When the Hollywood musical La La Land, by Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle, premiered at the Venice Film Festival, the positive reaction instantly propelled it to the top of Oscar buzz, winning Emma Stone the festival's best actress prize. Stone says that Chazelle's passion drew her to the project. 

Emma Stone and Ryan GoslingEmma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

"It was the ambition," she says. "What he was going for was really exciting and enticing, because I love the originality of it and what it was paying homage to. It was really cool and interesting to be a part of, and equally scary, because if the tone wasn't cohesive from the smaller scenes into these big Cinemascope musical numbers, I didn't know how it would turn out. But that's also the most exciting thing: equal parts 'Who knows?' and 'Let's do it!'"

Chazelle didn't demand Broadway singing and dancing skills, but Stone was still nervous. "I thought the dancing was going to be a challenge," she says. "But that ended up being just pure fun! And Damien took the pressure off of us in a way that if we flubbed a bit or if we weren't at the level of Gene Kelly, it wasn't going to be a deal breaker."

Watch the trailer for 'La La Land' here:


She found her character, the aspiring actress Mia, very easy to identify with. "Being an auditioning actor at any time, you know that feeling of going in and giving it your all and it not working out," Stone says. "It's pretty insane that we're talking about this movie when the goal of my character is to be a part of something just like this. It's a little meta!"

While shooting the film, she wondered how the audience might react. "I'm never exactly sure what people will love or not love about certain scenes," Stone says. "We could be so proud of a dance sequence that we worked on for three months, and everyone on set is clapping and excited about us finally getting it. It's hard to tell if a mass audience is going to think that dance sequence is as exciting as we did on set."

The rapturous response so far shows that she didn't need to worry. "I think it's just nice to see something that's original and has joy in this way," she says. "It's a two-hour escape, but it reminds you of the importance of creativity, of still dreaming even when it feels like hope is gone. I think at a time like this, that's a nice thing to be getting to talk about and putting out into the world."