Damien Chazelle

American director and screenwriter
Damien Chazelle
Damien Chazelle (cropped).jpg
Chazelle in September 2014
Born Damien Sayre Chazelle
(1985-01-19) January 19, 1985 (age 32)
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Education Princeton High School
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation Director, screenwriter
Years active 2008–present
Spouse(s) Jasmine McGlade
(m. 2010; div. 2014)
Parent(s) Bernard Chazelle
Celia Chazelle
Awards Academy Award
Golden Globe Award
Damien Chazelle Signature.svg

Damien Sayre Chazelle /ʃəˈzɛl/ (born January 19, 1985) is an American director and screenwriter. Chazelle made his directorial debut with the musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009). He wrote and directed his second feature film, Whiplash (2014), based on his award-winning 2013 short film of the same name. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Chazelle received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Chazelle is also known for co-writing 10 Cloverfield Lane, and writing and directing La La Land, both released in 2016. For La La Land, he was nominated for several awards including two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, Directors Guild of America Award for Best Director, Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay, two BAFTA Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director and won two Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Screenplay and Best Director and also two Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay and Best Director, with the film itself receiving a record-breaking seven Golden Globes at the 74th Golden Globe Awards.

Chazelle won the 89th Academy Award for Best Director, becoming the youngest person in history to win in that category.


Early lifeEdit

Chazelle was born in Providence, Rhode Island, to Celia Chazelle (née Martin), an American-Canadian writer and professor of history at The College of New Jersey,[1] and Bernard Chazelle, a French-American[2] Eugene Higgins Professor of computer science at Princeton University, originally from Clamart, France. Chazelle has a sister, Anna, who is an actress and circus performer.

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 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, however, Chazelle stated that he knew instinctively he never had the talent to be a great musician, and after high school, pursued filmmaking again.[3] He studied filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department at Harvard University and graduated in 2007.[4][5]


Chazelle's debut as a writer and director was the film Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. Chazelle has shared screenplay credit with director Ed Gass-Donnelly on The Last Exorcism Part II, 2013. He is also credited as the screenwriter on 2013's Grand Piano, a thriller that has an anxious pianist dealing with a death threat during a concert. Chazelle has stated in interviews that he was working as a 'writer for hire' but had the ambition to direct his own script. Chazelle described Whiplash as a writing reaction to being stuck on another script. 'I just thought, that's not working, let me put it awawiy 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."[3]

Whiplash gained interest from producers, but nobody initially wanted to make the film.[6] Chazelle's 85-page script was featured on Black List in 2012 as one of the best unmade films of that year; it was eventually picked up by producers, including Helen Estabrook, who suggested J. K. Simmons for the role of the teacher, Terence Fletcher. A short film, made as proof of concept, was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival 2013; financing was raised for the film, and in 2014 it was released to an overwhelmingly positive critical reaction.[7]

Whiplash won the Sundance Film Festival Short Prize in 2013 as a short[8] and in 2014 the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition as a full-length feature film.[9] The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival.[10] On January 15, 2015, Whiplash received 5 Academy Award nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle.[11] It won three of them, Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, on February 22, 2015.

Chazelle co-wrote 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was released on March 11, 2016. Chazelle was brought in by J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions to re-write a draft, with the intention of Chazelle directing. However, Chazelle ultimately chose to direct Whiplash instead.[12] His musical, La La Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, opened the Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2016. It began a limited release in the United States on December 9, 2016, with a wider release on December 16, 2016.[13][14] It has received rave reviews from critics.[15]

Chazelle will reunite with Gosling on First Man, a film from a screenplay by Josh Singer for Universal Pictures. The biopic is based on author James R. Hansen’s work First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, written about the astronaut.[16][17]

Personal lifeEdit

Chazelle met Jasmine McGlade at Harvard University and the two married in 2010; the couple divorced in 2014 but still remain business partners.[18][1] From 2015 he is in a relationship with actress and entrepreneur Olivia Hamilton, a Princeton University graduate in economics and finance, and former McKinsey & Company consultant.[19]


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2009 Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench Yes Yes Yes Directorial debut
Also cinematographer, editor, and soundtrack lyricist
2013 Whiplash Yes Yes No Short film
2013 The Last Exorcism Part II No Yes No Story and Screenplay by
2013 Grand Piano No Yes No
2014 Whiplash Yes Yes No Based on his short film of the same name
2016 10 Cloverfield Lane No Yes No Co-wrote with Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken
2016 La La Land Yes Yes No Won "Best Director" at the 89th Academy Awards (2017)

Awards and nominationsEdit


  1. ^ a b 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. 
  2. ^ http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~chazelle/pubs/shortcv.pdf
  3. ^ a b Myers, Scott (October 12, 2014). "Damien Chazelle interview, Blacklist". The Black List. 
  4. ^ Sweeney, Sarah (May 14, 2015). "A movie as a mirror". Harvard Gazette. 
  5. ^ Rottenberg, Josh (February 13, 2015). "Damien Chazelle's wild, crazy ride to the Oscars with 'Whiplash'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "'Metacritic Reviews of "Whiplash"". 
  8. ^ Bahr, Lindsey (May 14, 2013). "'Whiplash': Sundance-winning short to become full-length feature – BREAKING". Entertainment Weekly. CNN. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  9. ^ Zeitchik, Steven; Mark Olsen (January 25, 2014). "Sundance 2014 winners: 'Whiplash' wins big". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  10. ^ Richford, Rhonda. "'Whiplash' Takes Top Prize in Deauville". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  11. ^ "2015 Oscar Nominations". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  12. ^ Rome, Emily (March 15, 2016). "'10 Cloverfield Lane' director explains why they changed the movie's ending". HitFix. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (June 17, 2016). "Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land' to Open Venice Film Festival in Competition". Variety. Retrieved June 21, 2016. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (November 24, 2015). "Ryan Gosling Orbiting Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong Movie at Universal?". Deadline.com. Retrieved December 29, 2016. 
  17. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 29, 2016). "Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle to Reteam on Neil Armstrong Biopic". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016. 
  18. ^ Lang, Brent (December 7, 2016). "'La La Land' Director's Ex-Wife Gets Last-Minute Executive Producer Credit (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Olivia Hamilton: Photos of Damien Chazelle's Girlfriend". heavy.com. January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 

External linksEdit