Date of Birth: January 19, 1985
Little did Damien Chazelle know, one of his short films would go on to bring him international recognition and launch his career as one of the industry's most promising writer-directors.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Damien is the son of an American writer (mother Celia) and French computer scientist (father Bernard).
Damien attended Harvard University, graduating with a degree in visual and environmental studies. In 2009, he completed a film that had been originally planned for his thesis project. Titled Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, the micro-budget jazz musical is a product of Damien's writing, editing and producing efforts.
In 2013, Damien released an 18-minute short film called Whiplash. The picture chronicles the tumultuous relationship between a fierce, bullying music teacher and one of his dedicated students. It starred J.K. Simmons and earned Damien the Short Film Jury Prize at Sundance.
The following year, Damien built on the success of his short film Whiplash by writing and directing a feature film (also called Whiplash), which expands the story and delves deeper into the intense and complex dynamic of music teacher and student. J.K. Simmons reprised his role as the intimidating and overbearing teacher, while Miles Teller portrayed the 19-year-old determined and hardworking student. The film was extremely well received, winning three Oscars in 2015 (including one for Simmons in the Best Supporting Actor category). Damien in particular was recognized with a nomination in the Best Adapted Screenplay race. Additionally, Damien was nominated for Best Director at the 2015 Independent Spirit Awards.
Damien, who drew on his own band experiences to create Whiplash, spoke to Indiewire in 2014 about the film's inspiration. He said, "...ever since high school, every month, I've had recurring nightmares about being in band. You think they're going to go away but they don't. It's crazy — it's been over ten years now since I've even been in band, and I have these dreams and I feel like I'm right back there. They're so real — so vivid — and it's terrifying."
In 2016, Damien returned to the horror/thriller genre with 10 Cloverfield Lane. He wrote the film, which is said to be a partial follow-up to 2010's Cloverfield. It stars John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Damien's most recent work is the much-talked about Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling film La La Land, which won the People's Choice Award at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. Damien wrote and directed the romantic musical, which he began writing in 2010. In September 2016, he explained his desire to make the film. He said, "La La Land is about the city I live in, it's about the music that I grew up playing, it's about movies that I grew up watching... Even the big spectacle of the movie feels private to me in that way." For directing this film, he received numerous awards, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe.
He is married to director-producer Jasmine McGlade, whom he met while studying at Harvard.
Photo courtesy © Keystone Press via ZUMA Press. Photographer: Armando Gallo/Arga Images.
Filmography (director):La La Land (2016)
Filmography (writer):La La Land (2016)