrument and add the sound in during post-production. Other times, they will have a double play the instrument for closeup shots, but Ryan Gosling actually learned how to play jazz piano for La La Land.
Gosling managed to learn piano within 3 months by practicing for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. John Legend (who plays Keith) even said he was jealous by how quick Gosling learned piano since Legend had been practicing since he was 4 years old.
2 Emma Stone’s Red Carpet Dress Inspired The Wardrobe
Mary Zophres worked as a costume designer for Gangster Squad, also starring Gosling and Stone, in 2013, and she was once again tasked with dressing them for La La Land. Zophres was inspired by clothes from the ‘60s, but she was also inspired by one of Emma Stone’s red carpet dresses.
Back in 2014 for the premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Stone wore a canary yellow dress, which was used as a basis for Mia’s dress in the big Hollywood Hills scene. Mia wears a lot of colorful dresses in La La Land, but the yellow dress is among the most memorable since she wears it during such an iconic scene.
1 They Almost Killed Gene Kelly’s Widow's Dog
In order to get inspired for La La Land, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone visited Gene Kelly’s widow. Gene Kelly was of course the star of Singin’ in the Rain, arguably one of the most famous movie musicals of all time. After getting to see some of Kelly’s old memorabilia (including a script from Singin’ in the Rain with Kelly’s notes), the pair accidentally let the widow’s dog outside.
The dog ran off and Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling had to run through traffic to get her dog back. Thankfully they were able to save the dog, but it was no doubt a scary moment for everyone involved.