According to composer Justin Hurwitz, all the piano performance featured in the film was first recorded by pianist Randy Kerber during pre-production. Ryan Gosling then spent two hours a day, six days a week in piano lessons learning the music by heart. By the time filming had begun, Gosling was able to play all the piano sequences seen in the film without the use of a hand double or CGI.
Emma Watson turned down the role of Mia due to scheduling conflicts with Beauty and the Beast (2017), while Ryan Gosling turned down the role of the Beast in that film to appear in this one. Coincidentally, both are musicals. Ironically, Emma Stone would later drop out off the role of Meg March in Little Women (2019) due to scheduling conflicts with promoting The Favourite (2018) and Watson was cast to replace her in the part.
Emma Stone performed "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" live. She would decide when to switch from dialogue to singing. There was no pre-recorded track she was lip-syncing to. Justin Hurwitz, the song's composer, was in another room playing piano in her ear. Director Damien Chazelle said this was done so Emma could have more control of the scene.
The line in the film said by Sebastian, "that's L.A. They worship everything and they value nothing," was actually added in by Ryan Gosling himself, when he heard his real life wife, Eva Mendes, mention it as a joke.
Because Damien Chazelle wanted to shoot the scene in the tradition of old musicals without cuts or editing, Ryan Gosling practiced playing the piano and played it himself in one take on his first day of shooting. Co-star John Legend, who is a classically trained pianist, says he is "jealous" of how quickly Gosling learned to play so well.
Sebastian's tip about amplifying a car fob's range by holding it under your chin does work, but is not expected to cause cancer. Most fobs use a frequency that resonates well with water, and the human brain is mostly water.
The crew had a limited time window of 30 minutes (director of photography Linus Sandgren said it was exactly between 7.20 - 7.50 pm) within two days to film the magic hour dusky purple twilight Hollywood Hills dance sequence. According to Damien Chazelle, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling managed five takes in two days, where after each take, they would go back to the starting point with the assistants wiping their sweat before starting the dance routine again. The fourth take is the one used in the final film.
Prior to filming, Damien Chazelle, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone visited Gene Kelly's widow and were able to look through many of Kelly's film memorabilia, including his leather-bound copy of the script for Singin' in the Rain (1952). At the end of the visit, Kelly's widow's dog escaped and Chazelle and Gosling ended up running through traffic to rescue the dog, with Chazelle affirming to Gosling, "We will not kill Gene Kelly's widow's dog." They were successful in rescuing the dog.
During the shoot Ryan Gosling's partner Eva Mendes was looking after their daughter, pregnant with their second child and caring for her brother, who underwent cancer treatment. During his award acceptance speech at 74th Golden Globe Awards (2017), Gosling tearfully acknowledged Mendes for her strength while he was preoccupied with dancing and music practice, and dedicated his award to her brother.
The opening number, "Another Day of Sun," was filmed at an extremely hot temperature of 109 degrees F (43 degrees C) in two days. Each performer had two spare sets of costumes, stored in the cars, which they changed between takes. To maximize the filming time, choreographer Mandy Moore started rehearsals in May 2015 at the parking lot behind the production office. The sequence was mapped with miniature model cars and post it notes. During filming, as to avoid being accidentally filmed on the overhead camera, Moore was hidden beneath a car so that she could bark instructions to the dancers.
Although production was able to film the Griffith Park Observatory interior exhibits, they were not allowed to film in the planetarium, so the planetarium was recreated on a set. The vintage Minolta projector in the center of the planetarium was rented from the Planetarium and Projector Science Museum in Big Bear Lake, California to complete the set.
The express lane freeway ramp used for the opening number, Another Day Of Sun, is the same stretch of freeway as used for the iconic "bus jump" sequence from Speed (1994), where a 50-foot section of the ramp was digitally removed using CGI to create the gap the bus must jump over.
Upon its huge historic victory at 74th Golden Globe Awards (2017), La La Land broke the record for the most Golden Globe Awards with seven wins (beating One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Midnight Express (1978)), as well as the record with the most Golden Globe wins in every category in which it was nominated with seven nominations and seven wins (also besting One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).
In the film,Ryan Gosling plays a pianist and John Legend a guitarist. In real life, Legend is a classically trained pianist and Gosling a guitarist, both had to take training to play their new instruments.
Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz came up with the idea of the film during their senior year at Harvard University in 2010 with Hurwitz writing the musical tracks and Chazelle on dialogue. Initially they found two financial backers and a producer for a budget of $1 million. However, the demand for a lot of script changes made them to drop the project off. After Whiplash (2014) found critical success, the project was resurrected with the studio increasing the budget to $30 million; this allowed the filmmakers to rent the Griffith Observatory for filming (a full day rental there costs $10 thousand).
Damien Chazelle is known for using long, uninterrupted takes in the film, but he also uses at least one sequence spooled backwards. In the last scene at the planetarium Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone fall out of the air and perfectly into their seats, then kiss, and the camera zooms in for a closeup before the fade. The sequence was shot backwards: starting in black, zoom out to the kiss, telescope out to the two-shot, then wide shot, then Stone and Gosling are lifted out of their chairs, and then the entire sequence is run in reverse. That's how they land so perfectly and effortlessly in their seats: they don't "land" at all. They are already sitting, the zoom in is actually a zoom out, and so on.
The plot has strong ties to Emma Stone's real-life history. The movie is based in LA, and Mia is discovered as a college dropout actress pursuing her dreams. Stone is a school dropout herself, having moved to LA at the age of 15 in pursuit of an acting career.
Producer Marc Platt told a story that on the last day of filming the sun was setting and Damien Chazelle delayed announcing the wrap, instead grabbing a handheld camera to start filming the sunset. Platt realized that Chazelle did not want production to end. As darkness fell, Platt walked over to Chazelle to tell him they had nothing left to film without light, upon which Chazelle sadly agreed to call it a day.
The production reopened two locations for filming: The Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena and the Angels Flight railway in downtown L.A. The Rialto has been closed since 2007 because it was unable to sustain itself as a single movie theatre. Angels Flight has been closed since 2013 over safety issues to the public. Filmmakers were able to get around this by stating that the railway was operating for a day to get it back into service while secretly filming the scene as a private function.
During the first 60 seconds of the movie when the camera pans showing the gridlocked cars, several of them can be seen having dents in hoods and roofs. Presumabely this is from dancing during rehearsals and earlier takes.
Chazelle also was taken by the concept that you meet someone in your life who transforms you. That sets you on a path toward being who you dreamed you could be. And yet you must travel that path alone. Chazelle finds that concept beautiful and heartbreaking and ultimately that's what he wanted the movie to be about.
Director Chazelle says of actress Emma Stone, "Just the level of her acting in the song and dance scenes and the way that she expresses such gradations of emotion is amazing. I think she's one of the great actresses of our time and can create something without any dialogue, purely through her face, her mannerisms and body language."
With the exception of the opening song sequence ("Another Day of Sun"), Mia and Sebastian appear in every scene of this movie. This was also notable in director Damien Chazelle's previous film Whiplash (2014). Miles Teller's character, Andrew, is also in every scene of Whiplash.
