Babylon London film premiere 2023
An original epic set in 1920s Los Angeles led by Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva, with an ensemble cast including Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li and Jean Smart. A tale of outsized ambition and outrageous excess, it traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood.
Babylon London Premieres null
- Status: Not information yet
- Date: Not information yet
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- Release in Cinemas: 2022-12-23
- Runtime: 189 minutes
- directors: Damien Chazelle
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- Nellie's $85,000 gambling debt is the equivalent of $1,847,112.04 in 2022.
- The character of Lady Fay Zhu is loosely based on Anna May Wong (1905-1961) the first Chinese-American actress in Hollywood whose career spanned both silent and sound films.
- Olivia Hamilton's character is based on Dorothy Arzner, one of the first female directors in early Hollywood, and the inventor of the boom mic. Due to the technical restrictions of early talkies, she asked to put a microphone on a fishing rod to avoid restricting the actors' movements.
- The character Jack Conrad appears to be based on John Gilbert, a leading MGM star of the 1920s. Talkies revealed to many an apparent mismatch between his soft voice and his dashing on-screen persona, leading to dwindling roles, a drinking problem, and a death by heart attack in 1936, at the age of 38. Gossip columnist Elinor St. John's line about Conrad near the end of this film was true also of Gilbert; despite his final MGM films tanking, he was still getting one of the largest paychecks in Hollywood due to his former fame and contract. Gilbert's story also inspired the screenplay for Singin' in the Rain (1952), particularly one of the clips featured in this film.
- Director Damien Chazelle said about working with Margot Robbie as Nellie, "I needed someone utterly fearless. I had a sense she would attack it. There's this sort of ravenous physical bravado to her. On the other hand, she's also the most technically skilled thespian you could hope to work with as a director."
- Emma Stone was originally cast in the lead role, which was announced to be based on Clara Bow, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts after the production was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After Margot Robbie replaced her, the role was reworked to become more fictional in nature.
- Damien Chazelle mentioned that a version of the film exists that was shot entirely on his phone in his backyard, with him, his wife, and Diego Calva playing every role. It was to help get Calva more involved in a rehearsal process after the pandemic shut production down. He joked that this version is pretty good, too.
- When Jack Conrad arrives at the party, speaking Italian, his wife says he is from Shawnee. Brad Pitt is actually from Shawnee, Oklahoma.
- Damien Chazelle pitched this film to a producer in 2009. He thought it was a bit ambitious for the filmmaker at the time, but liked the idea of the film's relationship with music, and suggested Chazelle try to write a musical. That film idea ultimately became La La Land (2016).
- Nellie is inspired by Clara Bow, the original "It Girl" who scandalized the United States by being open about her sexual desires.
- The film depicts the extreme excesses of the early film industry, just before the Hays Production Code. In the early and mid-1920s, wild parties, sex, alcohol, drugs, and other behaviors caused a series of scandals. The major studios wanted to to control actors and actresses outside the filming sets and present a more respectable, distinguished, elegant image to the audience. Will H. Hays, a prominent right-wing politician and Presbyterian deacon, designed the Hays Code after the Fatty Arbuckle scandal. The code banned on-screen nudity and drug use, and reduced the role of the women in the movies. The code started eroding in the late 1940s, but it prevailed until 1967, when Jack Valenti voted to replace it with a new rating system, which remains in use.
- Damien Chazelle detailed the casting of Diego Calva as the lead as a rigorous two-year process. He sifted through hundreds of thousands of headshots before stumbling on Calva's. He said he was sold on his "eyes and overall look," and wanted a lead that "didn't come with emotional baggage for the audience to connect to." This, and Zoom auditions, resulted in Calva landing the role.
- Nellie LaRoy ices her nipples between takes. It was Jean Harlow's trademark back in the day.
- The opening title card doesn't appear until the 32 minute mark.
- Both Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio read Damien Chazelle's script for Babylon (2022) while filming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). DiCaprio's friend Tobey Maguire is one of the producers of Babylon.
- Each time that Jack Conrad is seen, between filming scenes, throwing out ideas for films and scripts, he includes famous quotes from other films. The quotes are almost all of films made long after this film is set and there is always a change. For example, Terminator 2's "hasta la vista, baby" becomes "hasta la vista, MF" and Gone With The Wind's "frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" becomes "frankly my dear, you're a C"
- John Gilbert's voice was not the famed falsetto the public have been led to believe it was. Louis B Mayer tried to force Gilbert to quit his contract by giving him subpar talkies with mediocre directors. On his first talkie Mayer instructed sound engineers to remove the bass in his voice, leading to a softer and higher tone. The scene where Jack watches audiences laugh at his scene saying "I love you, I love you, I love you", was exactly what happened to Gilbert. When Gilbert announced his marriage to his co-star Mayer suggested, "Why do you have to marry her? Just sleep with her!" to which Gilbert hit Mayer. As a consequence Mayer vowed to destroy Gilbert's career. When Gilbert's career ground to a halt he descended into alcoholism leading him to die at a relatively young age. Many of his films have been lost or destroyed.
