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Damien Chazelle

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Damien Chazelle
Chazelle in 2014
Damien Sayre Chazelle[1]

(1985-01-19) January 19, 1985 (age 39)
  • France
  • United States
Alma materHarvard University
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
Years active2008–present
  • Jasmine McGlade
    (m. 2010; div. 2014)
  • (m. 2018)
Parent(s)Bernard Chazelle
Celia Chazelle
AwardsFull list

Damien Sayre Chazelle (/ʃəˈzɛl/; born January 19, 1985)[2] is an American filmmaker.[3] He directed the psychological drama Whiplash (2014), the musical romantic drama La La Land (2016), the biographical drama First Man (2018), and the period film Babylon (2022).

For Whiplash, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. His biggest commercial success came with La La Land, which was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning six including Best Director, making him the youngest person to win the award at age 32.[4][5] He has directed two episodes of the Netflix limited series The Eddy (2020).

Early life and education[edit]

Chazelle was born in Providence, Rhode Island[2] to a Catholic family.[6][7] His French-American father, Bernard Chazelle, is the Eugene Higgins Professor of computer science at Princeton University.[8] His mother, Celia,[9] is from an English-Canadian family based in Calgary, Alberta, and teaches medieval history at The College of New Jersey.[10]

Chazelle was raised in Princeton, New Jersey, where, although a Catholic, he attended a Hebrew school for four years due to his parents' dissatisfaction with his religious education at a church Sunday school.[7]

Chazelle has a sister, Anna Chazelle,[11] who is an actress.[9] Their English-born maternal grandfather, John Martin, is the son of stage actress Eileen Earle.[9]

Filmmaking was Chazelle's first love, but he subsequently wanted to be a musician and struggled to make it as a jazz drummer at Princeton High School. He has said that he had an intense music teacher in the Princeton High School Studio Band, who was the inspiration for the character of Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) in Chazelle's breakout film Whiplash. Unlike the film's protagonist Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), Chazelle stated that he knew instinctively that he never had the talent to be a great drummer and after high school, pursued filmmaking again.[12] He studied filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department at Harvard University and graduated in 2007.[13][14]

At Harvard, he lived in Currier House as roommates with composer and frequent collaborator Justin Hurwitz.[15] The two were among the original members of the indie-pop group Chester French, formed during their freshman year.[16]


2008–2013: Early work and career beginnings[edit]

Chazelle wrote and directed his debut feature, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, as part of his senior thesis project with classmate Justin Hurwitz at Harvard.[17] The film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2009 and received various awards on the festival circuit, before being picked up by Variance Films for limited release and opening to critical acclaim.[18]

After graduation, Chazelle moved to Los Angeles with the ultimate goal of attracting interest to produce his musical romantic drama La La Land.[19] He worked as a freelance writer in Hollywood; among his writing credits are The Last Exorcism Part II (2013) and Grand Piano (2013). He was also brought in by J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot to re-write a draft of 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) with the intention of also directing, but Chazelle ultimately chose to direct Whiplash instead.[20]

2014–2019: Breakthrough, acclaim and accolades[edit]

Chazelle on the set of La La Land in 2015

Chazelle initially described Whiplash as a writing reaction to being stuck on another script: "I just thought, that's not working, let me put it away and write this thing about being a jazz drummer in high school." He stated he initially did not want to show the script around, as it felt too personal, and "I put it in a drawer".[12] Although nobody was initially interested in producing the film,[21] his script was featured on The Black List in 2012 as one of the best unmade films of that year. The project was eventually picked up by Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions, who suggested that Chazelle turn a portion of his script into a short film as proof-of-concept. The 18-minute short was accepted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it was well-received;[22] financing was then raised for the feature film, and, in 2014, it was released to a positive critical reaction.[23] Whiplash received numerous awards on the festival circuit[24][25] and earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle, winning three.[26] Thanks to the success of Whiplash, Chazelle was able to attract financiers for his musical romantic drama La La Land.[19] The film opened the Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2016, and began a limited release in the United States on December 9, 2016, with a wider release on December 16, 2016.[27][28] It received universal acclaim and numerous awards.[29] Chazelle received praise for his work on the film and received several top honors, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Director, making Chazelle the youngest director to win each award, at age 32.[5] A stage musical adaptation of the film is in development, with Ayad Akhtar and Matthew Decker adapting from Chazelle's script and Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul returning as songwriters after winning Golden Globes and Academy Awards for the score and original song "City of Stars". Marc Platt, another collaborator of Chazelle who produced this film and Babylon, will also return to produce the stage adaptation.[30]