When the time came to present Best Picture at The Oscars (2017) (the last award of the ceremony), presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were mistakenly handed the wrong envelope backstage. Beatty held a duplicate envelope for the category Best Actress in a Leading Role (which was announced just minutes before and was won by Emma Stone for La La Land (2016)) in his hands while presenting the nominees for Best Picture. When Beatty opened the envelope, apparently becoming aware of the mistake, he hesitated to announce a winner. He then handed the card to Dunaway who announced the heavily favored La La Land (2016) as the winner for Best Picture. As the TV cameras cut to the cheering audience, Beatty could be heard telling Dunaway "It says 'Emma Stone'" to which Dunaway replied "What?". The three nominated producers Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt and Fred Berger as well as the whole cast and crew of the film went up on stage. Horowitz gave his thanks first, up next was Platt during whose speech the mistake became known when the ceremony's producers ran through the crowd on stage looking for the faulty as well as correct envelopes. It became clear that Horowitz was handed the wrong envelope by Beatty, which stated "Emma Stone, La La Land, Best Actress in a Leading Role", upon accepting the award, while the right envelope announcing Moonlight (2016) as the actual Best Picture winner had to be brought on-stage from backstage and was finally handed to Beatty. The crowd on stage became slowly aware of the mistake and, despite being already aware of the not winning, Berger still gave a speech thanking his family and ending his speech by stating "We lost by the way, but, you know." Horowitz, also being told about the mistake, stepped up to the microphone again and finally revealed to the public that Moonlight (2016) actually had won, showing the correct Best Picture card to the audience as well as the camera. Beatty additionally cleared up that he was handed the wrong envelope and also announced Moonlight (2016) as winner of Best Picture. After this announcement, the cast and crew of La La Land (2016) slowly left the stage, while the three producers handed their awards over to the team from Moonlight (2016), which was able to finally give their speeches. While there already was an mix-up of winners at the Oscars in 1964, when Sammy Davis Jr. announced the winners for the two categories Scoring of Music (adaptation or treatment) and Music Score (substantially original) and was handed the envelopes for the two categories interchanged (eventually announcing John Addison as the winner for Best Scoring of Music when he wasn't even nominated in that category (André Previn was the actual winner, while Addison was the winner in the Music Score category)), Beatty and Dunaway's snafu remains the only time in Oscar history that a person or film was announced as a winner, when they actually weren't.
The origins of the title is because of two reasons. Firstly the city the film is set in is Los Angeles, or in short form: LA. Hence the city is evident in the title 'La La Land' Secondly the film challenges the stereotypical view of Hollywood by labeling it a dream. This is also seen through the abstract cinematography. "La-La Land" is also a long-standing nickname for Hollywood/L.A. because of the faux-reality feeling of a city filled with so many films & shows being made (constantly creating faux-realities), and because it is populated by so many actors and actresses there for the same reason: to fulfill a dream. It is often used to differentiate it from other places, "more" rooted in reality.
While Mia is writing her one woman play, the protagonist's name, Genevieve, is seen in the script. This is likely a reference to Catherine Deneuve's character in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), which was a great source of inspiration for this film.
Director Damien Chazelle said about La La Land, 'it was important to make a movie about dreamers, about two people who have these giant dreams that drive them, that bring them together but also tear them apart." Chazelle says La La Land deals with how you balance your relationship to your art with your relationships with other people.
The sequence which Moore dubs 'the gravity free dance' was one in which "we wanted the audience to feel Sebastian and Mia fall into the this beautiful waltz because they have no other choice but to dance in that moment." According to Chazelle, the coupling of Stone and Gosling was alchemical. He says, "there's a shorthand between Ryan and Emma, not just in person but on screen."
Stone reveals that perfection wasn't the goal when it came to dance moves. "Our characters are struggling artists, so were never asked to be incredibly brilliant dancers and singers." Damien Chazelle wanted Mia and Sebastian's relationship to feel alive and raw in a certain way, even though they were part of these cinematic dance numbers. He welcomed the little flaws and flubs as a way to make it more real.
Emma Stone calls this finale an exploration of what might have been, "using the tools that only a musical can use to flesh it out and run with it." Chazelle says, "Let's give them the old fashioned musical version of their story where there's no real conflict and we can be left to reflect, is that actually better than what happened? That's the question the audience can be left with." Chazelle continues, "It's a movie where people are growing up and part of growing up is realizing life has its way."
Chazelle wanted to embrace two traditions with his casting of the lead actors. One side was to embrace the old Hollywood screen couplings of Bogart and Bacall, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Myrna Loy and Dick Powell. These old school actors take on different roles but always project a unique persona. At the same time Chazelle wanted Gosling and Stone's performances to feel surprising and even subversive.
On their way through Downtown LA, Mia and Sebastian visit the food stalls of the Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway), and among all the food places they choose Sarita's Pupuseria. This is an actual Salvadorean food stall. The scene, which only last 3 seconds, has brought international attention to the little place, now recognized in El Salvador, as a memorable place.
Director Damien Chazelle said of the inspiration for this opening number, "I always wanted to do a shot where you go from car to car with each radio playing a radically different kind of music. I wanted it to feel like a city bustling with music." and that he wanted to use the soundscape to "build an opening musical number and having a fantastical musical number arise out of a bunch of realistic city sounds."
Actor Ryan Gosling on Emma Stone: "She's one of a kind and brings that same quality to Mia. You feel for Mia as someone who has been working in L.A., trying to catch a break, because you see how special and unique she is." Director Chazelle says about Stone, "Emma's very modern, but there's a timelessness about her too."
At age 14, Emma Stone made a pitch to her parents to allow her to become a professional actor. In order to convince her parents, Stone made a power point presentation called "Project Hollywood". Stone's parents decided to allow her to go for her dream and she and her mother moved to Los Angeles in 2004 so she could audition for TV pilot season.
In the film, Ryan Gosling's character is referred to by other characters twice as a famous but deceased celebrity of 2016. Early in the film his sister calls him Ali, a reference to Muhammad Ali who died earlier June, 2016. Later, Mia yells out to him, calling him George Michael who died shortly after the film's release, on Christmas Day 2016.
Gosling brought some of his personal experience as an aspiring artist to the film. While Gosling was performing a crying scene for an audition on another film, the casting director took a phone call. This bit was used for the Mia character in the film.
Gosling says of his character Sebastian, "His heroes were born 70 years ago, and in this day and age, a great piano player playing real jazz is destined to work in bars where people don't even stop their conversations to listen to you. So how much do you compromise to be the artist you want to be? Gosling continues, I think Sebastian is struggling with the difference between being a purist and being a snob." "Ultimately", Gosling continues, "Sebastian faces the question lots of creative people are faced with: do I keep pursuing this work that actually nourishes me or do I have to accept that this is just a job and I have to pay the bills?"
Legend says Chazielle's main instruction for the song, "Start a Fire" was to make it a fun song that you can see as a single but still has some jazz influence. Legend says "writing the song was like threading the needle because you don't want it to be so bad that its embarrassing but you want it to be something that Sebastian wouldn't want to make. Something he wouldn't be proud of."
