La La Land almost starred Emma Watson, was nearly about rock instead of jazz

Gregory Wakeman
[Image by Lionsgate]

Even though the year is less than a month old, ’La La Land’ has already sewn up the top spot in many people’s best films of 2017 lists.

With good reason, too. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone literally shimmer opposite each other and are so charming that you have to resist the urge to try and kiss the big-screen while watching, while director Damien Chazelle instils ‘La La Land’ with a breeziness that’s reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and composer Justin Hurwitz’s music is just all kinds of divine.

‘La La Land’ has made a huge impact with audiences, too. Not only has it been met with superlative reviews, but it cleaned up at the Golden Globe awards so much recently that it’s now the clear Oscar front-runner, has already grossed $132.3 million around the world from just a $30 million budget, and when it debuted in UK cinemas last weekend it shot to the top of the box office with a £6.6 million haul.

But it has been quite a journey to the big screen for ‘La La Land’. Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz devised the idea when studying at Harvard University, where Chazelle graduated in 2007, while it was only the success of ‘Whiplash’ and its five Oscar nominations that convinced Lionsgate to put up the money for Chazelle’s vision of the musical over five years later.

Along the way, though, ‘La La Land’ went through many different guises. Here’s a list of the changes that Damien Chazelle decided to make, was forced to make, and was suggested to make during its evolution.

[Image by Variance Films]

‘La La Land’ Was Originally Set In Boston

Chazelle’s debut film ‘Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench’ was a jazz musical done in a cinema verite style set in Boston. Chazelle wanted to follow suit with ‘La La Land’. But after moving to Los Angeles from Harvard he slightly fell in love with the city. He soon decided that it would be more suited for the musical, and set about adjusting the script to bring out the best of L.A.

[Image by Sony Pictures Classic]

Miles Teller Was Replaced By Ryan Gosling

After starring in Damien Chazelle’s lauded effort ‘Whiplash’, Teller was offered the part of Sebastian Wilder. But here’s where things get complicated. Summit insist that Teller wanted $4 million for the part, which they couldn’t afford, while Teller has stated that Chazelle abruptly kicked him off because he wasn’t “creatively right for the project,” before turning to Ryan Gosling.

[Image by Disney]

Emma Watson Was Approached Before Emma Stone

Less complicated this one. Emma Watson was cast to play Mia Dolan but then dropped out after Disney’s more lucrative offer of Belle in ‘Beauty & The Beast’ came her way. Emma Stone profited. We’ll find out when ‘Beauty & The Beast’ is released in March just how bad a decision Emma Watson made

[Image by Lionsgate]

Focus Features Wanted Huge, Stupid Changes

The closest that Damien Chazelle came to making ‘La La Land’ early on was when it had two producers on board, and Focus Features were willing to put up a $1 million budget. However, they wanted Gosling’s character be a rock musician not a jazz pianist, the Another Day Of Sun opening number to be completely dropped, and the gloriously bittersweet and complex ending to be changed. Thankfully Chazelle fought long and hard to keep them in place, Focus Features declined, and the director went on to make ‘Whiplash’ instead, which paved the way to make ‘La La Land’ in its rightful incarnation.

[Image by Lionsgate]

Lionsgate Actually Made Damien Chazelle Increase The Budget

Lionsgate took the complete opposite approach of Focus Features, who encouraged Damien Chazelle to increase the budget for ‘La La Land’ so that it could do the musical genre justice. That decision has more than paid off. To such an extent that it hasn’t just done the musical genre justice, but it has possibly rejuvenated it, too.

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