Damien Chazelle Shows Off Trailer Of ‘Babylon’ – Deadline

Today at TIFF, months before its Christmas Day theatrical opening, Oscar-winning filmmaker Damien Chazelle came to show off the trailer of his Hollywood period opus, Babylon. It will drop tom’w. The pic is still in post.

The trailer is non-stop party and rollicking jazz. It starts with Margot Robbie’s up and coming movie star character doing coke. “There were more drugs,” says Chazelle about the era. “They’re building an industry from scratch.” Brad Pitt is wild mega-star, Jack Conrad, falling off balconies, getting dragged drunk out of cars, shooting guns and driving around in cars with Robbie covering his eyes.

“Signs on doors said ‘No Actors or Dogs Allowed’ when I moved to Hollywood,” adds Pitt’s character, “we changed that.”

“A few things happen, which are movies, and the town turns into a megalopolis,” says Chazelle. “To do that, you need a crazy person.”

“You thought this town needed you, it’s bigger than you,” Jean Smart playing a kind of Norma Desmond charter tells Pitt’s Jack Conrad.

The trailer ends with Robbie yelling “Hey big dick Mr. But, who wants to see me fighting snakes?” as Pitt’s character cheers her on saying “Fuck, yeah!”

“After the quietness of First Man, I wanted to do something boisterous and loud,” said Chazelle about his pivot to Babylon.

Babylon was the biggest number of roles I have ever juggled. The casting process took a long, long time. Mostly a fictional film. All the characters are fictional but inspired by composites of real-life people,” the filmmaker continued.

“You’re looking for people to surprise you (and to) demolish pre-conceived notions of that era, and actors who would define that spirit,” Chazelle added.

Babylon was back to a lot of on-screen music as well La La Land spirit Whiplash. We want to do away with pre-conceptions of the era,” he said about the 1920s set pic.

“The movie captured entire societies in transition. You think of certain Fellini pictures like La Dolce Vita, and Robert Altman’s Nashville spirit The Godfather. Old school epics who manage through characters showing a society evolving,” says Chazelle. Also a big inspiration for Chazelle were silent movies, and it’s no coincidence that he shot Babylon in Santa Clarita, CA where Chaplin filmed Modern Times.

Paramount first showed off footage two Babylon back at CinemaCon in April, and what we saw today was different, though with the big jazz party scenes and sword and sandal epic production going on in the film woven in. Robbie’s character in that clip demanded her close-up, intoning “You don’t become a star, you either are one or you ain’t.” Pitt’s Conrad was seen in the CinemaCon footage delivering the ‘No Actors’ allowed line.

Chazelle spoke with TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey about his career; “the physicality of music” in his films, starting with debut pic Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. “That film didn’t exactly open doors in Hollywood,” said Chazelle. He next wrote a feature length script of Whiplash, but the producers suggested he carve a 15-minute short of it. Chazelle thought that was a setback in his evolution as a filmmaker. “But life finds a better path,” he said looking back. La La Land, he was developing before Whiplash, an homage to the MGM technicolor, CinemaScope musicals.

“People in Hollywood don’t like to use their imagination, they like to know what they’re getting,” says Chazelle about selling the feature length of Whiplash off its short and feature length screenplay.

The trick to making the risky original musical which turned into a multi-Oscar winning tentpole for Lionsgate, “it’s finding unity on a thing that could go a separate route.”

“You’re choreographing a ballet, recording a soundtrack and making a movie,” said the director about La La Land which he deems as his hardest prep.

:What I love about musicals, is that when they work, is that you don’t feel that work,” he said, “Hopefully you don’t smell the department meetings.”

There were a lot of up-hill battles comprised of rehearsals and no-rehearsals and adapting in situations when things didn’t work (ie initially the traffic dance number didn’t go smooth in its first take).

On the ambitious astronaut movie First Man: “I remember one of the big complaints I got in Guy and Madeline is the same as First Man — too many close-ups. I love going in tight on the camera.”

Deadline heard from one attendee of a test screening that they enjoyed Babylon, but the film at four hours had some cutting down to be done at a four-hour running length (not uncommon for a test screening). This particular attendee remarked they had seen an explicit scene, and wondered that would make it to the final cut.

Babylon opens on Christmas with a further expansion on Jan. 6.

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