“La La Land” director Damien Chazelle just shuffled audiences back to Los Angeles on Tuesday — but way back to the 1920s.
On the heels of its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, Paramount Pictures released the first trailer for the highly anticipated “Babylon” — starring Brad Pitt, his “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” co-star Margot Robbie, Olivia Wilde, Samara Weaving, Tobey Maguire, Jean Smart, Spike Jonze, Chloe Fineman and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
And it appears the studio has little reverence for its own logo, as the trailer opens with Robbie essentially snorting it as cocaine. The sprawling ensemble drama transports audiences back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, a pivotal moment when silent movies were giving way to talkies (à la “The Artist”) and the entertainment industry reveled in the throes of hedonism, as evidenced in first-look photos from the production last month.
Pitt and Robbie, who replaced “La La Land” star Emma Stone in 2020, play Hollywood stars at very different stages of their careers. Robbie is Nellie LaRoy, an aspiring starlet inspired by the era’s It girls, and Pitt plays movie star Jack Conrad, inspired by actors John Gilbert, Clark Gable and Douglas Fairbanks, who says that when he first moved to L.A., “signs on all the doors said no actors or dogs allowed.” And he changed that.
“It’s written in the stars. I am a star,” Robbie’s character says after snorting cocaine. “If I had money, I would only spend it on things that were fun. Not boring things like taxes. I’m just waiting for everyone to party forever.”
The uncensored, NSFW trailer takes off with madcap humor and lots of drugs, violence and nudity. It features Pitt and Robbie partaking in circus-style parties, punctuated with flying spears, old Studebaker car chases, lavish war sets, and wrapping up with a mad-eyed Robbie shouting at the “Mr. Men” that she’s going to fight a rattle snake.
Most if not all the characters are fictional or composites, with Maguire (also an executive producer) playing a Charlie Chaplin type and Max Minghella playing real-life producer Irving Thalberg, dubbed “the Boy Wonder.”
“The basic idea was just to do a big, epic, multicharacter movie, set in these early days of Los Angeles and Hollywood… when everything was new and wild,” Chazelle has said. “I wanted to capture just how big and bold and brash and unapologetic that world was.”
At TIFF, the director added that he wanted to capture humanity at its “most glamorous and depraved.”
“Babylon” is the first movie Chazelle directed since the 2018 Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” and the first he’s written and directed since helming the colorful 2016 musical “La La Land,” for which he won the directing Oscar. He wrote and directed 2014’s “Whiplash” before that. The film was among a slew of movies that benefited from a 2019 California tax credit program for shooting in and around Los Angeles.
The film hits theaters in limited release on Christmas Day and goes into wide release Jan. 6. It strategically arrives amid a number of prestige titles for awards season, including Steven Spielberg’s “The Fablemans,” Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light,” Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Bardo,” Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” and Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise,” along with “Avatar” and “Black Panther” sequels.