Damien Chazelle, the director of "Whiplash," has a new film and it's a throwback to the jazz musicals that used the dance moves of duos such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to captivate audiences.
The story of "La La Land" uses an old-fashioned genre, but drops it in the middle of contemporary Los Angeles. The male lead, played by Ryan Gosling, is an aspiring jazz pianist struggling to find his audience. Opposite him is Emma Stone's character, a struggling actress working at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. Together, their stories weave into an image of artists moving toward a dream one choice at a time.
The Frame's host, John Horn, spoke with Emma Stone at the Telluride Film Festival, where "La La Land" had its debut.
On experiencing difficult auditions:
I could relate to being an auditioning actor and things not going right. The one I relate to the most is [the] scene where people aren't looking up from their phones. Just keeping their heads down. Or just reading the other side of the scene, and they just never look up to see what you're doing because they've already written you off and this is kind of a courtesy. So, yeah, I've had that kind of experience plenty of times.
On relating to the self-doubt that actors face:
As a human being I think I related to the story, beyond being an actor. I don't think I know anyone that has any semblance of true humanity in their body [who] doesn't doubt what they're doing from time to time — who they are or what choices they're making or what they should have done differently. I think when I first read it and was thinking about [the part] — and I had a similar thought with "Birdman," even though they're such different movies — I [thought], Is this very esoteric? Is this something that [only] an auditioning actress and jazz musician are going to relate to? Then when I saw the ending and the story of the choices we make and how life unfolds based on the choices we make, I realized it's really not about that at all. As much as it is a love letter to Los Angeles, it is about dreamers and a creative profession. I think it's also just about what happens when you have to make choices in your life that completely alter the course of your life, which we're all doing frequently.
On early inspiration:
My first grade teacher put me in a play that was for fifth graders, and there was one part for a first grader. It was called "No Turkey for Perky." It got me out of class because I think I was maybe the loudest kid in class and needed some kind of outlet. She saw that, thank God. I got to do this play and I fell in love from there. I did a lot of youth theater when I was growing up, so as obsessed with films as I was, I watched the same movies over and over. It was like a handful of movies that I watched over and over. Then, as I got older, I started expanding my wheelhouse in terms of what I was watching on film. Theater really started it off for me. I think I knew I wanted to be an actor from age six.
On being able to pick and choose:
That's always going to be a question that is changing for me. Right now, I think what's been the most exciting is doing things that are challenging and in-depth. I started out doing comedy, so if I could laugh and I could improvise that was the best possible thing. I did "Battle Of The Sexes," where I learned to play tennis — learned to be Billie Jean King in whatever way I could. The rewards of that have been so immense personally, because when you're that invested in something, it really becomes about the journey of what you're doing and not really the outcome of it as much. Although, you of course hope that people enjoy what happened in the end.
On her greatest fears about acting:
I now understand the reward of being scared by something and learning to do something you didn't think you could do. But I think that maybe came with getting a bit older. I don't know that was my initial thought when I was 15 and auditioning for [parts] in L.A. I think I wanted to make people laugh, but didn't necessarily know what it would mean to scare myself and how much you grow through that. It took some maturing on my part to get to that place.
Now what scares me is not going for it. I think that scares me more than failing. I learned that through failure, I was like, Well, did I put it all on the line? If the answer's no, then God, that's true failure. So I think now, true failure is not giving it my all, because otherwise I can't control anything else.