Damien Sayre Chazelle (born January 19, 1985) is a French-American director and screenwriter. Chazelle made his directorial debut with the musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009). In 2014, he wrote and directed his second feature film, Whiplash, 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 in 2016. For La La Land, he was nominated for several awards including Directors Guild of America Award for Best Director, Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay, two BAFTA Award 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 receiving itself at the 74th Golden Globe Awards a record-breaking seven Golden Globes.
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, and Bernard Chazelle, a French 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. He studied filmmaking in the Visual and Environmental Studies department at Harvard University and graduated in 2007.
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."
Whiplash gained interest from producers, but nobody initially wanted to make the film. 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.
Whiplash won the Sundance Film Festival Short Prize in 2013 as a short and in 2014 the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition as a full-length feature film. The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival. On January 15, 2015, Whiplash received 5 Academy Award nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle. 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. 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. It has received rave reviews from critics.
Chazelle will reunite with Gosling on First Man, a biopic about Neil Armstrong, from a screenplay by Josh Singer for Universal Pictures.
Chazelle met Jasmine McGlade at Harvard University and the two married in 2010; the couple divorced in 2014. He is currently in a relationship with actress Olivia Hamilton, a Princeton University graduate and former McKinsey & Company consultant.
|2009||Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench||Yes||Yes||Yes||Directorial debut |
Also cinematographer, editor, and soundtrack lyricist
|2013||The Last Exorcism Part II||No||Yes||No||Story and Screenplay by|
|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|
Awards and nominations
|2014||Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay|| ||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Direction||Nominated|
|Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Screenplay (Original)||Nominated|
|Independent Spirit Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|2016||AACTA International Award for Best Direction|| ||Nominated|
|AACTA International Award for Best Screenplay||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award for Best Direction||Pending|
|BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay||Pending|
|Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director||Won|
|Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Screenplay||Won|
|Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Director||Won|
|Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director||Won|
|Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay||Won|
|Golden Globe Award for Best Director||Won|
|Golden Lion Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|London Film Critics' Circle Award for Director of the Year||Nominated|
|London Film Critics' Circle Award for Screenwriter of the Year||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|
|San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|
|Satellite Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Director||Won|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay||Nominated|
|Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Director||Won|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay||Won|
|Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay||Pending|