Chazelle next directed the biographical drama First Man (2018) for Universal Pictures. With a screenplay by Josh Singer, the biopic is based on author James R. Hansen's First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, written about the astronaut.[31][32] The film starred Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong. The film received positive reviews,[33] with Owen Gleiberman of Variety writing that "Chazelle orchestrates a dashingly original mood of adventure drenched in anxiety".[34] It earned four Academy Award nominations for Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing, winning for Best Visual Effects at the 91st Academy Awards.[35]

In December 2019, he listed the films that inspired him for LaCinetek, a French streaming platform that collects lists of favorite films from filmmakers[36]. Featuring 64 films, his selection[37] includes works by Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut, Barry Lyndon) and Richard Linklater (Before Sunset).


Chazelle directed the first two episodes of the May 2020-released Netflix musical drama television miniseries The Eddy.[38][39] The series is written by Jack Thorne, with Grammy-winning songwriter Glen Ballard and Alan Poul attached as executive producers. The series starred André Holland and Joanna Kulig and was set in Paris consisting of eight episodes.[40]

In July 2019, Variety reported that his next film, called Babylon, set in 1920s Hollywood, was scheduled to be released in 2021, co-produced by his wife, Olivia Hamilton. Chazelle was eyeing Emma Stone to star;[41] In December 2020, it was reported that Margot Robbie was in talks to replace Stone.[42] The Hollywood Reporter reported that Babylon would have a limited release on December 25, 2022, before expanding into wide release on January 6, 2023.[43] The film's final cast included Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Li Jun Li, Jovan Adepo and Jean Smart. The film was a box office bomb receiving $4.5 million opening weekend. Many industry experts predict the film will need to make $250 million just to break even against its $80 million budget and marketing costs.[44] The film received polarizing reviews.[45] Manhola Dargis of The New York Times wrote, "Throughout this disappointing movie, what's missing is the one thing that defined the silent era at its greatest and to which Chazelle remains bafflingly oblivious: its art."[46] At the same time, Wall Street Journal film critic Kyle Smith called the movie "one of the year's most ambitious and impressive works."[47]

In December 2022, Chazelle and Hamilton signed a first-look deal with Paramount Pictures.[48] A deal upon which will release Chazelle's latest and currently untitled feature film in 2025.

Personal life[edit]

Chazelle and Hamilton in 2018

Chazelle married producer Jasmine McGlade in 2010; they divorced in 2014.[49][50] In October 2017, Chazelle and actress Olivia Hamilton, a Princeton University graduate and former McKinsey & Company consultant, announced their engagement,[50][51] and they married September 22, 2018.[52] They have a son who was born in November 2019.[53] Their second child was born in December 2022.[54] Chazelle is fluent in French.[55][56]



Year Title Director Writer Producer
2009 Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench [a] Yes Yes Yes
2013 The Last Exorcism Part II No Yes No
Grand Piano No Yes No
2014 Whiplash Yes Yes No
2016 10 Cloverfield Lane No Yes No
La La Land Yes Yes No
2018 First Man Yes No Yes
2022 Babylon Yes Yes No

Short film[edit]

Year Title Director Writer
2013 Whiplash Yes Yes
2020 The Stunt Double[57] Yes No