Emma Stone's character mentions the fact that there is a radio station named KJAZZ back home where she grew up. Emma Stone grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. KJZZ (pronounced K-Jazz) is a radio station in the Phoenix market. KJAZZ 88.1 is also the Los Angeles jazz and blues station.
Costume Designer Mary Zophres's design for the character of Mia included starting her off in dresses with vibrant colors to emphasize the girlishness of her character. As Mia becomes more mature and focused on her work, the color becomes more desaturated to the point where she wears black and white during her one woman show.
The very large pendulum seen in the observatory scene is called a Foucault pendulum, or Foucault's pendulum, named after the French physicist Léon Foucault. It is a simple device conceived as an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. While it had long been known that the Earth rotates, the introduction of the Foucault pendulum in 1851 was the first simple proof of the rotation in an easy-to-see experiment. Today, Foucault pendulums are popular displays in science museums and universities.
When the camera focuses on the traffic scene before the opening number "Another Day of Sun" begins, one of the radio stations in the background plays a short snippet of a song from Damien Chazelle's directorial debut Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009) called "It Happened at Dawn."
Chazelle says that some of the challenges of filming the opening sequence included, the choreography which brought the dancers very close to the edge of the freeway ramp, the curved nature of the freeway was different from their opening sequence rehearsals in a flat parking lot and camera cranes almost colliding with dancers.
Justin Paul explains that, "In New York, you gring and grind to pursue your dreams and...get up the next day and it's muddy and gross." Paul says that, in L.A., "You pursue your dream and you go to bed and get up the next day and it's a gorgeous day. It encourages you in one breath, and in another breath doesn't acknowledge that you just failed miserably."
Influences for this movie include the films of French New Wave director Jaques Demy. Demy broke the hyper-serious mold of 1960's movie making with candy colored musicals such as Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort and A Room In Town. According to Chazelle, " Jaques Demy is probably the single biggest influence not just on this movie but on everything I've done or wanted to do. There is no more formative movie for me than The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."
Emma Stone studied Pom dancing as a child as well as a year of ballet. Stone moved to Hollywood from Arizona at age 15 with her mother and struggled to get an audition, often being dismissed after saying just a line or two. She reportedly drew on these experiences for her character Mia in the film.
One of Emma Stone's favorite numbers in the film is "Duet". She says this is where their characters connect in a real way for the first time. Stone says that she, Ryan and Chazelle felt it was important that you feel the joyous moment when the pair literally fall into step with one another.
For John Legend, the chance to work with Ryan Gosling was a thrill. "Ryan is one of the best actors working right now, so I came into it with a real humility", he said. Legend says "Gosling was very helpful and supportive. He really encouraged me to feel 'OK I can do this.'"
Chazelle wanted to make Los Angeles one of the leading characters in the film. In its film history, Los Angeles has been a noir backdrop, a beach and bikini paradise and a dystopian setting...Chazelle however wanted to explore L.A. as a Muse, an in motion canvas of fateful encounters, endless traffic and endless striving where everyone chases their dreams at times futiley and at others transformationally. Given all of these qualities, Chazelle calls L.A. a widescreen city. That is why he chose to shoot wide screen and make the city as big and spectacular as a classic Hollywood musical.
Several of Stone's outfits are replicas of iconic dresses such as the green dress Mia wears on her first date with Sebastian which was modeled on a Judy Garland dress from the film A Star Is Born (1954). The black trousers were reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn's look in Funny Face (1957).
The same street lamps are seen in multiple scenes including the road Emma and Ryan walk up to in their first dance sequence; the Pier at Hermosa Beach; outside the sound stage when Mia and Seb walk the movie lot (where they are stored outside the building showing they are merely props); and again when Mia runs out of the restaurant where she was dining with Greg, brother and wife and runs up the street to the Rialto. The same light also features prominently in the movie poster.
Ryan Gosling's character, Sebastian, teases his sister in the movie that he should set her up with a man that has a face tattoo. Coincidentally, in his role in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) his character has a face tattoo. He chose this tattoo for his character in TPBtP. After the first day of shooting, he asked to remove the tattoo because of his embarrassment in choice he made for his character, in which case the director told him "absolutely not."
According to the film's producers, Stone brought a nuanced Everywoman relatablility to the character of Mia. Producer Jordan Horowitz on Emma Stone, "She simultaneously brings the quality of an enormous movie star yet she feels so human and authentic. It's very easy to fall in love with her and also to see inside her emotions."
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for tabulating the results, preparing awards envelopes and handing them to presenters apologized unreservedly to the makers of La La Land and Moonlight (2016), as well as everyone involved, after an envelope mix-up caused the former to be incorrectly announced as Best Picture: "We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. [sic] We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation."
Right before the freeway interchange opened to the public in 1993, a key scene for the movie "Speed" with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves was filmed there. The E-Z pass over-ramp section of the freeway was shut down on Saturday and Sunday in August of 2015 to film the opening number entitled, "Traffic".
Miles Teller, star of director Chazelle's film Whiplash was originally considered for the part of Sebastian. Once Gosling was cast, director Chazelle decided to make the characters somewhat older with experience in struggling to make their dreams come true.
When the film won best picture at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Chazelle revealed that this ending sequence was partially inspired by the 1927 film 7th Heaven starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. In that film, Farrell goes off to war and dies but Gaynor, informed of his death, holds onto the irrational hope that he is still alive. The studio made the director shoot a happy ending in which Farrell returns alive. This gave Chazelle the idea that both realities can exist simultaneously because the woman's love for her man is strong enough to make it so. In this case, the laws of time and physics cease to exist. So one way to interpret the ending of La La Land, is that the Epilogue is equally as 'true' as the narrative of which it is a part.
Chazelle says that the dance movement in the opening sequence was influenced by the opening of Jaques Demy's, The Young Girls of Rochefort and the athleticism of the opening dance number was inspired by Michael Kidd's choreography in the classic MGM musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
There were over 100 cars and 90 singers and dancers in the opening scene. The sky was cloudy for the first half day of the prologue shoot and the crew had to wait until the sun finally came out to shoot.
According to Costume Designer Mary Zophres, Mia's barista blouse is based on a photo of Ingrid Bergman from the 1940's in which she wears something similar. She has collaborated with the Cohen Brothers on thirteen of their films including, The Big Lebowski, Fargo and No Country for Old Men.
Director Damien Chazelle envisioned the production numbers in the film as echoing the imagination and narrative freedom associated with the mid century movie musicals but with the energy and pace that speaks to the iPhone and YouTube generation.
The Retro Dairy Mart was originally an Alta Dena drive through grocery store popular in the 1950's. Van Beek's Tapas and Tunes is in reality the original modern style Magnolia Theater in Burbank. It later became Evergreen Recording Studios whose clients included Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Frank Sinatra.
