Damien Sayre Chazelle (born January 19, 1985) is a French-American director, film producer, and screenwriter, 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; he was the youngest person to win both awards at age 32.
Chazelle directing La La Land in 2015
Damien Sayre Chazelle
January 19, 1985
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Parent(s)||Bernard Chazelle (father)|
Celia Chazelle (mother)
Chazelle was born in Providence, Rhode Island to a Roman Catholic family. His father, Bernard Chazelle, is the Eugene Higgins Professor of computer science at Princeton University, and was born in Clamart, France. His mother, Celia, is from an English-Canadian family based in Calgary, Alberta, and teaches medieval history at The College of New Jersey.
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. Chazelle has a sister, Anna, who is an actress. Their English-born maternal grandfather, John Martin, is the son of stage actress Eileen Earle.
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. He studied filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department at Harvard University and graduated in 2007.
At Harvard he lived in Currier House as roommates with composer and frequent collaborator Justin Hurwitz. The two were among the original members of the indie-pop group Chester French, formed during their freshman year.
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. 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.
After graduation, Chazelle moved to Los Angeles with the ultimate goal of attracting interest to produce his musical La La Land. 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.
Breakthrough and successEdit
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". Although nobody was initially interested in producing the film, 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; financing was then raised for the feature film, and in 2014 it was released to an overwhelmingly positive critical reaction. Whiplash received numerous awards on the festival circuit and earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle, winning three.
Thanks to the success of Whiplash, Chazelle was able to attract financiers for his musical La La Land. 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. It has received rave reviews from critics and numerous awards. 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.
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. The film received positive reviews, with Owen Gleiberman of Variety writing that "Chazelle orchestrates a dashingly original mood of adventure drenched in anxiety".
Chazelle will direct the first two episodes of the Netflix musical drama television series The Eddy. The series will be written by Jack Thorne, with Grammy-winning songwriter Glen Ballard and Alan Poul attached as executive producers.
In October 2017, he and actress Olivia Hamilton, a Princeton University graduate and former McKinsey & Company consultant, announced their engagement. The couple married September 22, 2018.
|2009||Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench||Yes||Yes||Yes||Also cinematographer, editor, and soundtrack lyricist|
|2013||The Last Exorcism Part II||No||Yes||No||Co-wrote with director Ed Gass-Donnelly|
|2016||10 Cloverfield Lane||No||Yes||No||Co-wrote with Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken|
|La La Land||Yes||Yes||No|
Awards and nominationsEdit
|Year||Film||Academy Awards||BAFTA Awards||Golden Globe Awards|
|2016||La La Land||14||6||11||5||7||7|
Directed Academy Award performancesEdit
Chazelle has directed multiple Oscar winning and nominated performances.
|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|
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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
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