How Damien Chazelle's Epic 'Babylon' Will Capture the "Wild West" of the Roaring Twenties

First look at Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon'
'Babylon'Credit: Paramount Pictures
A sweeping epic isn't an easy feat to accomplish, but this director steps up to the challenge with his latest film, Babylon

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood co-stars, Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt, reunite onscreen for Damien Chazelle’s ode to the rise of talkies, Babylon. The star-studded take on the pitfalls of fame and the shift in the film industry capture the magic and horrors of a Brothers Grimm fairytale set in a distant Hollywood. 

Set during the transitional period in Hollywood when silent movies gave way to talkies, the movie features Robbie as Nellie LaRoy, an aspiring actress who is an amalgam of earlier “talkies” stars like Clara Bow, Jeanne Eagels, John Crawford, and Alma Rubens. Her desire to become a star is juxtaposed with aging icon Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), who is inspired by John Gilbert, Clark Gable, and Douglas Fairbanks. 

The ensemble cast also includes Tobey Maguire as Charlie Chaplin, Samara Weaving, Li Jun Li, Katherine Waterston, Olivia Wilde, Spike Jonze, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Diego Calva, and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

IndieWire reports that audiences at 2022 CinemaCon saw the first glimpse of Babylon during Paramount’s showcase. Babylon is Chazelle’s fifth feature film, following Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Whiplash, La La Land, and 2018’s First Man. The director explained that the “big, epic, multi-character movie” has been 15 years in the making. 

Babylon was the biggest cast, the biggest number of roles I’ve ever juggled by far,” Chazelle said during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. “The casting process took a long, long time. It’s a mostly fictional film where the characters are fictional but inspired by composites of real-life people. Writing [the characters], I was getting inspiration from a lot of those real-life sources, but pretty quickly, you move to the casting phase and you’re just looking for people to surprise you.

Chazelle set out to create a movie that encapsulates what big, ensemble cinema means to him.

“I was trying to look at novels and movies like certain Fellini pictures like La Dolce Vita, Altman movies like Nashville, the Godfather pictures,” Chazelle said. “These old-school epics that manage through a handful of characters to convey a sense of an entire society evolving and changing, so that by the end of the movie, you’re in a completely different world.” 

First look at Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon'
'Babylon'Credit: Paramount Pictures

Chazelle finished the screenplay after 2018’s First Man, the writer-director asked La La Land cinematographer Linus Sandgren and composer Justin Hurwitz to join the production to help capture the manic energy behind one of Hollywood's biggest transformative moments.

The writer-director teased that the film captures the “wild west” of the “Roaring Twenties” but with “more excess, more drugs, a more kind of extreme living on all ends of the spectrum than people even realize.” 

Let us know what your expectations for Babylon are in the comments below!      

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