Originally, “Babylon” was slated for a December 25 limited release, followed by a January 6, 2023 wide release. Instead, the film will open in more than 3,000 theaters nationwide on December 23.
Former “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” co-stars Robbie and Pitt reunite for Chazelle’s star-studded take on the pitfalls of fame and the slow-moving tide of change in the film industry. Set during the transitional period in Hollywood when silent movies gave way to talkies, Robbie stars as aspiring actress Nellie LaRoy, who is an amalgam of early “talkies” stars Clara Bow, Jeanne Eagels, John Crawford, and Alma Rubens. With dreams of reaching stardom, Nellie crosses paths with aging icon Jack Conrad (Pitt), inspired by John Gilbert, Clark Gable, and Douglas Fairbanks.
The ensemble cast also includes Samara Weaving, Li Jun Li, Katherine Waterston, Olivia Wilde, Spike Jonze, Jean Smart, Lukas Haas, Jovan Adepo, Tobey Maguire (who also executive produces), Diego Calva, and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. Max Minghella is playing the only real-life figure included in the historical fiction feature, studio exec Irving Thalberg.
“La La Land” director Chazelle writes and directs the feature, which is produced by Marc Platt and Matthew Plouffe. Executive producers include Michael Beugg, actor Tobey Maguire, Wyck Godfrey, Helen Estabrook, and Adam Siegel.
Chazelle also previously explained that the “big, epic, multi-character movie” has been 15 years in the making. He finally penned the screenplay after 2018’s “First Man” and tasked “La La Land” Oscar-winning cinematographer Linus Sandgren and composer Justin Hurwitz to join.
“‘Babylon’ was the biggest cast, the biggest number of roles I’ve ever juggled by far,” Chazelle said during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. “The casting process took a long, long time. It’s a mostly fictional film where the characters are fictional but inspired by composites of real-life people. Writing them I was getting inspiration from a lot of those real-life sources, but pretty quickly, you move to the casting phase and you’re just looking for people to surprise you. That was the guiding principle, to demolish all preconceived notions of that era, those people, and find actors who would convey that spirit.”
He added, “It was my first time doing a real ensemble, panoramic movie. I was trying to look at novels and movies like certain Fellini pictures like ‘La Dolce Vita,’ Altman movies like ‘Nashville,’ the ‘Godfather’ pictures. These old-school epics that manage through a handful of characters to convey a sense of an entire society evolving and changing, so that by the end of the movie, you’re in a completely different world.”