Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Q&A: ‘La La Land’ lyricists
“We were surprised that anyone was willing to make an original movie musical,” reveals “La La Land” lyricist Benj Pasek during our recent webcam chat (watch above). Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, this Lionsgate release stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress who falls in love with a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) while chasing her dreams in Los Angeles. The film is a throwback to the golden age of Hollywood movie musicals, and features original songs by Pasek, his writing partner Justin Paul, and composer Justin Hurwitz.
“La La Land” is the duo’s first foray into feature films, following such theatrical successes as “A Christmas Story,” which snagged them Tony nominations for Best Musical and Best Original Score, “Edges,” and “James and the Giant Peach.” Making the leap into a new field was easy, Paul divulges, because, “we felt such confidence in our collaborators.” The director and composer, who had been developing the project for years, “wanted this to feel like a real, true musical. Obviously, the devices are different from a stage musical,” but the attitude was, “come do what you do because we’re wanting to do that, just on film.”
Pasek adds, “ultimately, we’re doing what we do for stage, which is writing songs that progress narrative, and songs that tell story, and songs that can believably come out of a character’s mouth, and help develop and further plot.” Two of those songs, “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fool Who Dreams),” have been submitted for Academy Award consideration. Pasek, Paul and Hurwitz have already won the Los Angeles Film Critics prize for Best Music. Will the Oscar be next? Check out our full interview above for more about their work on “La La Land.”