I had the distinction of being the first interview for writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz on LA LA LAND press tour. Not just in San Francisco, but nationally. It was, I joked, a heavy responsibility. It was not the only first for them that day, as noted later in the conversation.
The pair were responsible for WHIPLASH, but LA LA LAND was their first collaboration, and the first thing we talked about on October 6, 2016, was how they parlayed WHIPLASH’s success into a chance to make an original film musical.
We went on to talk about J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar™ for WHIPLASH, and roots in summer stock; injecting grit into the heightened reality of a musical; and tailoring singing and dancing to stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
We finished up by talking about collaboration and giving up control with Hurwitz describing what it was like to hand his music over to a lyricist, and for Chazzelle to hand over direction of the film’s choreography.
LA LA LAND, a film that bravely reinvents the splashy musicals of the 1950s as a credible art form for the 21st century. Damien Chazzelle, the powerhouse writer/director of WHIPLASH (which won an Oscar™ for J.K. Simmons), once again explores the irresistible impulse of creativity, this time with a pair of lovers (Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling) at turning points in their careers. She’s a an actress of enormous power who can’t catch a break at auditions, he’s a jazz musician with a dream and an uncompromising attitude that prevents him from playing the music he’s hired to perform. Floundering alone, together their synergy is the inspiration that they’ve sorely needed. The film co-stars Simmons and John Legend. Chazelle directed from his own script with Hurwitz providing the musical score.