Age: 38 years.
Family: Wife and two children.
Background: Trained percussionist with focus on jazz. Had his breakthrough with the movie “Whiplash”, which is about a jazz drummer.
Other films (director): “Guy and Madeleine on a park bench” (2009), “La la land” (2016), “First man” (2018). “Babylon” premieres on January 27. Has also made the Netflix series “The Eddy” (2020).
Awards: His films have been awarded ten Oscars, eight British Bafta awards and nine Golden Globe statuettes.
Damien Chazelle has already made a declaration of love to the film city of Los Angeles. “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone won six Oscars and cemented his position as one of Hollywood’s top young visionary directors.
Chazelle’s new film “Babylon”, which will have its Swedish cinema premiere on January 27, is about Hollywood right at the junction between silent and sound films in the 1920s. New stars are emerging, those who cannot make the transition to a new technology leave.
It’s an uncompromising time with the chance to become a star overnight, only to be thrown out when you run out. The stars live in palaces, while those who want to rise live in the slums right next door and are exploited by industry. That paradox fascinates Damien Chazelle, he says.
— The beautiful sides of Hollywood cannot exist without the dark ones. It was going on at the same time. Some of the richest people in Hollywood mingled with some of the poorest people imaginable. Both worlds were needed by the film industry.
Hollywood’s abyss behind the elegant facade has been known and depicted many times on film. But this particular period is particularly interesting, Damien Chazelle thinks.
— In the beginning, the facade had not yet become so elegant and there was a kind of insanity that was visible for all to see. It wasn’t hidden and there was a combination of excessive partying and unfilteredness with everyone who came in with a lot of money and created the classic films, he says.
Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie star in “Babylon” which is characterized by excesses and decadence. The film is over three hours long and opens with a sequence from a lavish party filled with sex, booze, drugs – and an elephant, who mingles with hundreds of extras.
— It was to shock people. I like to work so that I lay out the arrangement right at the beginning so people know what they’re going to get, so the audience can quickly see if it’s for them, Chazelle says with a laugh.
The partner Sandgren
Chazelle once again works with the Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren. They found each other before working on “La la land” and love working together.
— It was love at first sight when we met, says Chazelle.
They share a love of “old fashioned” analog filmmaking with real film, but all the while with a drive to take the art of filmmaking forward.
“Every time I’ve come up with ideas for scenes that I thought were crazy, he not only goes along with it but makes it even crazier,” says Chazelle, laughing.
— So we challenge each other and have developed a real partnership.
They are also friends privately and Linus Sandgren is godfather to Damien Chazelle’s children.
Just as the old “Babylon” was destroyed and rebuilt again and again, the Hollywood business model has been shattered several times, only to rise again. Like when talkies, color films, television, video, pay TV, “Star Wars” and superhero movies, and now streaming services changed the game.
Many have interpreted “Babylon” as Damien Chazelle’s entry into the debate about how cinemas are about to die out as streaming services take over.
But it’s not. He has a more nuanced view of the situation.
— Hollywood is always changing, which means that in every era there is some part of Hollywood that dies while something new is born. This cycle of death and birth mirrors the last 100 years of Hollywood and will probably continue to do so for another 100 years.