Director Damien Chazelle's first film was, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. The film was a romance told through song and dance, a re-envisioning of the retro MGM musical. Chazelle made this film as his Harvard senior thesis in 2009. The composer of this film was Harvard classmate Justin Hurwitz who also did the score for La La Land. Hurwitz wrote the music for Whiplash as well and Chazelle says, he hopes Justin writes the music for everything that he does.
The 1,200 seat Rialto theater was built with a stage that was 30 feet deep in order to accommodate live Vaudeville acts. Other movies that have shot in the Rialto theater include, The Rocketeer, The Player, Nightmare on Elm Street, part 4 and Scream 2.
Rebel Without a Cause was released in 1955 and was the movie that made a star out of James Dean. The movie has a famous set piece at the Griffith Observatory which Mia and Sebastian visit later in the film. James Dean starred in just three feature films before dying in a car accident on September 30, 1955 at age 24. Rebel Without a Cause was directed by Nicholas Ray who also directed the film, In a Lonely Place starring Humphrey Bogart as a struggling screenwriter chasing his dreams in Hollywood.
The Observatory was built in 1935 and named after Griffith Jenkins Griffith. Griffith came to Los Angeles from Wales in 1881 and, with riches from silver mining and real estate and donated the land and money to fulfill his dream of making astronomy available to all. The art deco style building was overseen by architects John Austin and Frederick Ashley.
Justin Hurwitz comments that "City of Stars" was Mia and Sabatian's first duet. (You get) "the giggling and all other nuances when you record vocals that way. You pick up all the little smacks of the lips and things like that, that you don't get when you record vocals in a music studio months earlier and then have them lip sync on set."
The futuristic keyboard Gosling uses during the Messengers performances is a Seaboard Grand synthesizer, invented in 2013 by Roland Lamb, founder of ROLI, a music technology company in the UK. The Seaborad Grand allows the pianist to play between the keys or notes on a regular piano, simulating the increased palette that a wind or string instrument might have. Instead of keys, the surface is silicon and by pressing harder, the musician can deepened the sound and bend the pitch. La La Land's Executive Music producer Marius De Vries knew of the instrument and suggested it for Sebastian to use in the Messengers performances.
When Damien Chazelle was first talking to investors about financing La La Land, someone asked that the Sebastian character be changed from a jazz pianist to a rock musician. This same financier also asked that the bittersweet ending of the story be dropped. Chazelle refused to change these elements and moved on.
The location where Mia performs her one woman show was shot in The Hayworth Theatre on Wilshire boulevard in Los Angeles. It opened in 1925 as the Masque theater and was designed by the same architect who designed the El Capitan and Mayan theaters in Los Angeles. By 1950 the Hayworth was known as The Vagabond Theater, an art house and revival theater that screened many of the movies which inspired Damien Chazelle to make La La Land.
The Smokehouse restaurant lounge had a long list of luminaries perform there including The Captain and Tenile, The Drifters, and the Inkspots. Because of its proximity to the studios, the Smoke House became a watering hole for actors such as, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland and Cary Grant. Producer George Schlatter discovered Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens in the restaurant when he came in and proferred, "My, the acoustics are good in here."
This scene was filmed on the Hermosa Beach pier which is a few hundred feet from the Lighthouse Café. The streetlights were added by the film's production design team to the pier for filming. Due to the popularity of the film, the City of Hermosa Beach is reviewing a plan to add the lights as a permanent fixture to the pier.
Chazelle commented that the opening number was inspired by, "living in L.A. and being in traffic all the time, thinking about wanting to shoot myself or dance." and one of the inspirations for the opening sequence is the single seven and a half minute shot of traffic in Jean Luc Godard's 1967 film Weekend.
Composer Justin Hurwitz characterizes the opening song as a way to set up the personality of Los Angeles itself, a city of dreamers going for a shot at a future, "that may or may not happen." "Another Day of Sun" Lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul describe director Chazelle wanting them to capture the difference between L.A. and New York with the song.
In creating La La Land, director Chazelle wanted to see if he could make a film that channels the magic and energy of the most poignantly romantic French and American musicals of filmmaking's Golden Age into our more complicated and jaded age.
Chazelle and Choreographer Mandy Moore wanted to build the choreography into the storytelling by breaking the fourth wall to draw the audience in but without disrupting the dream-like flow of the story. Mandy Moore is a two-time Emmy® Award winner for her groundbreaking work on the reality TV show, "So You Think You Can Dance."
In the montage of neon signs several from classic Hollywood's glamour era establishments can be seen including the Formosa Café, which was patronized by Humphry Bogart and Clark Gable as it was across the street from a Warner Bros. lot. Musso & Frank Grill which opened in 1919 and is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. The Knickerbocker Hotel which dates back to 1929 but is where, in 1968, Graham Nash was living when Cass Elliot introduced him to Stephen Stills and David Crosby. The Roxy Theater in West Hollywood which is where Paul Reubens introduced his Pee-Wee Herman character in 1981.
Actress Rosemarie DeWitt plays Sebastian's sister Laura. She has also been nominated for multiple awards for her performance as 'Rachel' in Rachel Getting Maried. DeWitt also played 'Midge Daniels' in the TV series Mad Men.
For Hurwitz the push and pull between the characters of Sebastian and Mia was the driving force of his score. Hurwitz wove the exhilaration of romantic love and the haunting heartbreak of life in the creative field into the music for the score.
Principal photography on the film began on August 10, 2015. Filming took place in more than 60 locations in and near Los Angeles. It took 40 days to complete shooting, with the production wrapping in mid-September 2015.
Musician D.A. Wallach plays the 80's singer in Seb's band. While at Harvard, Wallach auditioned against director Damien Chazelle for the role of drummer in Justin Hurwitz's band. Chazelle won and Wallach became lead singer of the band. Wallach is former lead singer of the group Chester French. He is now a solo artist on Harvest Records.
While it references many films, La La Land also is influenced by painters such as Ed Ruscha and David Hockney who also explored the mythology of L.A. The French Fauvist painter Raoul Duffy, known for his ecstatic washes of color, is also cited as a visual influence on the film.
Ryan Gosling on Emma Stone: "She's one-of-a-kind, and brings the same quality to Mia. But you also see that Mia's a bit different and not necessarily what these people in the entertainment world are looking for - where they often want people who are interchangeable with one another. She's just not that."
Producer Marc Platt says of Emma Stone's performance, "Not everyone has the dream of being an actress but the way Emma plays Mia transcends that. You feel Mia's dreams could be anybody's dream, whatever you want in life." Jordan Horowitz said on Stone: "She made everything about her character feel like it had been tailored to her."
Keith is portrayed by ten-time GRAMMY® winner and Academy Award® winning singer songwriter John Legend. Legend jumped at the chance to appear in the film saying, "I thought this would be a great opportunity to transition into doing more acting in a role that feels pretty familiar to what I already do for a living, which is make music." Also fascinating to Legend was the conflict between Keith and Sebastian which is how one adapts to a rapidly changing culture. Legend also said "Keith's philosophy is let's not try and preserve something that happened 50 years ago; let's take what we've learned and make something for these times."
