×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: Damien Chazelle on ‘First Man’ and ‘Surreal’ Oscars EnvelopeGate

PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday.

Filmmaker Damien Chazelle had quite the act to follow after “La La Land,” the 2016 musical that tied the record for Oscar nominations and marked him as the youngest person to ever win the Academy Award for directing. He’s answered with “First Man,” the story of Neil Armstrong’s journey from personal tragedy to the absolute heights of human accomplishment. But as familiar a moment as that is, in the American and indeed the global psyche, Chazelle’s mission was to peel back unseen layers of the tale.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“It seemed like, for such a famous event, [it was] an event that could use some demystifying, maybe de-romanticizing,” Chazelle says. “It felt like there was a lot left to unpack in that event and certainly what led up to it. It coincides nicely with Neil’s life. He joined up with NASA right around the time this sort of ‘moonshot’ became a national goal right at the top of the decade. It was trying to see through his eyes and the program’s eyes as a whole, how you go from those first beginnings of space exploration to traveling 32 times the size of earth all the way to the moon and back, basically in the span of eight or nine years.”

Unlike “La La Land,” which was somewhat predesigned and easier to edit with the extensive use of single takes, “First Man” was largely discovered on set and in the editing room. It felt on the whole closer to “Whiplash” for Chazelle, in terms of post-production, and like his 2014 sophomore feature — which was finished in a mad dash leading up to the Sundance Film Festival that year — things came right down to the wire on finishing “First Man” in time for its Venice bow. Ultimately Chazelle says his latest work easily amounted to the biggest technical challenge of his career so far.

“Once you try to set parameters around something — in this case, everything should feel like a Super 16 documentary and we’re expanding from there — it kind of puts more of a burden on visual effects and sound design,” he says. “In a different kind of movie I think you can get away with stuff being more obviously synthetic. There’s a lot more allowance for things to look computer generated or sound heightened or whatever. But here we knew we weren’t going to have that sort of facility, that stuff that was fake would look and sound fake. So that dictated a lot of what the workflow was going to be, that we were going to try as much of the visual effects in-camera [as possible] … and try to bake everything into a look that hopefully would harmonize, so that at the end of the day, whether it’s a miniature or a piece of computer-generated imagery or a totally sort of in-camera, practical [effect] — it would hopefully all speak the same language.”

Outside of an extensive recent Telluride discussion, the last time I sat down with Chazelle was the morning after the 89th annual Academy Awards, which ended with that instantly infamous envelope snafu and “La La Land” erroneously being announced as the best picture winner. Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” was soon revealed as the real winner in one of the craziest television moments in history. Asked about it now, Chazelle can only take it for the bittersweet moment that it was.

“It all feels a little bit like something out of a movie, which I guess is appropriate,” he says. “But there was something kind of fun about it. Hollywood, the Oscars, all that stuff has the potential to be absurd enough on its own, so it felt like that whole episode was maybe a way of underlining that. I saw Barry in Toronto actually when we were just there. It’s a surreal memory, but a fun one.”

For more, including thoughts on Chazelle’s move into the streamer space with Apple and Netflix projects, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

iHeartRadio
Hear more episodes of “Playback” at iHeartRadio.
Subscribe via iTunes.

Damien Chazelle photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

More Film

  • Issa Rae

    Issa Rae, Columbia Sign Multi-Picture Production Deal Promoting Diverse Screenwriters (EXCLUSIVE)

    Issa Rae’s production company, ColorCreative, has signed a multi-picture production deal with Columbia Pictures. The pact is unique in that under the agreement, ColorCreative will work with and back projects from emerging, diverse screenwriters. The move comes as the entertainment industry is under pressure to develop films and shows that feature underrepresented talent both in [...]

  • VR studio Baobab Crow The Legend

    Animators Embrace VR as 'Age of Sail' and 'Crow' Make Audience Inroads

    Virtual reality has been making inroads in the entertainment business for several years, but 2018 has been an especially big one for animated projects. This year, there are at least two VR-animated shorts vying for Oscar nominations: Google Spotlight Stories’ “Age of Sail” and Baobab Studios’ “Crow: The Legend.” Disney has created its first VR [...]

  • Thomas Vinterberg Kursk

    Les Arcs Festival Launches Talent Village Under Thomas Vinterberg's Patronage

    Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, Les Arcs Industry Village is launching the Talent Village, a new development workshop and platform for emerging talents which will be under the patronage of Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (“The Hunt”). Kicking off on Dec. 12 and hosted at the Cinéfabrique Film school in Lyon, the workshop will take place [...]

  • Helena Bonham Carter, Kiefer Sutherland in

    Helena Bonham Carter, Kiefer Sutherland in New 'Call of Duty' Zombies DLC

    “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s” latest zombie addition delivers players to a 1912 manor where they take on the roles of characters voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, Kiefer Sutherland, Charles Dance, and Brian Blessed. “Dead of the Night” is set at Rhodes Manor, a palatial estate in the English countryside, in the year 1912. Dozens of [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio Sam Elliott Elsie Fisher

    Yalitza Aparicio, Sam Elliott, Elsie Fisher Selected for Santa Barbara Festival Honor

    “Roma” actress Yalitza Aparicio, Sam Elliott of “A Star Is Born,” and “Eighth Grade” star Elsie Fisher are among the eight actors named by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival as its Virtuosos Award recipients. The festival gives the honor for performances in film that have elevated actors into the national cinematic dialogue. The group [...]

  • Steven Soderbergh Panama Papers

    Slamdance Festival Selects Steven Soderbergh for Founders Award

    The Slamdance Film Festival has selected Steven Soderbergh for its 2019 Founders Award. The award, first presented in 2015 to Christopher Nolan, is given to a Slamdance alumnus who has represented the Slamdance organization and supported the filmmaker community of Slamdance. It was awarded earlier this year to Joe and Anthony Russo (“Avengers: Infinity War”). [...]

  • 'Black Panther's' Danai Gurira Reflects on

    'Black Panther's' Danai Gurira Reflects on Her Red Carpet Fashion Choices

    When it comes to style, “Black Panther” star Danai Gurira is constantly learning. “This is a whole other art form,” says Gurira, who donned a tribal-inspired uniform, head tattoo and red lipstick as head bodyguard, Okoye. “Okoye had a strength and femininity and a pride — pride in her people and her culture. … She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content