Damien Chazelle has won his first Academy Award as the director of the movie musical La La Land. He was also nominated for the film’s screenplay earlier in the night, and was previously nominated for the screenplay of his 2014 breakout film Whiplash.
Chazelle won in a field populated by acclaimed newcomer Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), the questionably redeemed Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), recent hitmaker Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), and Academy favorite Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea). In a fairly cookie-cutter acceptance speech, he thanked his fellow nominees, “Emma [Stone] and Ryan [Gosling] for bringing the movie to life,” and his wife, emphasizing that La La Land is “a movie about love.”
The win was expected after Chazelle won Best Director at the Golden Globes in January, part of a record-breaking awards sweep for La La Land. Leading up to the Oscars, he also won awards from the Director’s Guild of America, the British Academy of Television and Film, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, among others. The 32-year-old filmmaker is just months younger than Norman Taurog, the deceased director of the 1931 film Skippy, who had held the record as the youngest person to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
This makes five wins for La La Land so far, including Original Song, Original Score, Production Design, and Cinematography. La La Land is also up for the prizes of Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Picture, which will be announced shortly.