Stone's rendition of "City of Stars" was performed live on set in order to keep her completely present and in the moment. Stone says, 'it was challenging but it was also something I felt really strongly about." The actress says she had just done Caberet on Broadway and saw the way a live performance adds something. Even if your voice breaks or you're a bit out of tune, something irreplaceable is lent to the performance.
Hurwitz composed "City of Stars" from an emotional place. He says it goes back and forth between cadencing in major and cadencing in minor because he thinks that is what the song is about. You have these great moments and then you have these less great moments in life.
To help his cast and crew get inspired, Chazelle held screenings every Friday night during production of classical films that had inspired him for La La Land. The films he screened included; The Umbrellas of Chergourg, Singin' In the Rain, Top Hat and Boogie Nights.
On the first day, Zophres and Chazelle went through the movie scene by scene discussing color palettes. For Sebastian, Zophres wanted to emphasize the elegant with a shot of the offbeat for his costumes. Zophres continues, "His look is not necessarily trendy. It's a look you feel he has developed and curated. Sebastian isn't a guy you see wearing a t-shirt. Instead he has a very specific kind of slim silhouette that speaks to a respect for tradition and formality."
Producer Marc Platt says, "La La Land is absolutely a love letter to the city. The way the film mixes two people leading very hip, modern lives with all these iconic Hollywood locales is unique. You get a feeling both of the romantic fantasy of the city and its grounding in real lives."
Emma Stone has loved musicals as a child ever since she saw Les Miserables when she was eight. Stone says that "bursting into song has always been a dream of mine." Stone's favorite film is Charlie Chaplin's 1931 bittersweet comedy City Lights. Some of Emma Stone's early work included the voice of a dog on The Suite Life of Zach and Cody.
Executive Music Producer Marius de Vries says of the engagement party song that they wanted to make use of their song melodies as underscore and this scene features a reimagining of the room-mates song from earlier in the film performed by Ryan. He notes of Mia and Sebastian's Theme that, in order to bring this to life, Ryan Gosling had to start working with piano teacher Liz Kinnon four months prior to the shoot as he was essentially a beginner. When they went to shoot the scene where the piano version was first played, everyone was tense. But, Marius says, " after Ryan's first take, there was at least 10 seconds of astonished silence then much deserved applause."
Executive Music Producer Marius de Vries says of the song "City of Stars", it had many permutations prior to filming from duet, female lead, male lead until it locked into its current position. The whistling in the song was done by Justin Hurwitz as ryan Gosling is unable to whistle.
The "City of Stars" scene on the Hermosa pier was almost spoiled as, having a limited time to shoot at sunset, a large US battleship suddenly sailed right into the camera line. Producer Marc Platt disappeared for 10 minutes and when he returned, the battleship had moved in time for cast and crew to film the scene.
In this film, Costume Designer Mary Zophres and Chazelle focused on color as a vehicle for emotion, talking about how a scene might be neutrals with a yellow accent and another might have the men in dark and the women in color. Timliness with a contemporary quality was what they were after. The hue was key to Sebastian's look from the sable brown suit in the opening to his royal blue sport coat. Zophres was particularly pleased with the choice for Sebastian's two-tone shoes. The shoes were popular in the '40s but seemed to bring in a sense of whimsey and lightness and a love of life ultimately becoming the signature for Sebastian because he has this passion for the past that he brings to the present.
This dinner/argument scene was reportedly the one that was most rewritten. Gosling and Stone also helped to craft the dialogue to create one of the most realistic scenes in a movie filled with fantasy sequences.
The opening scene of La La Land was shot in Los Angeles on the 105/110 cloverleaf freeway interchange. It is also known as the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange and is 130 feet tall. When it was built, this freeway was the first to combine three differeent type of transportation movement. A level for cars, a level for buses and a level for light rail trains.
The film makes visual allusions to classic films such as Broadway Melody of 1940, Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris. Director Chazelle considers An American in Paris as an example of how daring vintage musicals were and used it as a standard by which he made his film.
La La Land premiered at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2016. The film tied the record for most Academy Award® nominations with 14. The only other films that have received 14 nominations include All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997). La La Land won six Academy Awards including Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song ("City of Stars") and Best Production Design.
Lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's prior theatrical credits include, A Christmas Story, Dogfight, James and the Giant Peach. La La Land was their first chance to create a full-scale lyrical book for the screen. In most cases the melodies for the songs were set prior to Pasek and Paul's creation of the lyrics. Their goal was to weave Sebastian and Mia's personas into their songs.
The exteriors of Mia's apartment were shot at the Rose Tower Apartments in Long Beach. The Rose Tower opened in 1928 as the El Cordova designed by architect George D. Riddle in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. In 2007 the homeowners of the Rose Tower completely restored it to its 1920's heyday.
The street location where this was shot is near the intersection of Franklin and Argyle in Hollywood. Nearby Hollywood landmarks include The Magic Castle, the Chateau Elysee, a former apartment house for movie stars and the Shakespeare Bridge. In the background can be seen the Castle Argyle Arms. Built in 1928, it housed Hollywood luminaries such as Clark Gable, Howard Hughes, Ronald Reagan and Cecil B. DeMille during it's heyday.
Mia walks past a mural called "You Are the Star" in this scene. In it, vintage Hollywood celebrities sit in a movie theater appearing to watch passersbys as if they are the stars of a film. The mural was painted in 1983 by Thomas Suriya.
The Interiors of "Lipton's" were shot at The Smokehouse restaurant in Burbank. The Smokehouse was originally a restaurant owned by actor Danny Kaye called The Red Coach Inn directly across from the Warner Bros. studio lot. In 1955 it was purchased by William Wagner and Wayne McAllister and rebuilt to reflect the rustic timber style in which it appears today. In 1956, Jack Paar broadcast the Tonight Show from the restaurant and celebrity client George Clooney has a plaque on his favorite booth.
Chazelle felt there had to be a naturalism to the dancing. He told choreographer Mandy Moore that in this movie dancing, singing and acting are all just one thing. Chazelle told Moore "he wanted the audience to feel that Sebastian and Mia are real people who, for just a moment, transcend the confines of everyday life."
Director Chazelle used filmmaker Max Ophuls as a model for how he would move the camera in La La Land. Ophuls is considered one of the masters of camera movement in cinema history. As Chazelle describes it, "the idea is to have a camera that in itself feels melodic, feels like a dancer" the camera "never gets in the way of the dancing onscreen but becomes part of the choreography nonetheless."
The locations in the film switch between 'of the moment' and bygone eras in the film. Chazelle's notion was to capitalize on the timelessness inherent in the city itself. Production designer David Wasco said they wanted to look at the city of Los Angeles anew with a visually inventive director.
Emma Stone first met director Chazelle in 2014 while she was performing on Broadway in Cabaret. The actress had a cold the night they met when the director outlined his idea for the film to her. Stone had confidence from performing in Cabaret so that she felt she could handle the film's dance numbers. Stone accepted Chazelle's offer to play Mia because he was so passionate about the project.
The Warner Bros, backlot has been the setting for many a classic movie and TV show. Including the exterior of the Central Perk on the TV show Friends. It was also where scenes were shot from National Lampoon's Vacation, Blade Runner and Batman.
