According to composer Justin Hurwitz, all the piano performance featured in the film was first recorded by pianist Randy Kerber during pre-production. Ryan Gosling then spent two hours a day, six days a week in piano lessons learning the music by heart. By the time filming had begun, Gosling was able to play all the piano sequences seen in the film without the use of a hand double or CGI.
Emma Stone performed "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" live. She would decide when to switch from dialogue to singing. There was no pre-recorded track she was lip-syncing to. Justin Hurwitz, the song's composer, was in another room playing piano in her ear. Director Damien Chazelle said this was done so Emma could have more control of the scene.
Emma Watson turned down the role of Mia due to scheduling conflicts with Beauty and the Beast (2017), while Ryan Gosling turned down the role of the Beast in that film to appear in this one. Coincidentally, both are musicals.
Sebastian's tip about amplifying a car fob's range by holding it under your chin does work, but is not expected to cause cancer. Most fobs use a frequency that resonates well with water, and the human brain is mostly water.
Because the director wanted to shoot the scene in the tradition of old musicals without cuts or editing, Ryan Gosling practiced playing the piano and played it himself in one take on his first day of shooting. Co-star John Legend, who is a classically trained pianist, says he is "jealous" of how quickly Gosling learned to play so well.
The line in the film said by Sebastian "That's LA. They worship everything and they value nothing.", was actually added in by Ryan Gosling himself, when he heard his real life girlfriend, Eva Mendes, mention it as a "joke".
The song "When I Wake" by Justin Hurwitz was first featured in the movie Whiplash (2014), with the two main characters listening to the song while out on a date. The same thing happens in La La Land (2016) as the song is featured in the background while Sebastian and Mia are talking about jazz - exactly the same topic the two characters from Whiplash were discussing.
The crew had a limited time window of 30 minutes within two days to film the dusky purple twilight Hollywood Hills dance sequence. According to Damien Chazelle, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling managed five takes per day, where after each take, they would go back to the starting point with the assistants wiping their sweat before starting the dance routine again.
Although production was able to film the Griffith Park Observatory interior exhibits, they were not allowed to film in the planetarium, so the planetarium was recreated on a set. The vintage Minolta projector in the center of the planetarium was rented from the Planetarium and Projector Science Museum in Big Bear Lake, California to complete the set.
The opening number was filmed at an extremely hot temperature of 109 degrees F (43 degrees C) in two days. Each performer had two spare sets of costumes, stored in the cars, which they changed between takes. To maximize the filming time, the choreographer, Mandy Moore, started the rehearsals in May 2015 at the parking lot behind the production office. The sequence was mapped with miniature model cars and post it notes. During filming, to avoid being accidentally filmed on the overhead camera, Moore was hidden beneath a car so that she could bark instructions to the dancers.
The express lane freeway ramp used for the opening number, Another Day Of Sun, is the same stretch of freeway as used for the iconic "bus jump" sequence from Speed (1994), where a 50-foot section of the ramp was digitally removed using CGI to create the gap the bus must jump over.
During the shoot Ryan Gosling's partner Eva Mendes was looking after their children and her brother, who underwent cancer treatment and died. During his award acceptance speech at The 74th Golden Globe Awards (2017), Gosling tearfully acknowledged Mendes for her strength at a time he was occupied with dancing and music practice, and dedicated his award to her brother.
Prior to filming, Chazelle, Gosling and Stone visited Gene Kelly's widow and were able to look through many of Kelly's film memorabilia, including his leather-bound copy of the script for Singin' in the Rain (1952). At the end of the visit, Kelly's widow's dog escaped and Chazelle and Gosling ended up running through traffic to rescue the dog, with Chazelle affirming to Gosling, "We will not kill Gene Kelly's widow's dog." They were successful in rescuing the dog.
La La Land (2016) has strong ties to Emma Stone's real-life history. The movie is based in LA, and Mia is discovered as a college dropout actress pursuing her dreams. Emma Stone is actually a school dropout herself, moving to LA at the age of 15 in pursuit of an acting career.
Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz came out with the idea of the film during their senior year at Harvard University in 2010 with Hurwitz writing the musical tracks and Chazelle on dialogue. Initially they found two financial backers and a producer for a budget of $1 million. However, the demand for a lot of script changes made them to drop the project off. After Whiplash (2014) found critical success, the project was resurrected with the studio increasing the budget to $30 million; this allowed the filmmakers to rent the Griffith Observatory for filming (a full day rental there costs $10 thousand).
The production reopened two locations for filming: The Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena and the Angels Flight railway in downtown L.A. The Rialto has been closed since 2007 because it was unable to sustain itself as a single movie theatre. Angels Flight has been closed since 2013 over safety issues to the public. Filmmakers were able to get around this by stating that the railway was operating for a day to get it back into service while secretly filming the scene as a private function.
During the first 60 seconds of the movie when the camera pans showing the gridlocked cars, several of them can be seen having dents in hoods and roofs. Presumabely this is from dancing during rehearsals and earlier takes.