- In April 2022, it was announced that Tobey Maguire would play Charles Chaplin in this film. He actually plays a fictional character, a mobster named James McKay.
- An early scene in which an extremely overweight man apparently kills a much younger woman during sex is a reference to an encounter between Virginia Rappe and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in September 1921. Rappe's bladder ruptured during sex, resulting in a fatal infection. In the period between the injury and her death, Rappe and her friend Maude Delmont accused Arbuckle of rape. William Randolph Hearst created a moral panic by running a series of completely fictionalized stories in his newspapers, accusing Arbuckle of a variety of crimes, and sensationalizing the details of Rappe's assault. Arbuckle's films were banned, and he was tried three times in 1921-1922. The first two trials ended in hung juries, and the third ended in acquittal. Delmont later admitted that the sex was consensual, and said she and Rappe would have recanted their accusations in exchange for a sizable payment. Arbuckle died eleven years later in 1933, at the age of 46, just as he was starting to find film work again.
- The female director's request that Nellie cry just a single tear was inspired by child actress Margaret O'Brien, who could cry at any level required by her director.
- At 59, Brad Pitt is more than 20 years older than John Gilbert was at the time of his death. Pitt's character, Jack Conrad, is based on Gilbert.
- The final moments of Jack Conrad who, reminiscing on his past successes, leaves the party below to walk up stairs to his room where he shoots himself parallels the alleged suicide of George Reeves. Reeves allegedly left his party guests retiring to the upstairs bedroom of his home where he died of a gunshot wound to the head. Like Conrad, Reeves' alleged suicide was attributed to depression caused by his failed career and inability to find more work.
- Newspaper article shown reads: "Nellie LaRoy, former silent star, found dead at 34. Nellie LaRoy, a vivacious presence who graced the silver screen towards the end of the silent film period, was found dead in a run-down Hollywood apartment yesterday. Police have released a preliminary report stating that no foul play is suspected. Sources have indicated her untimely passing yesterday was likely the results of an accidental overdose. Miss LeRoy first caught Hollywood's attention with her scene-stealing role in Constance Moore's 'Maid's Off.' She was quickly signed to a contract at Kinoscope by studio chief Don Wallach. Miss LeRoy's notable features included 'Home Wrecker,' 'The Wild Child, and 'The Dirty Deed.'"
- Margot Robbie's overalls-only costume references a vintage photo of silent film actress Bessie Love, who, despite her innocent public image, appeared in numerous nude photos and illustrations.
- Jean Smart said when she read the script, she was concerned it would end up being X-rated so no one could see it, but she still wanted to be part of it when she saw the cast they were bringing on board.
- The movie's title refers to Babylon, a city founded around the late 19th century BCE in what is now modern-day Iraq. According to the Bible, Babylon became a large and splendorous city over the years, but decayed into vice. It was dissolved in the early Middle Ages when invaded by Arabs.
- This is the first collaboration between Margot Robbie and Samara Weaving. Both actresses are Australian, and often figure in lists of "reasonable likeness" because their strong resemblance to each other.
- Damien Chazelle began writing this film in 2009, before La La Land (2016) or musicals were even something he thought about tackling in his filmmaking career.
- While on a podcast, Damien Chazelle stated the script was inspired by the TV show Babylon Berlin (2017).
- This film was seemingly inspired by Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon, about the alleged scandals of early Hollywood, which historians have widely considered fabricated. It claimed that Clara Bow had sex with the entire USC football team, including a young John Wayne, and covered Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's infamous scandal for the death of Virginia Rappe, events that both resemble scenes in this film. Bow's sons considered suing Anger, but didn't.
- The following characters were inspired by real-life people: Jack Conrad - Actors Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, Rudolph Valentino, and Clark Gable Nellie LaRoy - Actresses Clara Bow, Mabel Normand, Joan Crawford, Jeanne Eagels, and Alma Rubens Manny Torres - Director René Cardona, director Dudley Murphy, actor Ramon Novarro, cinematographer Enrique Juan Vallejo, and sound engineers Joselito Rodríguez and Roberto Rodríguez Elinor St. John - Screenwriter Elinor Glyn, journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns, and gossip columnist Louella Parsons Lady Fay Zhu - Actress Anna May Wong, screenwriter Frances Marion, and choreographer Marion Morgan Sidney Palmer - Jazz musicians Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith, Curtis Mosby, Les Hite, Sonny Clay, and Sidney Easton James McKay - Mafia boss Jack Dragna Ruth Adler - Directors Dorothy Arzner, Alice Guy, and Lois Weber Otto Von Strassberger - Directors F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Erich von Stroheim, Josef von Sternberg, and Ernst Lubitsch Constance Moore - Actresses Colleen Moore, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, and Mary Pickford (the real Constance Moore's career didn't start until the late 1930s) Estelle - Actress Ina Claire Don Wallach - Studio executive Louis B. Mayer Orville Pickwick - Comedian Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle Jane Thornton - Actress Virginia Rappe
- Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt previously starred in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), which explores the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.