Year Title Director Executive
2020 The Eddy Yes Yes 2 episodes

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Title Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
2014 Whiplash 5 3 5 3 1 1
2016 La La Land 14 6 11 5 7 7
2018 First Man 4 1 7 2 1
2022 Babylon 3 3 1 5 1
Total 26 10 26 9 15 10

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also cinematographer and co-editor
  1. ^ "Damien Chazelle | Biography, Movies, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Damien Chazelle: Screenwriter, Director (1985–)". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Archived from the original on October 10, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  3. ^ Damien Chazelle, réalisateur de LALALAND - C à vous - 13/01/2017, January 16, 2017, retrieved May 9, 2022
  4. ^ F. Brinley Bruton (February 27, 2017). "Oscars 2017: Damien Chazelle Is Youngest to Win Best Director". NBC News.
  5. ^ a b Roberts, Amy (January 4, 2017). "Who's The Youngest Best Director Winner In Golden Globes History? 'La La Land' Director Damien Chazelle Could Break The Record". Bustle. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  6. ^ "La La Land's Jewish composer nominated for Oscar", Connecticut Jewish Ledger, January 25, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Friedman, Gabe (February 23, 2017). "Oscars 2017: 7 unexpected Jewish facts". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on September 8, 2017.
  8. ^ "Bernard Chazelle – Curriculum Vitae" (PDF).
  9. ^ a b c Eric Volmers (February 3, 2017). "La La's local connection: Calgary grandparents proud of Oscar-nominated Damien Chazelle". Calgary Herald. Archived from the original on October 9, 2017. Their daughter, Damien's mother Celia, is the oldest of three children and married French-American Bernard Chazelle, a professor of computer science at Princeton
  10. ^ Hirschberg, Lynn (December 1, 2016). "Can Damien Chazelle and 'La La Land' Make Americans Fall in Love with Musicals Again?". W. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  11. ^ "Princeton's Damien Chazelle is living in 'La La Land'". January 24, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Myers, Scott (October 12, 2014). "Damien Chazelle interview". The Black List.
  13. ^ Sweeney, Sarah (May 14, 2015). "A movie as a mirror". Harvard Gazette.
  14. ^ Rottenberg, Josh (February 13, 2015). "Damien Chazelle's wild, crazy ride to the Oscars with 'Whiplash'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  15. ^ "From Harvard to 'La La Land'". Harvard Gazette. January 20, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  16. ^ Phares, Heather. "Chester French – Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  17. ^ "Tribeca '09 Interview: "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench" Director Damien Chazelle". IndieWire. April 17, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  18. ^ Knegt, Peter (March 11, 2010). "Fest Fave "Guy and Madeline" Lands at Variance". IndieWire. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  19. ^ a b Ford, Rebecca (November 3, 2016). "How 'La La Land' Went From First-Screening Stumbles to Hollywood Ending". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  20. ^ Rome, Emily (January 15, 2016). "'WATCH: J.J. Abrams and WHIPLASH's Damien Chazelle Secretly Made a CLOVERFIELD Sequel". Tribeca News. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  21. ^ Stern, Marlow (January 24, 2014). "'Whiplash' Is Sundance's Hottest Film, A Music-Themed Drama Starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons". The Daily Beast.
  22. ^ Bahr, Lindsey (May 14, 2013). "'Whiplash': Sundance-winning short to become full-length feature – BREAKING". Entertainment Weekly. CNN. Archived from the original on February 26, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  23. ^ "'Metacritic Reviews of "Whiplash"".
  24. ^ Zeitchik, Steven; Mark Olsen (January 25, 2014). "Sundance 2014 winners: 'Whiplash' wins big". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  25. ^ Richford, Rhonda (September 13, 2014). "'Whiplash' Takes Top Prize in Deauville". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  26. ^ "2015 Oscar Nominations". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  27. ^ Ford, Rebecca Ford (July 9, 2015). "J.K. Simmons to Reunite With 'Whiplash' Director for 'La La Land' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  28. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (June 17, 2016). "Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land' to Open Venice Film Festival in Competition". Variety. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  29. ^ Ciras, Heather (August 31, 2016). "Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's 'La La Land' gets rave reviews in Venice". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  30. ^ Galuppo, Mia (February 7, 2023). "'La La Land' to Become a Broadway Musical". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 7, 2023.
