AFI Fest: 'La La Land' Finally Makes It to Los Angeles

The Hollywood Reporter

Damien Chazelle's La La Land first premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in August, after which it went on to Toronto, Telluride and London. Finally, on Tuesday night, the movie made its way home to Los Angeles.

"It's just really exciting to finally be here," said star Emma Stone, on the carpet outside the TCL Chinese Theater (formerly known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre) at the film's AFI Fest Gala screening.

La La Land reunites Stone with her regular onscreen love interest Ryan Gosling. She plays an aspiring actress opposite his struggling jazz musician, with both trying to navigate their careers alongside their burgeoning relationship set against the backdrop of Los Angeles.

The movie filmed in 79 locations across Los Angeles, including Griffith Observatory, Angels Flight and the 6th Street Bridge, over the course of three weeks.

"Some neighborhoods were not excited about having any production. Of course, when they hear it's a Ryan Gosling-Emma Stone movie, they somehow were OK with it," said Film L.A. head Art Yoon, who helped the production secure desired locations on its $30 million budget.

Read more: How 'La La Land' Went From First-Screening Stumbles to Hollywood Ending

Composer Justin Hurwitz - who met Chazelle on his first day at Harvard, started an ill-fated Britpop-inspired band with him and worked with the director on the jazz-centric Whiplash - said that he drew inspiration from the city for La La Land's score and original music. 

"I am aware of the great jazz artists that came from here, but I took in the imagery, like the Art Deco architecture and the murals, and was inspired by that diversity," he said, also citing old MGM and RKO musicals like Singin' in the Rain and Swing Time, as well as French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg from famed composer Michel Legrand, as inspirations.

Producers Jordan Horowitz and Gary Gilbert's favorite representations of Los Angeles were the more nuanced ones.

"It's about finding the magic in between the traffic," explained Horowitz, who said the film's opening sequence, a musical number on a crowded freeway overpass, was the hardest L.A.-based shoot to pull off (especially considering it was 105 degrees on shoot day). "And I think we have every mural in Los Angeles in the movie," joked Gilbert.

Chazelle was excited to screen the movie at the Chinese Theater, a first for him, saying, "Obviously it is a movie about L.A., and a love letter to the city and to a lot of the old movie theaters that used to exist here, so showing it at [the former Grauman's Chinese] is really special."

His 2009 feature Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench screened at AFI Fest in the TCL Chinese 6. Seven years later, his latest feature has already been generating best picture awards buzz.

Chazelle added: "I tried to emphasize everything that makes L.A. unique - the sprawl of it, the foliage that doesn't make any sense next to each other and the traffic - even if they are the things that people complain about." 

La La Land is set to hits theaters Dec. 9.

Read more: 'La La Land': Venice Review