The word 'fall' was not just representing the season but also the fall that would happen in their relationship. It was also the only season to appear on a black background, appearing not as joyful as the others.
Producer 'Marc Platt' told a story that on the last day of filming the sun was setting and 'Damien Chazzelle' delayed announcing the wrap, instead grabbing a handheld camera to start filming the sunset. Platt realized that Chazelle did not want production to end. As darkness fell, Platt walked over to Chazelle to tell him they had nothing left to film without light, upon which Chazelle sadly agreed to call it a day.
With the exception of the opening song sequence ("Another Day of Sun"), Mia and Sebastian appear in every scene of this movie. This was also notable in director Damien Chazelle's previous film Whiplash (2014). Miles Teller's character, Andrew, is also in every scene of Whiplash.
When the time came to present Best Picture at The 89th Annual Academy Awards (2017) (the last award of the ceremony), presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were mistakenly handed the wrong envelope backstage. Beatty held a duplicate envelope for the category Best Actress in a Leading Role (which was announced just minutes before and was won by Emma Stone for La La Land (2016)) in his hands while presenting the nominees for Best Picture. When Beatty opened the envelope, apparently becoming aware of the mistake, he hesitated to announce a winner. He then handed the card to Dunaway who announced the heavily favored La La Land (2016) as the winner for Best Picture. The three nominated producers Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt and Fred Berger as well as the whole cast and crew of the film went up on stage. Horowitz gave his thanks first, up next was Platt during whose speech the mistake became known when the ceremony's producers ran through the crowd on stage looking for the faulty as well as correct envelopes. It became clear that Horowitz was handed the wrong envelope by Beatty, which stated "Emma Stone, La La Land, Best Actress in a Leading Role", upon accepting the award, while the right envelope announcing Moonlight (2016) as the real Best Picture winner had to be brought on-stage from backstage and was finally handed to Beatty. The crowd on stage became slowly aware of the mistake and, despite being already aware of the not winning, Berger still gave a speech thanking his family and ending his speech by stating "We lost by the way, but, you know." Horowitz, also being told about the mistake, stepped up to the microphone again and finally revealed to the public that Moonlight (2016) actually had won, showing the correct Best Picture card to the audience as well as the camera. Beatty additionally cleared up that he was handed the wrong envelope and also announced Moonlight (2016) as winner of Best Picture. After this announcement, the cast and crew of La La Land (2016) slowly left the stage, while the three producers handed their awards over to the team from Moonlight (2016), which was able to finally give their speeches. While there already was an mix-up of winners at the Oscars in 1964, when Sammy Davis Jr. announced the winners for the two categories Scoring of Music (adaptation or treatment) and Music Score (substantially original) and was handed the envelopes for the two categories interchanged (eventually announcing John Addison as the winner for Best Scoring of Music when he wasn't even nominated in that category (André Previn was the actual winner, while Addison was the winner in the Music Score category)), Beatty and Dunaway's snafu remains the only time in Oscar history that a person or film was announced as a winner, when they actually weren't.
The origins of the title is because of two reasons. Firstly the city the film is set in is Los Angeles, or in short form: LA. Hence the city is evident in the title 'La La Land' Secondly the film challenges the stereotypical view of Hollywood by labelling it a dream. This is also seen through the abstract cinematography.
Damien Chazelle's sister, Anna Chazelle, plays the casting director who operates the camera during Mia's callback. She also makes an appearance in the film's opening number, as the hula-hooper on top of a car on the freeway.
While Mia is writing her one woman play, the protagonist's name, Genevieve, is seen in the script. This is likely a reference to Catherine Deneuve's character in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), which was a great source of inspiration for this film.
The phrase "pis y caca", that Ryan Gosling says twice, is Spanish for pee and feces. Meaning that it is not important. 'Ryan Gosling's wife, Eva Mendes, is Spanish speaker . Finnish, which as a language is related to Hungarian, also has the words "pissa" and "kakka", which also mean urine and feces. Similarly, Serbian kids language has words 'pishka' and 'kaka' with the same meaning.
In the film, Ryan Gosling's character is referred to by other characters twice as a famous but deceased celebrity of 2016. Early in the film his sister calls him Ali, a reference to Muhammad Ali who died earlier June, 2016. Later, Mia yells out to him, calling him George Michael who died shortly after the film's release, on Christmas Day 2016.
Musical with the most Oscar Nominations at 14. It would ultimately win 6 Oscar's, including Directing for Damien Chazelle, the youngest recipient of the award, and Actress in a Leading Role for Emma Stone.
In the Epilogue sequence, they dance by a gas station set. The building is white with red stripes. This is a reference to the Esso station at the end of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) as well as the paintings of LA artist Ed Ruscha, who paints an iconic image of a Standard gas station. The gas station designs are similar because both were branches of the same oil company - "Esso" being the phonetic version of "S-O" for "Standard Oil."
