’Babylon’ Is Like 'Wolf of Wall Street’ Meets 'La Dolce Vita’, Says Margot Robbie; Damien Chazelle Signs First-Look Deal With Paramount
It is a great month to be Damien Chazelle. Despite what some early reactions might have said about the film, the Critics Choice Awards just nominated Babylon in nine categories, including Best Picture of the Year, less than ten days before the movie starts playing in theaters.
Moreover, it was recently reported that the director has just signed a first-look producing and directing deal with Paramount Pictures, something of a rare species to come across these days, and that both cements Paramount’s confidence in the young filmmaker and helps the comparisons of Chazelle to some of the most iconic directors in classic Hollywood. In a statement, Chazelle thanked the studio for “believing in us, the value of original storytelling and the theatrical experience.”
As Babylon reaches the final stretch before its wide release in North America, Total Film Magazine has published two new images from the film, together with interviews with Chazelle, lead actress Margot Robbie, and Brad Pitt, who has a supporting role. First, Robbie explained how, the first time she read the script, she thought that it was a mix between her Hollywood breakout film and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita:
“I was like, ‘Oh, wow, it’s like if The Wolf of Wall Street and La Dolce Vita had a baby.’”
She also explained how Damien Chazelle is one of the biggest movie fanatics she’s ever met, comparing him to the one and only Martin Scorsese as far as his knowledge of film goes:
“[Chazelle] really is a cinephile,” she says. “He knows every film ever made, in a way that I really remember Scorsese had an insane knowledge of film. So many directors do, of course. But if you go to his house and mention one movie, you walk away with 15 DVDs. He gave me so many brilliant films to watch, which I just loved.”
Meanwhile, Chazelle explained how he could see some connections to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street:
“I guess I’d say the idea of an epic, hard-R comedy… that sort of language is definitely something that I loved in ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’. I definitely see the comparison. When I was putting the movie together, there was a whole range of things I was trying to draw from. And it would range from prototypical great American movies about a society that changes – along the lines of the Godfather pictures or Nashville. Ensemble pieces, on one hand. And then on the other hand, pictures like Animal House. So I won’t be surprised if there’s a lot of different associations people pick up on.”
He also explained how he and cinematographer Linus Sandgren collaborated to create the overall aesthetic of the film:
“My Director of Photography, Linus Sandgren, and I, we talked about contrasts, and how we wanted the sun-blasted exteriors, where you really felt the LA sun beating down on you, and there are these vividly colorful, dark, dripping-like-an-oil-painting interiors. So it’d kind of be a Leone western outside, and a Visconti costume picture inside.”
Brad Pitt also discussed the massive endeavor that Chazelle pulled off with Babylon in terms of scope:
“There’s such an energy to this thing. I’m amazed by how much [Chazelle] was able to slot in – and not jam in, but slot in gracefully. This opening party scene is staggering, of epic proportions.
The approach of it all was not doing the coverage – you know, like a single on this actor, a single on that actor. The constant takes can actually wear down and confuse the energy of the scene. He’s doing everything in camera, old style, explosions, 700 extras, actors coming in the scene, actors coming out – in one camera shot, in one camera move, and the camera’s gliding around. It’s one of those things where you’re waiting for the magic to happen, where everything falls into place. That kind of thing is really exciting. You get close, and then something doesn’t quite work out. And you keep going until you get it. I think that energy shows in the scene.”
He also discussed the frenetic energy that Chazelle and editor Tom Cross were able to achieve, comparing it to Chazelle’s 2014 Best Picture nominee Whiplash:
“You look at that energy in these drumming sequences [in Whiplash], and that is, to me, signature Damien, which I still marvel at. I don’t know how he and [editor] Tom Cross are able to cut it this way, but that is, in this film, on such an epic scale.”
The film also mirrors real life, as it depicts Brad Pitt as an established movie star, with newcomer Diego Calva as an aspiring Hollywood producer who wants to take the world by storm. Pitt explained that Chazelle never directly asked him to draw from his experience to channel in the character:
“It was never spoken. I mean, it seems that way. It seems like a wise approach to it all, certainly for an audience’s experience. They’re going to buy into actors and performers they’re familiar with, and when they’re seeing someone new, they’re going to be experiencing them for the first time as we do in the film. I mean, I’m sure that was the wisdom behind it.”
Babylon will open in North American theaters on December 23. International markets will get it in the weeks after.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.