You could be forgiven for thinking First Man director Damien Chazelle has been making movies for, well, ages — such is his eminence and success. But in fact, the Oscar-winning director only made one of the four feature films to his name prior to 2014 – his 2009 directorial debut, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, a romantic musical drama about a jazz trumpeter.
It was just four years ago that jazz drumming opus Whiplash hit screens, a film — Chazelle’s second — that went onto Oscar success. Just like his third, La La Land, in fact, which nabbed six Academy Awards at the 2017 ceremony, with the Best Director gong going to Chazelle. At just 32 years old, Chazelle went on record as the youngest ever director to win the honour. His fourth film, the upcoming First Man — a biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong and his historic moon landing – has also been tipped for Oscar success.
It’s been an incredible start to his career. But what if his next film fails to reach the same heady heights and achieve the recognition of his last three? Will he cower in a corner and throw in the towel?
Setbacks Can Be Blessings in Disguise
Chazelle laughs. “I hope not,” he says. “I was just talking earlier about how, certainly in all the years before Whiplash, you kind of never really know when setbacks are actually going to be blessings in disguise. All you can really do is keep going and keep finding joy in the work. I was making home movies as a kid with no expectation of any recognition and I try to tap back into that mindset a little bit with every movie that I do. And certainly, whatever movie I do next I’ll try to just find the joy in the making of it.”
Oscar recognition must be nice though. What would it mean to Chazelle to win for First Man?
“It certainly would be wonderful but again it’s… I find it hard to…,” he tails off, searching for the right words. “Those things are out of your hands to a certain extent so you try not to think about them too much. And you try to just… if anything, I find what makes the [awards] season easier to handle is to be working on something else. Partly how I dealt with the La La Land campaign was to be working on First Man during it. So, I think, now I’m starting to write again and that’s been a good process for me. So, I think I just try to stay busy on the next thing as much as I can.”
We’ll have to wait until early next year to see how First Man is regarded in the eyes of the Academy — by which point Chazelle will presumably have his head well and truly buried in his next highly anticipated project.
First Man hits screens in the US and UK on October 12 and in Australia on October 11.