- In a 2023 interview with Collider, Damien Chazelle spoke about the storytelling strategy of using long takes (or "oners") vs quick editing in the film:, "As a result, with this movie, it felt like, in general, where we leaned into oners would mainly be, for instance, in the first third of the film. It's always helpful, I think, as a way of introducing the world in a way that feels kind of real-time, especially when you're showing really over-the-top stuff, to almost prove the reality of it, to not overly cut it, to just allow you, the viewer, through the camera to discover it the way you would at a party like that or on a film set, just kind of looking around peering. So preserving that, it almost creates a kind of documentary reality to it that I like. But there's also a kind of exuberance, and it's weird to talk about romanticism with that party, but it's sort of a romance to that kind of shooting that I think is very different from the type of shooting and cutting we tried to employ in the second half of the film once sound comes in and suddenly people can't move the way they want to anymore. So it felt appropriate that the camera would become much more static and things would become much more reliant on quick, sometimes violently quick, cuts in the scene where they're trying to shoot sound for the first time. So it was thinking of that as an oppositional strategy where we begin with oners and end in a place where the editing was telling the story."
- The fictional Kinoscope studio was critical for Damien Chazelle's evocation of 1920s Hollywood, explains production designer Florencia Martin, and the vast studio setting was built on location and showed the sets and the desert simultaneously to give the viewers a full sense of that world. The bar set where Margot Robbie's Nellie shoots her first film was based on Chazelle's hand-drawn storyboards. "We picked a Western gold rush bar in Northern California and frosted the windows with snow," says Martin.
- The opening scene of the film, which lasts over 30 minutes, features "Fellini-esque debauchery" and graphic imagery involving a long orgy, reminiscent of films such as Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
- After seeing the film, actor Eric Roberts praised Margot Robbie's performance. He compared it to Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and said he feels Robbie could win an Oscar for it. However, on January 25, 2023 when the Oscars nominations for the 95th Academy Awards were announced, Robbie wasn't nominated as Best Actress.
- During the end montage before the credits there's a flash frame of the film's actual Clapper board. It reads, 480/X91N/3ER Babylon 10.14.21.
- The suicide of Jack Conrad seems to be based on that of former MGM actor Karl Dane in April 1934.
- Since the film takes place when breast implants didn't exist and women had pubic hair, the casting team searched for actresses with real breasts and pubic hair for the orgy and other nude scenes. They manage to find enough actresses with real breasts, but their vulvas were shaved. The makeup department had to prepare several merkins (pubic "wigs") for the actresses.
- Actor Diego Calva said that after a few days of filming he got used to being surrounded by naked people everywhere he looked. Margot Robbie said she and the rest of the cast got "desensitized" to it pretty quickly.
- In November 2019, the California Film Commission awarded the project a $17.5 million tax credit allocation for shooting in the state of California. The commission estimated that the film would generate $83.4 million in "qualified spending," defined as below-the-line wages to California workers and payments to in-state vendors, but it was contingent on production beginning within 180 days. The pandemic caused scheduling delays, and the production didn't make the deadline.
- Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie don't share a scene until 1 hour and 24 minutes into the movie.
- During press for Amsterdam (2022), which stars Margot Robbie, Andrea Riseborough revealed that she almost played a role in Babylon, but scheduling conflicts didn't permit her involvement. She and Robbie expressed their regret that they hadn't shared any direct scenes in either film.
- Just as Margot Robbie eventually took over the lead role from Emma Stone in this film, Stone was cast over Robbie in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014).
- The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Brad Pitt and Spike Jonze; and two Oscar nominees: Margot Robbie and Eric Roberts.
- Justin Hurwitz, a frequent collaborator of Chazelle, composed the film's score. Two tracks from the score, "Call Me Manny" and "Voodoo Mama," were released digitally on November 10, 2022, the latter track being used to underscore the film's first trailer. The soundtrack album was released by Interscope Records on December 9, 2022.
- Filming was initially set to take place in California in mid-2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- At one point, a crew members says "I didn't realize we were making Ben-Hur." Later, the focus shifts to MGM studios. The original silent Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) had a budget of $4 million, and made $10.7 million at the box office. Ben-Hur (1959) had a budget of $15.2 million, and made a profit of $146.9 million on its initial release. They were were MGM's most profitable films between 1926 and 1959.
- Margot Robbie admitted she used a body double for the scene where she flashes a breast while dancing on a table.