The Jazz Club sequence was filmed at The Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach, California. The cast and crew filmed there for four days in the summer of 2015. The Lighthouse has been a home for jazz since it opened in 1949. Famous Jazz musicians who've performed there include; Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Cannonball Adderley. Howard Rumsey owned The Lighthouse Café and brought jazz there from 1949 through 1960 led by Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars. The set designers didn't change much of the interior. They added a stained glass on the front window and the circular stained glass lighthouse image behind the piano.
Of Gosling's character Sebastian, producer Fred Berger notes: "Ryan portrays Sebastian as a man of real determination. That's what feeds his stubbornness to stay in L.A. and to say I'm going to make it here as the jazz performer that I am on my terms. Sebastian's stubbornness is not born out of ego or any abrasive quality. It's borne out of real conviction and passion which Ryan infuses into the character so beautifully."
Stone says of her character, "Mia's driven by something that maybe she doesn't completely understand. She wants to be an artist in a city of so many people who seem to be just like her." Stone continues: "Mia feels that there's something special inside her but she doesn't quite know what it is. I could relate to her being an actress and going on auditions but even more so, there was something so exciting about taking her into this musical world where you can suddenly spin down the street or burst into song. That was a wonderful challenge."
The murals on the ceiling of the observatory were painted by muralist, film producer and novelist Hugo Ballin. The ceiling mural depicts the various stories that people have used to explain what we see in the sky from the zodiac, to ancient Greek and Roman legends to a woman holding the Star of Bethlehem. Other murals show how science and engineering changed through history including aeronautics, navigation, metallurgy, time, geology and biology among others.
The Griffith observatory has two telescopes including a 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope in the east dome and a triple-beam ceolostat (solar telescope) in the west dome. The planetarium theater was renovated in 1964 and a Mark IV Zeiss projector installed. A high resolution video projected by a state of the art laser system is featured in the planetarium. It shows a night sky simulation as well as a 30-minute program.
Emma Stone on the relationship between Mia and Sebastian: "I think Mia and Sebastian inspire each other to do things differently. They are both in a rut when they meet and feeling creatively stalled. But the beautiful thing Sebastian does for her is ask, 'why don't you create your own stories to tell as an actress?' I think Mia needs that because she's forgotten she even has that ability. Mia opens Sebastian up to the idea that maybe he can expand and pursue his art in previously unexplored ways."
The Angels Flight funicular railway in downtown Los Angeles opened in 1901 but closed in 1969. It reopened briefly in the early 2000's but closed again soon after. The city opened it up for one day so the film's producers could shoot there.
West Coast Jazz was represented at The Lighthouse in the 1950's when Shorty Rogers, Bud Shank, Shelly Manne and Max Roache all played in the club. Several jazz greats also made live recordings in The Lighthouse including Art Pepper, Cannonball Adderley, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones. Mose Allison.
The process of writing "Start a Fire" furthered Legend's understanding of the characters. "What was fun is that we get to see the song morph as Sebastian and Keith figure out what kind of music they want to make." Legend says "it presents Sebastian with a quandry of how 'pop' he's willing to get and how far he's willing to go from the music that he feels moved to play." The song was regulatory for Gosling. He said, "For John to bring in his contemporary take was really a hard thing to do. Sonically and energetically it could have really clashed with the kind of music the movie is celebrating. Instead, what John brought was so good that it just makes my character's dilemma that much more complicated."
According to Costume designer Mary Zophres, Mia and Sebastian have over fifty costume changes apiece. Zophres coordinated closely with cinematographer Linus Sandgren and Production Designer David Wasco among others to create a world in which the costumes harmonize with the overall design of the film.
The Messengers performance was shot inside the El Rey Theater on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. It was built in 1936 and designed in a style known as Zig Zag Moderne. During the 1940's the El Rey was part of the Fox west coast theater chain. In the 1970's the Chippendales Dancers took up residence there. The El Rey is currently a live music and special events venue.
Damien Chazelle collaborated intently with cinematographer Linus Sandgren for the movie. Sandgren is known for his work with David O. Russell on American Hustle and Joy. Jordan Hurwitz comments: "The camera had to have a very specific energy in this film...and we knew Linus had the skills to bring that." Sundgren notes: "Damien wanted to make an old-fashioned film in a very modern way where the camera is more fluid." There were many technical challenges. They shot on 4-perf anamorphic 35mm film. This meant the camera had to be reloaded with film every ten minutes. On top of that Chazelle wanted to shoot big production numbers in single takes, what Sundgren calls "Unbroken reality".
Damien also wanted everything to happen in camera and not by adding effects in post production. This took a lot of planning. In terms of the aspect ratio, the size of the frame, Chazelle was going for something extremely anamorphic to give the film the extra scope of the classic older films. Sundgren had to have Panavision build new lenses for the film which he felt really added to the spirit of the film. Sundgren also used colored lights to enhance the film's palette of cool blues, greens and pinks.
The Messengers rehearsal sessions including this scene, were shot in East-West studios in Hollywood. The particular room where this scene was shot is also where Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys recorded their classic album, Pet Sounds. Other renown music recorded in this building includes; The Mamas and the Papad California Dreamin', The Beach Boys California Girls, Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On and U2's Rattle and Hum.
The film's Executive Music Producer Marius de Vries has been involved in some of the most culture defining recordings and soundtracks of the last 20 years. Marius music directed Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge which resulted in a GRAMMY®. Marius also composed the score for Stephan Elliott's, Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Marius de Vries reflects on the openening number; "It was the only fully ensemble song in the movie and it was also the most complex in terms of vocal arrangement, staging and logistics. It was really difficult to establish just exactly what the song should be about but Benj and Justin eventually found the perfect balance between poetry and naturalism...in this hymn to the daily L.A. routine."
Marius notes about the upcoming musical number "Audition" that Emma's song happens "after a long musical silence in terms of production numbers." He notes how it's interesting that La La Land breaks with convention in this respect - in La La Land sung/performed music is generally absent from Act 3 until this point. But Marius concludes, "it works because it tracks the curve of Sebastian and Mia's relationship, disappearing for awhile as things get dark." Marius credits not only Emma Stone for outstanding vocal performances throughout but also her vocal coach Eric Vetro for keeping Emma 'match fit' amidst the competing demands of all the choreography and a few head colds which Emma suffered during production.
The film's co-lyricist Pasek says of the final musical number, "Audition" that they were inspired by the idea in the story "that Mia's aunt was a little crazy and that gene is what made her so alive." Co-Lyricist Paul says the "song is about a woman who was a little unhinged but she left an impression. And that flame lives on in her niece."
A song called "La La Land" was cut from the final film but Pasek says it had a lot of road metaphors in it. You don't know where you're going to go, but follow every turn and L.A. will lead you..." Pasek points out the line in "Audition" that picks up this metaphor of "Who knows where it will lead us, and that's why they need us'.
