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Damien Sayre Chazelle (/ʃəˈzɛl/; born January 19, 1985) is an American director and screenwriter. After making his directorial debut with the musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009), he rose to prominence after writing and directing his second feature film, Whiplash (2014), based on his 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 and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Damien Chazelle
Damien Chazelle (30116702391) (cropped).jpg
Chazelle at Mill Valley Film Festival in 2016
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 For Best Director:
Academy Award
Golden Globe Award
Damien Chazelle Signature.svg

His 2016 film La La Land received critical and commercial acclaim, winning all 7 of its Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director and Best Screenplay. It also received a record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations, winning six including Best Director, with Chazelle becoming the youngest person in history to win in the category at age 32.[1]


Early lifeEdit

Chazelle was born to a Roman Catholic family[2][3] in Providence, Rhode Island. His mother, Celia (née Martin) Chazelle, is an American-Canadian medieval historian, writer, and professor of history at The College of New Jersey, who was raised in Calgary, Alberta.[4]

His French-American father Bernard Chazelle, is the Eugene Higgins Professor of computer science at Princeton University,[5] and is originally from Clamart, France. Chazelle has a sister, Anna, who is an actress and circus performer. His maternal grandfather, John Sayre Martin, Jr., is the son of John Sayre Martin, who worked for Paramount Pictures in London, and Eileen Earle, who was a stage actress.[6]

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.[7] He studied filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department at Harvard University and graduated in 2007.[8][9]

At Harvard he lived in Currier House as roommates with the composer and frequent collaborator Justin Hurwitz.[10]


Chazelle promoting Whiplash at the Deauville American Film Festival in France, September 2014

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 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."[7]

Whiplash gained interest from producers, but nobody initially wanted to make the film.[11] 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.[12]

Whiplash won the Sundance Film Festival Short Prize in 2013 as a short[13] and in 2014 the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition as a full-length feature film.[14] The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival.[15] On January 15, 2015, Whiplash received 5 Academy Award nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle.[16] 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.

Damien Chazelle on set directing La La Land

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.[17] 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.[18][19] It has received rave reviews from critics.[20] La La Land was nominated for fourteen awards at the 89th Academy Awards held on February 26, 2017, winning six of them including Best Director making Chazelle the youngest director to win an Academy Award in this category.

Future projectsEdit

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.[21][22] It is scheduled to be released on October 12, 2018.[23]

In 2017, Oceanside Media optioned the rights to produce Chazelle's mystery-thriller screenplay The Claim, which is expected to release in 2018. [24]

Personal lifeEdit

Chazelle met Jasmine McGlade at Harvard University and the two married in 2010; the couple divorced in 2014.[25][4] Since 2015 he has been in a relationship with actress Olivia Hamilton, a Princeton University graduate in economics and finance, former McKinsey & Company consultant.[26]


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
2010 The Last Exorcism Part II No Yes No Wrote the story and co-wrote with Ed Gass-Donnelly
2013 Whiplash Yes Yes No Short film
2014 Whiplash Yes Yes No Based on his short film of the same name
Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Breakthrough Artist
Nominated—AACTA International Award for Best Direction
Nominated—AACTA International Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated—Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated—Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Director
Nominated—Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
Nominated—London Film Critics' Circle Award for Screenwriter of the Year
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Director
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Writing
2016 10 Cloverfield Lane No Yes No Co-wrote with Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken
La La Land Yes Yes No Academy Award for Best Director [27]
BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Original Screenplay
Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Director
Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Screenplay
Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated—AACTA International Award for Best Direction
Nominated—AACTA International Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated—Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Nominated—Austin Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated—London Film Critics' Circle Award for Director of the Year
Nominated—London Film Critics' Circle Award for Screenwriter of the Year
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Director
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay
2018 The Claim No Yes No
First Man Yes No Yes

Awards and nominationsEdit


  1. ^ F. Brinley Bruton (February 27, 2017). "Oscars 2017: Damien Chazelle Is Youngest to Win Best Director". NBC News. 
  2. ^ "La La Land’s Jewish composer nominated for Oscar", Connecticut Jewish Ledger, January 25, 2017.
  3. ^ Gabe Friedman. "Oscars 2017: 7 unexpected Jewish facts",, February 23, 2017.
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Bernard Chazelle – Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). 
  6. ^ Eric Volmers (February 3, 2017). "La La's local connection: Calgary grandparents proud of Oscar-nominated Damien Chazelle". Calgary Herald. 
  7. ^ a b Myers, Scott (October 12, 2014). "Damien Chazelle interview". The Black List. 
  8. ^ Sweeney, Sarah (May 14, 2015). "A movie as a mirror". Harvard Gazette. 
  9. ^ Rottenberg, Josh (February 13, 2015). "Damien Chazelle's wild, crazy ride to the Oscars with 'Whiplash'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  10. ^ "From Harvard to ‘La La Land’". Harvard Gazette. 2017-01-20. Retrieved 2017-03-20. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ "'Metacritic Reviews of "Whiplash"". 
  13. ^ Bahr, Lindsey (May 14, 2013). "'Whiplash': Sundance-winning short to become full-length feature – BREAKING". Entertainment Weekly. CNN. Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  14. ^ Zeitchik, Steven; Mark Olsen (January 25, 2014). "Sundance 2014 winners: 'Whiplash' wins big". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  15. ^ Richford, Rhonda. "'Whiplash' Takes Top Prize in Deauville". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ "2015 Oscar Nominations". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  17. ^ Rome, Emily (March 15, 2016). "'10 Cloverfield Lane' director explains why they changed the movie's ending". HitFix. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (June 17, 2016). "Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land' to Open Venice Film Festival in Competition". Variety. Retrieved June 21, 2016. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (November 24, 2015). "Ryan Gosling Orbiting Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong Movie at Universal?". Retrieved December 29, 2016. 
  22. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 29, 2016). "Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle to Reteam on Neil Armstrong Biopic". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016. 
  23. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 7, 2017). "Universal’s Damien Chazelle-Ryan Gosling Moon Landing Pic ‘First Man’ To Set Down In Fall 2018". Retrieved March 7, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Damien Chazelle script 'The Claim' to begin production this year". Screendaily. 2017-03-13. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  25. ^ Lang, Brent (December 7, 2016). "'La La Land' Director's Ex-Wife Gets Last-Minute Executive Producer Credit (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved December 29, 2016. 
  26. ^ "Olivia Hamilton: Photos of Damien Chazelle’s Girlfriend". January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Glamour at the Oscars 2017 – Prestige Magazine". Prestige Magazine. 2017-02-27. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 

External linksEdit