Damien Chazelle was on hand at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about his career — from Whiplash to his Oscar-winning La La Land — and his upcoming feature Babylon.
During the talk, Chazelle called Babylon “the hardest shoot I have ever had.” The movie was filmed in and around Los Angeles, including on the Paramount lot.
Set in late 1920s Hollywood during the movie industry’s transition from silent films to talkies, Babylon explores the rise and fall of multiple characters and has been described as “The Great Gatsby on steroids.”
Chazelle debuted the trailer for the audience, which is a non-stop raucous party with wild-haired Margot Robbie opening the trailer talking to newcomer Diego Calva, saying, “I just want everyone to part for forever.” (Chazelle said that the trailer would debut online tomorrow.)
The spot then shows a non-stop raucous party that includes, but is not limited to, an alligator on a leash, copious drug use, topless women, and Pitt shooting several guns, dancing in his underwear and falling off of a balcony. All of this is backed by a manic big band soundscape.
Pitt wears a sharp mustache and oiled hair, first saying onscreen, “When I first moved to L.A., signs on all the doors read: ‘No actors and no dogs allowed.’”
The trailer ends with Robbie at yet another poolside party, yelling to the crowd, “Who wants to see me fight a fucking snake?” A whiskey bottle-holding Pitt yells back: “Fuck yeah!”
For Babylon, the director explained, “I have always loved silent films. I am one of the disciples of the idea of pure cinema.” He added: “The high points of the silent era are some of the high points of cinema, period.”
The massive ensemble cast includes Jovan Adepo, Flea, Jean Smart, Olivia Wilde and Samara Weaving, among others.
“Babylon is the biggest number of roles I have juggled by far. The casting process took a long long time. It’s a mostly fictional film where almost all of the characters are inspired by composites of real-life people,” said Chazelle.
“It was about capturing the spirit of that time which was a lot more wild west,” said Chazelle on Monday of Babylon. “They are building a city and industry from scratch and to do that thou need a certain kind of crazy person.” He added: “I don’t think it is surprising that the people that did that, did a lot of drugs and partied a lot.”
Paramount will release Babylon on Dec 25.