The following contains mild spoilers for Damien Chazelle's La La Land. Go see the movie (now), and read this after.
In La La Land, a movie filled with jaw-dropping musical numbers, this one is the showstopper. Mia (Emma Stone), having given up her repeated stabs at show business, gets lured back to Los Angeles for one last audition. She's asked by the casting director to tell a story, and Mia begins to sing about her aunt, and a foolish act she pulled off in Paris. In one unbroken scene, Mia sings an ode to the dreamers who chase their dreams, no matter the cost. It's the scene that likely will earn Emma Stone her Oscar nomination, and possibly even her win. And it almost didn't make it into the movie.
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to get an extended period of time with Damien Chazelle, who follows up his masterful Whiplash with the equally brilliant La La Land. And over the course of our discussion, we talked about musical numbers that were in and out of the movie. When he told me that Mia's audition almost got cut, my jaw smacked the table. Chazelle informed me:
There's no number... there's not an edit of the movie where we hadn't cut [some song]. I think the only number that was never cut, just because plot wise it literally could NOT be, was the duet dance atop the hill. But literally, like Emma's audition number, there's a version of the movie where we cut that. Her big number at the end in traffic, and the roommate's number? All cut.
Anyway, there's like vastly shortened versions of the ending. There were cuts with all these things. So, we kind of tried a lot of different things, but ultimately, the numbers all kind of dictated their place, except for this number that we came very close to shooting that we wound up cutting at the 11th hour, basically a few weeks before production, that just didn't earn its keep.
Earlier, I ran a story where Damien Chazelle admitted that he previously had a different opening for La La Land that would have eliminated the traffic jam sequence set to Another Day of Sun in the movie. Which shocks me because, for a movie that seamlessly flows together, there sounds like numerous different cuts and edits to the structure existed until it all snapped into place for the director. And now he's courting Oscar talk, and deservedly so.
Emma Stone's "Audition" plays over this cut of the La La Land trailer:
See how integral it is to Damien Chazelle's brilliant and breathtaking masterpiece, La La Land, which is in select theaters as we speak, and will only continue to expand in weeks to come.