How is Miles’ physicality shifting now then, with him both training to be a boxer in “Bleed For This” and a pianist in “La La Land”?
Yeah, he's definitely getting into roles that require more and more training. He had to become a jazz drumming virtuoso for this movie, and he has to become a drummer and play the piano for the next. We joke he'll have to become Gene Kelly for “La La Land”, but more like Gene Kelly meets Thelonious Monk.
The great thing about him is that he breathes those challenges. I was pretty confident that he had what it took for this role in “Whiplash” beforehand. It's funny, because when you first meet him he just seems like a jokester and a party boy—you're like, "How did you play ‘Rabbit Hole’?" Then you get to know him just a tiny bit more and you see underneath there's this whole other person with drive and focus. I think he's more similar to the guy you see in “Whiplash” than people think.
You’ve tackled polar opposites tone-wise with your music-driven films, [Chazelle’s debut] “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” and “Whiplash”. Where on the spectrum are you falling with “La La Land”?
It's gonna be this MGM-style film with big song and dance numbers. The models are “Singin’ In The Rain,” “The Star is Born,” “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” “Meet Me in St Louis,” etc., but also the French New Wave, Jacques Demy, “Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” Definitely a completely different register than "Whiplash," but hopefully—I like movies that go for broke, so hopefully it'll have the same energy. The mood will be different, though.
You're starting that next year?
Are you going for the MGM-style pre-record for the musical numbers, or trying to capture them live?
Eh, it was good enough for Fred and Ginger it should be good enough for us. I think the problem is that people have forgotten how to pre-record. So you see a lot of musicals where you can really hear the pre-record; it sounds like someone pressing "play" on a CD, because they've designed the number as if it's going out on the radio. But if you look at Fred and Ginger or Gene Kelly's stuff it's much different. They recorded dialogue differently back then, studio controlled, all that stuff, and they did the singing differently—much more conversational, a little more distance and less goosed up. So everything feels more of a piece.
But for the kind of dance numbers that we're going to do in this movie there's no possibility—and no point—to do them live. In “Whiplash” there's hardly anything that's live and we managed something there. You just have to know how to do it properly. The thing about musicals is—if you screw them up, there's nothing worse, but if you do them right, there's nothing better. They're this huge risk/reward genre so you can really fall on your face, but if you get it right the sky's the limit. It just lifts off the screen, and it's why a lot of those old MGM movies still feel just as fresh today as they did back then. I guess I'm both scared and excited to do the next one.