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Damien Chazelle: La La Land casting discussed at EW PopFest

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Dale Robinette

Damien Chazelle’s critically acclaimed musical La La Land features big Hollywood star turns from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, but the film didn’t always have those names on the marquee. At one point, Emma Watson and Miles Teller were attached to the lead roles, but Chazelle says he’s glad with how things turned out.

“By the time [Stone and Gosling] came up for the project, it had gone through ups and downs that are all familiar to the other filmmakers up here with me,” Chazelle said during the Oscar contenders panel at EW PopFest on Saturday afternoon. “You think something is going to get made, then some element falls apart at the last minute — money or casting or timing. Of course, now I look back happy actually that it didn’t work out — all the times it didn’t work out — feeling it wouldn’t have come together the way I wanted to at those points.”

Chazelle didn’t mention Teller or Watson by name, but added, “But yeah, Ryan and Emma coming on board felt like one of those fortuitous chance things. That’s when the project became real for the first time in six years. The wheels started turning and we hit the ground running right away. It’s the kind of movie where the cast had to be involved from the get-go.”

Back in 2015, Teller — who worked previously with Chazelle on the director’s breakout film Whiplash — said he was caught off-guard when La La Land fell through.

“I got a call from my agent, saying, ‘Hey, I just got a call from Lionsgate. Damien told them that he no longer thinks you’re creatively right for the project. He’s moving on without you,” Teller told Esquire. The actor said he responded to the news by texting Chazelle, “What the f—, bro?”

Speaking to Uproxx earlier this year, Chazelle declined to comment on Teller’s interview, but did offer some insight on the casting process. “What I will say is that the casting of this movie during the six years it took to get made went through lots of permutations, and it’s true there was a moment where Emma Watson and Miles Teller were doing it. And neither of those casting things wound up lasting or working out. But it was part of the up and down of this movie: that we were about to make it, we were about to not make it, about to make it, about to not make it,” he said.

Chazelle was joined by fellow Oscar hopefuls Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Mike Mills (20th Century Women), David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), and Pablo Larraín (Jackie) at EW PopFest.

La La Land is out on Dec. 9.

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