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Arts and Entertainment

How A Hollywood Director Shut Down An L.A. Freeway Twice For 'La La Land'

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Being a big-shot Hollywood director obviously affords you some degree of power, but La La Land director Damien Chazelle shut down a portion of a busy L.A. freeway twice for the film.

In order to fully depict L.A. as the place dreams are made of, Chazelle, who also directed the Oscar-winning Whiplash, among other films, shot at 48 locations in 42 days for the Ryan Gosling-starring film, according to the Los Angeles Times. To fully capture the L.A. vibe with a surrealist twist, he knew he wanted to open the film with a musical number that takes place during an L.A. traffic jam.

But closing down even part of an L.A. freeway spells “Carmageddon” for residents. So location scout Robert Foulkes chose the EZ Pass ramp that connects the 110 and 105 freeways for the stunning view of the Downtown skyline you get when you crest the ramp. He’d used it before for the film Cake, in a scene in which star Jennifer Aniston considers jumping to her death from a freeway ledge.

So Foulkes then had to persuade Caltrans to shut down the freeway ramp twice — for a six-hour rehearsal, then for a whole weekend in August to film the scene with 100 dancers. To do this, he met with the agency and staged the scene using matchbox cars and asked CHP to secure the area.

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Heat and elevation were primary concerns, according to production designer David Wasco:

“My biggest concern was safety, because it had a very low, knee-high parapet on both sides and a 100-foot drop below. But nobody was hurt. It was challenging, though. We filmed on some of the hottest days of the year. I think it was 108 degrees.”

It’s not unheard of to shut down L.A. freeways for films and viral videos. Filming shuts down freeways here about twice a month, for an average of six hours a week. Sometimes it happens on busy stretches, such as the 105 freeway heading toward LAX, according to NBC.

The film, which stars Gosling and Emma Stone as young hopefuls falling in love in Los Angeles, also uses such iconic locations as the Watts Towers, Griffith Observatory, Angels Flight and Fern Dell Park. La La Land opens Dec. 9.

Sneak a peek of the scene in the trailer below.

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