For the song "Audition" Emma Stone sang live on camera in a single take. It was the last song Justin Hurwitz composed from the score. He was playing piano in the next room linked up to the actress via an earpiece. He let Emma lead the song, so he was reacting to her and oftentimes the piano is a little bit behind the vocal. He says he was nervous playing the piano as it was a pivotal moment for Emma and he knew she only had so many takes where her voice would last. Hurwitz said he wanted to understand the rest of the score before tackling this song as it was so pivotal narratively.
In discussions with Chazelle, Hurwitz understood "Audition" was an optimistic one about never giving up your dreams but with a bittersweet tone to it. When Hurwitz first composed the song it began with notes that had certain pitches. Talking with Chazelle as they shaped the scene, they realied Emma needed to slip from spoken word into the song and so the beginning needed to be pitchless.
Lyricist Benj Pasek says the difference between a pop song and a theater song is that a pop song is about how it makes you feel while a theater song is a verb about what's going to change. In "Audition" their goal was to make it a verb, not just about a feeling but about how once Mia sings it, things will change for her. The song was filmed in one shot. There are no picture edits. The perfect take had to happen in that single take. And fortunately for fans of the film, it did.
A demo of "Audition" is the first thing Emma Stone heard at her initial meeting with Chazelle about the project. The director thinks part of the reason she agreed to do the movie was to play that moment. Hurwitz comments, "This song is really special for me and I'm just so proud of it. I think it's exactly what we envision this scene and this song to be.
Gosling notes that the costumes Zophres dressed him in helped him to walk the line between a 1940's and contemporary sensibility. For the big dance numbers, Zophres focused on form but also function dressing her leads in clothing that swings, swirls and looks even more striking amidst the high-flying performances. Zophres notes that when she was researching for the film and watching Gene Kelly musicals, she would notice that, when they went into dance routines, you can see the lining in the clothes change to something lighter, less heavy. Zophres referenced her huge collection of magazines including Life and Vogue from the 1930's onward to get ideas for the lead character's costumes.
Los Angeles as a city has many nicknames including the title of this film, La La Land. The phrase "La-La Land" connotes a dreamy disconnection from reality. The phrase "La La Land" dates back to 1979. Other nicknames for the city include; 'Tinseltown', 'City of Angels' as well as 'The Entertainment Capital of the World'.
Chazelle and Hurwitz were in a band called Chester French while at Harvard. The band would later go on to sign with Interscope records years later as Chazelle and Hurwitz came to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking.
La La Land had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2016. Lionsgate opened the film in five locations on Decmber 9, 2016 and it went on to become one of the top 20 most profitable releases of 2016.
Director Chazelle says, "Musicals are a genre...where you can't really go into it with a protective shield. What's scary about the genre is what's exhilarating, which is that it forces you to wear your heart on your sleeve. One of the greatest pleasures of watching this movie was watching (Emma) go somewhere deeper and darker than we're used to."
The "Epilogue" was shot on Hollywood Center Studios where Hollywood luminaries such as Shirley Temple, Mae West and the Marx Brothers once worked. In the 1960's the following TV shows were shot there; The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and The Addams Family.
Chazelle wanted to explore the idea of this alternate reality with no dialogue and purely through image, score and dance. Chazelle says this sequence was inspired by An American in Paris and Singin' in the Rain. He wanted to resurrect a tradition you used to see in musicals but don't see at all anymore.
Chazelle's main influence is clearly The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), in both style and music, with additional production nods (i.e. a parapluie shop stationed across from the coffee shop on the movie lot, and a cast of non-singers in the leading roles). Another, more covert influence is MGM's Oscar-winning An American in Paris (1951), particularly in Chazelle's decision to cap his film with an extended, surrealistic ballet that encapsulates everything that has come before in impressionistic terms, moving in and out of multiple sets, and projecting a happy end in lieu of what has actually transpired between the characters. While the ballet from An American in Paris (1951) lasted an unprecedented seventeen minutes, Chazelle's lasts eight.
This is the Chateau Marmont on Sunset boulevard in Los Angeles. All of the exteriors and interiors of Mia's new apartment were shot there. Built in 1929, the Marmont has been a well known celebrity gathering place through the years with guests including; Rita Hayworth, Howard Hughes, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Most of the early casting sessions for the film Rebel Without a Cause were held in a bungalow there where director Nicholas Ray was living at the time.
Emma Stone won the Academy Award® for Best Actress for her portrayal of Mia in La La Land. Stone was previously nominated for an Academy Award ® as Best Supporting actress for her performance in the film, Birdman. She was six years old when she gave her first public performance at school in a Thanksgiving-themed musical entitled, No Turkey for Perky. She is a native of Arizona.
Director Damien Chazelle conceived of the film when he was a student at Harvard University with classmate Justin Hurwitz. He wrote the screenplay for La La Land in 2010 but did not immediately find a studio willing to finance the production without any changes. Following his 2014 film, Whiplash, Summit Entertainment picked up the project.
This scene was shot on Mount Hollywood drive next to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The crew had just half an hour each day over five days to shoot the scene at sunset. The actors managed to do five takes each night with the footage from all nights being used to cut the sequence. While filming this scene, Emma fell over the back of the park bench. She got right up and continued with the scene. "Damien didn't use that take," she laughingly reports.
Charlie Parker (1920-1955) invented along with Dizzie Gillespie, a musical style called bop or bebop. Legend has it that Charlie Parker got the nickname "Bird" because it was short for "Yardbird" and a) he was free as a bird or b) he hit a chicken (aka Yardbird) by accident while driving on tour with his band. The Birdland club in New York was named in honor of Charlie Parker. This is where he made his last public performance in 1955 a week before he died.
Parker recorded for three different labels during his career, Dial (1945-1948), Savoy Records (1948) and Mercury. Parker played in various bands during his career including, Buster Professor Smith's band, Harlan Leonard's Rockets and The Billy Eckstine band.
Critical praise followed the film's release. Diana Dabrowska of Cinema Scope said, "La La Land" may look like the world we dream about, but it also understand the cruelty that can come out of (or undermine) those dreams." The Boston Globe's Ty Burr said, "...the movie traffics in the bittersweet happiness of treasuring things that are vanishing, like the unrealized future imagined in the climatic dance number, or...Hollywood musicals themselves."
A.O. Scott of the New York Times wrote, the film "succeeds both as a fizzy fantasy and a hard-headed fable, a romantic comedy and a showbiz melodrama, a work of sublime artifice and touching authenticity." Tom Charity of Sight & Sound wrote, "Chazelle has crafted a rare thing, a genuinely romantic comedy as well, a rhapsody in blue, red, yellow and green." Peter Bradshaw writing for The Guardian said La La Land is, "a sun-drenched masterpiece".
The interiors of Mia's apartment were shot at The Langham Apartments in Los Angeles. The Langham, a 180 room apartment building, opened in 1927 offering a restaurant, beauty salon, barber shop, billiard room and commissary. The showstopper at the Langham in 1927 was the country's first rooftop swimming pool.
Actor J.K. Simmons plays the Boss at Liptons. He starred in director Chazelle's previous movie, "Whiplash." Simmons winning the Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Academy Awards® in 2015. He also is known for playing J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.