Emma Stone's character mentions the fact that there is a radio station named KJAZZ back home where she grew up. Emma Stone grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. KJZZ (pronounced K-Jazz) is a radio station in the Phoenix market. KJAZZ 88.1 is also the Los Angeles jazz and blues station.
Ryan Gosling's character, Sebastian, teases his sister in the movie that he should set her up with a man that has a face tattoo. Coincidentally, in his role in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) his character has a face tattoo. He chose this tattoo for his character in TPBtP. After the first day of shooting, he asked to remove the tattoo because of his embarrassment in choice he made for his character, in which case the director told him "absolutely not."
PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for tabulating the results, preparing awards envelopes and handing them to presenters apologized unreservedly to the makers of La La Land (2016) and Moonlight (2016), as well as everyone involved, after an envelope mix-up caused the former to be incorrectly announced as Best Picture: "We sincerely apologize to Moonlight (2016), La La Land (2016), Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. [sic] We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation."
The very large pendulum seen in the observatory scene is called a Foucault pendulum, or Foucault's pendulum, named after the French physicist Léon Foucault. It is a simple device conceived as an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. While it had long been known that the Earth rotates, the introduction of the Foucault pendulum in 1851 was the first simple proof of the rotation in an easy-to-see experiment. Today, Foucault pendulums are popular displays in science museums and universities.
When the camera focuses on the traffic scene before the opening number "Another Day of Sun" begins, one of the radio stations in the background plays a short snippet of a song from Damien Chazelle's directorial debut Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009) called "It Happened at Dawn."
As of 2017, La La Land is the only film in Academy history to be incorrectly awarded an Oscar. Upon presenting Best Picture, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway named La La Land as the winner, only to be corrected by Oscar producers 2 minutes later. It was discovered that Beatty was incorrectly handed the Best Actress envelope and that Moonlight was the actual winner of the award.
Was incorrectly awarded the Oscar for "Best Picture" at the 2017 Academy Awards. In the middle of the acceptance speech by the La La Land (2016) cast, the mistake was realized and the award was correctly given to Moonlight (2016).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Mia gives Sebastian a tour of the Warner Brothers back lot, she shows him a window that was used in Casablanca (1942). Much later, near the end of the movie, when Mia and her husband go into Sebastian's club and he is stunned to see them, it is a clear homage to the famous scene in Casablanca (1942) when Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid go to Rick's Café Americain and Bogey is stunned to see Bergman.
The movie has numerous references to Casablanca (1942). Mia's room has one wall fully covered with a photo of Ingrid Bergman. She points out the window that was used in the Paris scenes with Rick and Ilsa. Both lead male characters own a bar named after them: Rick's and Seb's. Both lead female characters visit those bars with a new husband and have a song played on the piano that refers to their previous relationship with Rick/Seb.
The first and last time Mia and Sebastian meet are both because of traffic, one of the most recognizable things about LA. They pass by each other in a traffic jam in the beginning of the film. The last time they meet is also due to a traffic jam; Mia and her husband miss a friend's premiere because of it and decide to go to dinner instead, followed by a visit to Sebastian's jazz club.
The ending, in which an alternate version of the film is carried out through various mediums of set and dance, is most likely a reference to Gene Kelly's famous twenty minute finale to An American in Paris (1951), in which the same event occurs.
After one of the auditions Emma Stone attends, she mentions the film has a plot similar to Rebel Without a Cause (1955). One of the most iconic things from "Rebel" is James Dean's red jacket, Emma wears a similar jacket to both the audition and the call back.
In one of many homages to classic films, when Sebastian and Mia dance around in the Paris set, a little boy is clearly seen holding a bright round balloon. This is a nod to the classic French kids' movie The Red Balloon (1956).
When Mia comes to see Sebastian play with "The Messengers", bandleader Keith (John Legend) is wearing a red leather jacket that, together with the red guitar strap over his shoulder, calls back the 80s-style red leather George Michael jacket Sebastian wears at his earlier party gig. In both bands, Sebastian is forced to juggle a kitschy second keyboard (key-tar at the party, synthesiser with The Messengers), rather than concentrating on his beloved piano. The implication is that the flashy stage band is just a better-paying pick-up gig, distracting him from his dreams.
When Mia gives Sebastian a tour of the Warners back lot and points out the window from Casablanca (1942), the storefront underneath is a recreation of the umbrella store from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) (look for the "Parapluies"). A couple shots later, they walk in front of someone rolling a lavish billboard for Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009), Chazelle's first film as a director (and a musical as well).
At the end of the movie, Mia's husband, played by Tom Everett Scott pulls her into Sebastian's jazz bar, which Sebastian wanted to own so he could play authentic jazz. This is an homage to That Thing You Do! (1996), in which Tom Everett Scott's character, Guy, loves jazz and asks his cab driver to take him to a bar with "good jazz".
Sebastian at first refuses to call his dream club anything but "Chicken on a Stick" because Charlie Parker was known for eating chicken. Towards the end of the film, Sebastian goes home and cooks chicken on the stove before heading out to his new club.