In case you're yet to see the trailer for Damien Chazelle's musical comedy-drama La La Land, allow me to introduce you to its bright and joyful energy.
The film follows aspiring actress Mia (played by the sparkling #EmmaStone), and uncompromising, old school jazz pianist Sebastian (the incomparable #RyanGosling) as both struggle to remain true to their dreams and their art while eking out an LA living. And you might have noticed that there's dancing in the trailer — a lot of dancing. And singing. And Ryan Gosling playing piano, too.
Turns out, there's not one take within the film that wasn't performed by either Stone or Gosling. It's the real deal. Every footstep, every note, every twirl, every ivory tickle, every run of the piano scale is all them — no stunt doubles.
During a press event for the film, Stone described the dance boot camp she and Gosling were put through, courtesy of a team led by choreographer Mandy Moore (no relationship to the actress/singer of the same name):
"We were separate for most of it, Ryan and I, learning, and then we came together at the end of it, to learn how to do the choreography and ballroom dance at the same time. But we basically had to learn alone. They didn't want us holding each other back, they wanted us to spread our wings individually. You know, 'Two wholes make a whole!' We would go each day for a few hours and we would do tap warm-ups then ballroom stuff and soft shoe."
One of the most moving moments in the film is a scene with just Stone, camera close-up on her face, singing her vulnerable heart out. Just like with the dance steps, it's all her. While that scene is not available in sneak peeks, the song has been featured in some of the trailers, whether or not audiences realized it was the voice of Stone. Check it out below.
Writer-director Chazelle strived for every moment to truly come from Stone and Gosling themselves, so the two were given ample rehearsal time lasting several months. This was once common practice with mid-century musicals, but is a luxury that rarely happens in the Hollywood of today. Stone reveals:
"We had about three months, which is an unheard of amount of rehearsal time, not just for movies but even for theater - we did a lot of tap dance, ballroom dance. She did a lot of choreographing and rechoreographing depending on what was emerging as our strengths or weaknesses. [laughing]"
Along with the singing and dancing, Chazelle revealed that it is indeed Gosling playing jazz piano throughout the movie:
"In fact, there's not a single close-up shot of [the character] Sebastian's hands in the entire movie that's a piano double. It's all Ryan."
Even costar John Legend — yes, that John Legend, the multiple Grammy- and Oscar-winning musician and composer — was blown away by Gosling's ability to grasp playing jazz piano in such a short period of time:
"I was jealous, man. Watching him play, I was like, 'Wow, this guy is really good and he just learned this in the last few months.' It's pretty amazing."
Having seen the #musical, I can attest to this. Pretty amazing, indeed.
La La Land is currently in select theaters and will open nationwide on December 16.