Gosling's character Sebastian is playing the Christmas song, "Deck the Halls" in the scene at the restaurant. This melody is Welsh and dates back to the 16th century where it was part of a winter carol called "Nos Galan". The lyrics are English and date to 1862.
Chazelle likes to draw on film history without ever being derivative and he and Sandgren were saying, "how can we push this idea as far as it can go? That's how they went to a place we haven't seen before."
This was all created with painted backdrops so that the look is very, very theatrical. The Production Design team worked on this scene from the very beginning of pre-production until the day they shot it.
This section of the Mia-Sebastian fantasy sequence was shot at the Orcutt Ranch Park built in 1919 by William Orcutt as a country estate for his family. A small grouping of Oak trees on the property are over 700 years old and it was branches from these trees that were burned with limestone in a kiln to produce the mortar used to construct Los Angeles' first Spanish settlement in 1797.
Production Designer David Wasco and set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco presented the idea to Chazelle that Sebastian should drive a 1980's Buick Riviera convertible - a car that becomes its own character.
Nedra Wheeler who plays Seb's bassist has performed not only jazz but pop and R&B and has performed with musicians as diverse as Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Bob Dylan. Clifton "Fou Fou" Eddie plays Seb's drummer also performed in Chazelle's film Whiplash. Khirye Tyler plays Seb's pianist.
Nikola Tesla designed the Tesla Coil which is used to produce high-voltage, low-current, high frequency alternating-current electricity. Tesla is also renown for helping to design the induction motor, the rotating magnetic field and the torpedo.
Miles Anderson was born in Rhodesia, Africa which is now known as Zimbabwe. Anderson is known mainly for his television performances in Britain. He played Colonel Aidan Dempsey in ITV's Ultimate Force and Roger O'Neill in House of Cards.
This building was originally the Broadlind Hotel built in 1928. It was called the Broadlnd hotel because it was built on the corner of Broadway and Linden. When it opened the hotel attracted mainly male tenants, many of whom were navel officers docked at Long Beach.
Marc Platt: the film producer is one of the cheering spectators during "Another Day of Sun" when the truck drum and dance performance begins. He is a conspicuously older man on the left side of the frame.
Anna Chazelle: Damien Chazelle's sister plays the casting director who operates the camera during Mia's callback. She also makes an appearance in the film's opening number, as the hula-hooper on top of a car on the freeway.
Damien Chazelle: [song] The song "When I Wake" by Justin Hurwitz was first featured in the movie Whiplash (2014), with the two main characters listening to the song while out on a date. The same thing happens in La La Land as the song is featured in the background while Sebastian and Mia are talking about jazz - exactly the same topic the two characters from Whiplash were discussing.
Damien Chazelle: [Simmons] J.K. Simmons plays a similarly negative character in this and Chazelle's previous film, Whiplash (2014). In the earlier film his character is a jazz obsessive, in this, a jazz hater.
When Mia gives Sebastian a tour of the Warner Brothers backlot, she shows him a window that was used in Casablanca (1942). Much later, near the end of the movie, when Mia and her husband go into Sebastian's club and he is stunned to see them, it is a clear homage to the famous scene where Ilsa and Victor go to Rick's Café Americain and Rick is stunned to see them.
The first and last time Mia and Sebastian meet are both because of traffic, one of the most recognizable things about LA. They pass by each other in a traffic jam in the beginning of the film. The last time they meet is also due to a traffic jam; Mia and her husband miss a friend's premiere because of it and decide to go to dinner instead, followed by a visit to Sebastian's jazz club.
The word 'fall' was not just representing the season but also the fall that would happen in their relationship. It was also the only season to appear on a black background, appearing not as joyful as the others.
After one of the auditions Emma Stone attends, she mentions the film has a plot similar to Rebel Without a Cause (1955). One of the most iconic things from "Rebel" is James Dean's red jacket, Emma wears a similar jacket to both the audition and the call back.
When Mia comes to see Sebastian play with "The Messengers", bandleader Keith (John Legend) is wearing a red leather jacket that, together with the red guitar strap over his shoulder, calls back the 80s-style red leather George Michael jacket Sebastian wears at his earlier party gig. In both bands, Sebastian is forced to juggle a kitschy second keyboard (key-tar at the party, synthesiser with The Messengers), rather than concentrating on his beloved piano. The implication is that the flashy stage band is just a better-paying pick-up gig, distracting him from his dreams.
In the epilogue sequence, when they are walking through Paris, the camera focuses on the clock which shows the time as 12:00, a gentle nod to the film Midnight in Paris (2011) starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. This is also where we question the reality of what has happened in the film, just like we do with Midnight in Paris. Rachel McAdams was Ryan Gosling's co-star in The Notebook (2004).
The film literally enters 'La La Land' at the very end. When Sebastian is playing his and Mia's tune on the piano, both he and Mia imagine want their relationship could've been. The audience gets to see what the film would've been like if it were a traditional, full-blown musical. The atmosphere is larger-than-life and dreamlike. Both of the leads get what they want (including each other). Everything is happy and perfect. When the melody ends, the audience is brought back to reality and reminded that the 'epilogue' they just witnessed was all a daydream.
Sebastian at first refuses to call his dream club anything but "Chicken on a Stick" because Charlie Parker was known for eating chicken. Towards the end of the film, Sebastian goes home and cooks chicken on the stove before heading out to his new club.
At the end of the movie, Mia's husband, played by Tom Everett Scott pulls her into Sebastian's jazz bar, which Sebastian wanted to own so he could play authentic jazz. This is an homage to That Thing You Do! (1996), in which Tom Everett Scott's character, Guy, loves jazz and asks his cab driver to take him to a bar with "good jazz".
The film has a lot of mostly coincidental similarities to Cabaret (1972). Director Damien Chazelle is the first to win the Academy Award for Best Director for a musical film since Bob Fosse won for Cabaret. Both Fosse and Chazelle also directed an actress that went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress (Liza Minnelli and Emma Stone respectively) for the films. Both also lost out on the Academy Award for Best Picture (Cabaret to The Godfather (1972) and La La Land to Moonlight (2016) ) to a film that won three awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Lead/Supporting Actor. Adding to the coincidental connections between the two films, Chazelle decided to cast Emma Stone after seeing her play Sally Bowles (the role for which Liza Minelli won Best Actess) in the 2014 Broadway revival of Cabaret. Both films also feature a relationship between a man and a woman that ends up falling apart and end with a song number featuring the main actress (Minelli singing the titular song "Cabaret" and Stone and Ryan Gosling reminiscing over what could have been with music from the rest of the film playing in the background). Despite La La Land's incredible success in awards and Box Office (earning almost double what Cabaret did when adjusted for inflation), Cabaret remains the record holder for most Academy Award wins without winning Best Picture, with 8 total wins, while La La Land totaled 6 wins. With all these similarities, it's possible in the future for both Moonlight and La La Land to follow their 1972 predecessors (Godfather and Cabaret respectively) and be considered two of the greatest American films of all time, with Moonlight typically ranking over La La Land. 45 years later, cinematic history appears to be repeating itself.