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 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.
Upon its huge historic victory at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards, La La Land (2016) broke the record for the most Golden Globe Awards with seven wins (besting One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Midnight Express (1978)), as well as the record with the most Golden Globe wins in every category in which it was nominated with seven nominations and seven wins (also besting One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Golden Globe Awards acceptance speech 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.
The film set a new record at the 74th Golden Globe Awards, where it won seven Golden Globes (Best Picture - Musical or Comedy, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song "City of Stars", Best Actor Musical or Comedy - Ryan Gosling and Best Actress Musical or Comedy - Emma Stone), surpassing the record of six awards held by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Midnight Express (1978).
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 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.
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 Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), of which this movie is heavily inspired.
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.
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.
In the end of the movie, during the "alternate ending", the iconic Richard Avedon's shots of Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face is recreated: Emma Stone is shot under Paris' Arc du Triomphe, balloons in hands.
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."
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 "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" 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."
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" called "It Happened at Dawn."
On January 24th 2017, Emma Stone received her second Oscar nomination for this film as Meryl Streep received her twentieth Oscar nomination for Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) for the Best Actress category. The two actresses have been previously nominated alongside each other for the Best Supporting Actress category two years ago. Stone for _Birdman_ (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) and Streep for Into the Woods (2014), but they both lost out to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood (2014).
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." 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.
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. Miles Teller's character, Andrew, is also in every scene of Whiplash.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
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.
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.
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 movie has numerous references to Casablanca. 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 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.
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).
After one of the auditions Emma Stone attends, she mentions the film has a plot similar to "Rebel Without a Cause." 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.
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. Toward the end of the movie, Sebastian goes to his home and is cooking chicken on his stove before he heads out to his new club.
Tom Everett Scott plays Mia's future husband; a man she meets after leaving for Paris upon landing her first big break as an actress. Scott plays the lead in "American Werewolf in Paris," the spin-off to the 1981 John Landis classic "American Werewolf in London."
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.