Both a love letter to film and a raucous, unflinching look at the hard-living culture of the Hollywood of the time, Damien Chazelle’s Babylon features a sprawling ensemble cast and an epic run time as it follows a number of characters through a crucial period of change: 1930s Los Angeles. And Chazelle certainly doesn’t hold back when it comes to portraying the wild abandon of the parties of the era.
Largely fictionalized – albeit with real-life references and inspirations – Babylon stars Margot Robbie as rising star Nellie LaRoy and Brad Pitt as silent era icon Jack Conrad (loosely inspired by John Gilbert and Douglas Fairbanks). Speaking to Total Film(opens in new tab) in the new issue of the magazine, featuring Oppenheimer on the cover Pitt discusses the scale of the movie: “There’s such an energy to this thing. I’m amazed by how much [Chazelle] was able to slot in – and not jam in, but slot in gracefully. This opening party scene is staggering, of epic proportions.”
Despite the ambition and scope of the party scene, Chazelle didn’t follow the rules with his approach. “The approach of it all was not doing the coverage – you know, like a single on this actor, a single on that actor,” explains Pitt. “The constant takes can actually wear down and confuse the energy of the scene. He’s doing everything in camera, old style, explosions, 700 extras, actors coming in the scene, actors coming out – in one camera shot, in one camera move, and the camera’s gliding around. It’s one of those things where you’re waiting for the magic to happen, where everything falls into place. That kind of thing is really exciting. You get close, and then something doesn’t quite work out. And you keep going until you get it. I think that energy shows in the scene.”