  31. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (November 24, 2015). "Ryan Gosling Orbiting Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong Movie at Universal?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  32. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 29, 2016). "Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle to Reteam on Neil Armstrong Biopic". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  33. ^ "First Man (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  34. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (August 29, 2018). "Venice Film Review: Ryan Gosling in First Man". Variety. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  35. ^ "Oscar Winners 2019: The Complete List". Variety. February 24, 2019. Retrieved March 27, 2024.
  36. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (July 29, 2020). "The World's Greatest Directors Have Their Own Streaming Lists". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 25, 2024.
  37. ^ "Damien Chazelle's list". LaCinetek. Retrieved June 25, 2024.
  38. ^ "Damien Chazelle Plans TV Project 'The Eddy' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  39. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (September 1, 2017). "Damien Chazelle & Netflix Have 'The Eddy' Musical Drama Series On Dance Card". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  40. ^ "Andre Holland to Lead Damien Chazelle's Netflix Series 'The Eddy'". Variety. April 4, 2019. Retrieved March 27, 2024.
  41. ^ "Emma Stone Eyes Damien Chazelle's Next Film 'Babylon'". Variety. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  42. ^ "Exclusive: Damien Chazelle Casts Li Jun Li as Anna May Wong in 'Babylon'". Collider. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  43. ^ "Damien Chazelle's 'Babylon' Lands at Paramount With Brad Pitt, Emma Stone Circling". The Hollywood Reporter. November 11, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  44. ^ "No Jazz For 'Babylon' At Domestic Box Office With $4M+ Debut; Brad Pitt-Margot Robbie Epic Won't Hit $250M Breakeven: Here's Why". December 28, 2022. December 27, 2022.
  45. ^ "The Real History Behind Babylon's Outrageous Hollywood Tale". Time. December 23, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2023.
  46. ^ Dargis, Manohla (December 22, 2022). "'Babylon' Review: Boozing. Snorting. That's Entertainment!?". The New York Times.
  47. ^ Smith, Kyle (December 23, 2022). "'Babylon' Review: The Talk of Early Tinseltown". Wall Street Journal.
  48. ^ Kit, Borys (December 13, 2022). "Damien Chazelle Signs First-Look Directing, Producing Deal With Paramount". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  49. ^ Lang, Brent (December 7, 2016). "'La La Land' Director's Ex-Wife Gets Last-Minute Executive Producer Credit (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  50. ^ a b Rossi, Madison (October 9, 2017). "La La Land Director Damien Chazelle Is Engaged to 'Love of His Life' Olivia Hamilton". People. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  51. ^ "Olivia Hamilton: Photos of Damien Chazelle's Girlfriend". Heavy.com. January 8, 2017. Archived from the original on October 20, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2017.Additional on October 9, 2017.
  52. ^ "Damien Chazelle Shoots the Moon: Oscar's Youngest Best Director Grows Up With 'First Man'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  53. ^ "Olivia Hamilton on Instagram: "grateful for my pack of boys"". Instagram. November 28, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  54. ^ "Olivia Hamilton on Instagram: "Brought two babies into the world this week! So proud of both and the man I created them with ❤️"". Instagram. December 16, 2022. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  55. ^ "Damien Chazelle sous le charme de Jacques Demy et Romain Duris". Europe 1 (in French). Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  56. ^ Damien Chazelle : "La La Land est exactement le film que je voulais faire", January 12, 2017, archived from the original on November 14, 2021, retrieved January 7, 2020
  57. ^ "The Vertical Cinematography of Damien Chazelle's 'The Stunt Double'". Film School Rejects. August 13, 2020. Retrieved January 2, 2022.

External links[edit]