It’s the feel-good film of the year, and no one will be upset if it repeats its phenomenal run at the Golden Globes with a healthy haul at the Oscars next month.
However, if it all seems so obvious now that a toe-tapping homage to the golden age of the Hollywood musical would find a home in viewers’ hearts, it was certainly not smooth sailing for ‘La La Land’s director Damien Chazelle and his cohorts. Here are a few insights into the stumbles along the way...
It was a time in his life with his Hollywood dreams seemed beyond him that Damien first wrote the screenplay for the film, in 2010. He said later he was inspired by pitching the classical Hollywood musical in real life, where things don’t always work out like they do in the movies.
In typical Hollywood fashion, nobody with deep pockets believed in the venture; there were no stars involved, the jazz musical seemed pretty much dead and buried as a genre, and Chazelle had no big success to his name, eitr. Damien ended up finding producers through social connections, not professional ones.
Emma Stone’s character plays an aspiring actress, while Ryan Gosling’s is a jazz pianist, but it seemed this didn’t go down well with producers, either. They wanted him to be a rock musician, and for the film to guarantee a happy ending. Damien Chazelle stuck to his guns, and the film stalled to a halt once again.
The prodigious director had better luck with his next film, ‘Whiplash’, which earned five Oscar nominations, and made his name a favourite with studios. Five years after he originally penned the script for ‘La La Land’, it looked like the film was making its way once again to screen.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling may look like the archetypal Hollywood couple, they weren’t the original choices for the film. Emma Watson and Miles Teller (star of ‘Whiplash’) were slated to star, but Emma had to drop out due to ‘Beauty and the Beast’, while Miles dropped out due to salary negotiations, or the director’s change of heart, depending on what you read. Damien made his two leads older characters on the page.
Long before she made this homage to Hollywood, Emma Stone’s favourite film was Charlie Chaplin’s romantic comedy ‘City Lights’.
Many of her character’s struggles through auditions come from Emma Stone’s own experience, including being booted off stage after singing or speaking just one line.
Ryan Gosling, too, brought his own raw experiences to bear - during one occasion when he had to cry to order, and the casting director took a phone call and kept talking while he sobbed. This memory became an experience of Emma’s character Mia.
With their repeat collaborations, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are quickly becoming a veteran screen double act. Their previous outings together include ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ (2011) and ‘Gangster Squad’ (2013).
To get into the mood, Damien Chazelle and his cast and crew watched vintage films every Friday night during production - on the old soundstages of such classical films as ‘Singin in the Rain’ and other great titles that had inspired his great, uplifting work destined to follow them as a big screen classic.
Stepping into the footsteps of the greats including Gene Kelly, emma Stone and Ryan Gosling went to meet his widow, but this nearly went disastrously wrong. Ryan told chat show host Graham Norton that they almost managed to lose Patricia Kelly’s beloved dog.
“We went to meet her, which was wonderful and she shared a lot of his stories. But, after this magical night we managed to let her little dog out on to the street. We were running in and out of traffic trying to catch it and there was a moment when Damien (Chazelle) looked and me and said, ‘We will not kill Gene Kelly’s widow’s dog!”
‘La La Land’ is on national release today.