Damien Chazelle

Damien Sayre Chazelle (born January 19, 1985)[2] is a French-American[3] director, film producer, and screenwriter,[4] best known for his films Whiplash (2014), La La Land (2016), and First Man (2018). For La La Land, he received several accolades, including the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Director; making him the youngest person to win both awards at age 32.[5][6]

Damien Chazelle
Chazelle directing La La Land in 2015
Damien Sayre[1] Chazelle

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

Early life

Chazelle was born in Providence, Rhode Island[2] to a Roman Catholic family.[7][8] His father, Bernard Chazelle, is the Eugene Higgins Professor of computer science at Princeton University, and was born in Clamart, France.[9] His mother, Celia,[10] is from an English-Canadian family based in Calgary, Alberta, and teaches medieval history at The College of New Jersey.[11]

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 other local schools.[8] Chazelle has a sister, Anna, who is an actress.[10] Their English-born maternal grandfather, John Martin, is the son of stage actress Eileen Earle.[10]

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, who was the inspiration for the character of Terence Fletcher in Chazelle's breakout film Whiplash. Unlike the film's protagonist Andrew Neiman, Chazelle stated that he knew instinctively that he never had the talent to be a great musician 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]


Early work

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 La La Land.[19] Chazelle worked as a "writer-for-hire" 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 Productions 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]

Breakthrough and success

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 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 Sundance Film Festival 2013, where it was well-received;[22] financing was then raised for the feature film, and, in 2014, it was released to an overwhelmingly 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 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 has received rave reviews from critics and numerous awards.[29] Chazelle was particularly praised 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 both awards, at age 32.[6]

Chazelle next reunited with Gosling on the film 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.[30][31] The film received positive reviews,[32] with Owen Gleiberman of Variety writing that "Chazelle orchestrates a dashingly original mood of adventure drenched in anxiety".[33]

Upcoming projects

Chazelle will direct the first two episodes of the Netflix musical drama television series The Eddy.[34][35] The series will be written by Jack Thorne, with Grammy-winning songwriter Glen Ballard and Alan Poul attached as executive producers. The series will be set in Paris and will consist of eight episodes.

On January 25, 2018, Apple announced that they were partnering with Chazelle for a new original television series. Chazelle will write and direct the first series.[36]

On July 15, 2019, Variety reported that his next film, called Babylon and set in Hollywood in the 1920s, was eyeing Emma Stone to star in it.[37] Brad Pitt has also been rumoured to have a role in the movie.[38]

Personal life

Chazelle married producer Jasmine McGlade in 2010; they divorced in 2014.[39][40]

In October 2017, he and actress Olivia Hamilton, a Princeton University graduate and former McKinsey & Company consultant, announced their engagement.[41][40] The couple married September 22, 2018.[42]

Chazelle is fluent in French.[43]


As director

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2009 Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench Yes Yes Yes Also cinematographer, editor, and soundtrack lyricist
2014 Whiplash Yes Yes No
2016 La La Land Yes Yes No
2018 First Man Yes No Yes
2021 Babylon Yes Yes Yes [44]

As writer

Year Title Notes
2013 The Last Exorcism Part II Co-wrote with Ed Gass-Donnelly
Grand Piano
2016 10 Cloverfield Lane Co-wrote with Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
TBA The Eddy Yes No Yes Filming

Awards and nominations

Year Film 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 0 2 1
Total 23 10 23 8 10 9

Directed Academy Award performances

Chazelle has directed multiple Oscar winning and nominated performances.

Year Performer Film Result
Academy Award for Best Actor
2016 Ryan Gosling La La Land Nominated
Academy Award for Best Actress
2016 Emma Stone La La Land Won
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
2014 J. K. Simmons Whiplash Won

See also


  1. "Damien Chazelle | Biography, Movies, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  2. "Damien Chazelle: Screenwriter, Director (1985–)". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Archived from the original on October 9, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  3. "Damien Chazelle: 'Bond is the only franchise I'd be tempted to do'". Time Out London. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  4. "Damien Chazelle, réalisateur de LALALAND - C à vous - 13/01/2017". January 16, 2017. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  5. F. Brinley Bruton (February 27, 2017). "Oscars 2017: Damien Chazelle Is Youngest to Win Best Director". NBC News.
  6. 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.
  7. "La La Land's Jewish composer nominated for Oscar", Connecticut Jewish Ledger, January 25, 2017.
  8. Friedman, Gabe (February 23, 2017). "Oscars 2017: 7 unexpected Jewish facts". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on October 9, 2017.
  9. "Bernard Chazelle – Curriculum Vitae" (PDF).
  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. 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. 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 (March 15, 2016). "'10 Cloverfield Lane' director explains why they changed the movie's ending". HitFix. 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. 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. "'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. Fleming Jr, Mike (November 24, 2015). "Ryan Gosling Orbiting Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong Movie at Universal?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  31. Kroll, Justin (December 29, 2016). "Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle to Reteam on Neil Armstrong Biopic". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  32. "First Man (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  33. Gleiberman, Owen (August 29, 2018). "Venice Film Review: Ryan Gosling in First Man". Variety. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  34. "Damien Chazelle Plans TV Project 'The Eddy' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  35. Tartaglione, Nancy (September 1, 2017). "Damien Chazelle & Netflix Have 'The Eddy' Musical Drama Series On Dance Card". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  36. "Apple Goes Deeper Into La La Land with Damien Chazelle Project". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  37. "Emma Stone Eyes Damien Chazelle's Next Film 'Babylon'". Variety. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  38. "Brad Pitt Also Circling Damien Chazelle's Period Hollywood 'Babylon' With Emma Stone". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  39. Lang, Brent (December 7, 2016). "'La La Land' Director's Ex-Wife Gets Last-Minute Executive Producer Credit (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  40. 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.
  41. "Olivia Hamilton: Photos of Damien Chazelle's Girlfriend". Heavy.com. January 8, 2017. Archived from the original on October 9, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)Additional on October 9, 2017.
  42. "Damien Chazelle Shoots the Moon: Oscar's Youngest Best Director Grows Up With 'First Man'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  43. "Damien Chazelle sous le charme de Jacques Demy et Romain Duris". Europe 1 (in French). Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  44. https://www.dailynews.com/2019/11/12/major-directors-damien-chazelle-paul-thomas-anderson-shooting-their-next-films-in-california/
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