Director Damien Chazelle Reflects on His Post-Babylon Future

Director Damien Chazelle Reflects on His Post-Babylon Future

Damien Chazelle’s 2022 film Babylon was, by all accounts, a flop. With a budget of $80 million, it grossed a paltry $15 million domestically, though it picked up $48 million overseas. Reviews were tepid—57% on Rotten Tomatoes and C+ on CinemaScore—and even the star power of Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie could not persuade the judges to confer any awards on the unfortunate production.

Chazelle had earlier received critical acclaim for another Hollywood-themed film, La La Land, the 2016 movie that garnered 14 Oscar nominations and earned him a Best Director trophy, making him the youngest person ever to receive that award.

Babylon focused its lens on the fate of silent-film stars trying to cope with the shift to talkies in the 1920s. Among the scathing reviews was one by Peter Debruge, who wrote in Variety that the film was an “exuberantly messy look at La La Land’s early days — an acid spin on Singin’ in the Rain.” He added that Babylon “feels like the last of a certain kind of movie: epic, extravagant and so unreasonably expensive, it would’ve taken pre-pandemic moviegoing habits to make its money back.”

Licking his wounds on a Talking Pictures podcast, the director speculated that the failure of Babylon might affect his ability to raise money for his next cinematic venture, though he offered no clues about what any new film would be about.

“Certainly, in financial terms, Babylon didn’t work at all,” Chazelle confessed. “You try to not have that [a]ffect what you’re doing creatively, but, at some level, it can’t help but affect it. … I’ve been head in the sand. I’ve been sort of busy writing. So I’ll get a real taste of how it’s changed or not once I get to finish this script and try to actually get it made. I’m in a sort of trepidatious state of mind, but I have no illusions. I won’t get a budget of Babylon size any time soon, or at least not on this next one.”

“And who knows?” he concluded. “Maybe I won’t be able to get [this next film] made. We’ll have to wait and see.”

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