Babylon: Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie star in trailer
This year’s awards season brings us three great movies about Hollywood; a self-reflexive genre that industry voters just can’t resist. Joining Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, and Sir Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light is Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. The Oscar-winning director is following up Whiplash, La La Land, and First Man with his passion project set in the 1920s. Unlike La La Land’s light-hearted musical twists, this period piece explores the transition of early Hollywood. from silence to sound in all its raw and libertine reality. All the while juxtaposed with an incredible ability to produce such beautiful art in the midst of all the total chaos. Express.co.uk takes a look at the cast of the 3 hour 9 minute epic which hits UK cinemas today.
Babylon Movie Cast: Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie with Tobey Maguire and More
Who is in Babylon?
Babylon cast with director Damien Chazelle (far left)
Brad Pitt – Jack Conrad
Following in the footsteps of his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, the 59-year-old takes on the role of an aging, established movie star; one that feels increasingly irrelevant to industry changes. The adulterer and alcoholic silent film protagonist struggles to adjust to the new world of sound at the dawn of the 1930s. And as a result, he himself faces an existential crisis of sorts. Conrad is heavily based on silent film star John Gilbert, whose acting style did not translate well to talkies.
Speaking to W Magazine, Pitt confessed: “Unfortunately, that melancholy may be my natural way of being, a congenital melancholy. But no, I think there’s a weariness that takes over the character as he progresses. There’s a world-weariness that I certainly identify with a bit. Right now more of us are trying to bring each other down instead of helping each other. I get a little tired.”
Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy and Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad
Margot Robbie – Nellie LaRoy
After Chazelle’s La La Land Oscar-winning star Emma Stone had to leave Babylon due to scheduling conflicts, the 32-year-old Australian was cast as the hyperactive actress. Even before she’s discovered, Nellie claims that you don’t become a star, “you’re either a star or you’re not.” By sheer luck, she becomes an A-lister, but tragically wrapped up in her own addictions and impulses.
Robbie’s character is based on real-life actress Clara Bow, who starred in the first Best Picture-winning film, Wings. She was the original “It Girl” named after her 1927 film of the same name. Though sadly, she also struggled to be taken seriously as an actress when talkies came along with the Great Depression.
Robbie admitted that playing Nellie, a role not dissimilar in personality to her Harley Quinn, has been one of her favorite roles in her film career thus far. She told The Australian: “I definitely relate to Nellie’s drive. She is hell-bent on making it in Hollywood. When you get to Hollywood, there are so many people who want the same thing. You just need to love it more than everyone else.”
Diego Calva as Manny Torres
Diego Calva – Manny Torres
Babylon’s protagonist is a Mexican-American racer who is desperate to break into the film industry, but faces more difficulty getting his foot in the door because of the color of his skin. Manny goes to great lengths to impress his superiors, taking a chance along the way by saying he’s actually from Madrid and convincing a black star to put shoe polish on his face to keep the racist audience happy.
The 30-year-old Narcos actor told The Guardian: “I owe this role to Margot because something happened between me and her. [during our chemistry reading]. That day in Damien’s backyard, I reached a whole new level. Like a video game, you know?
Tobey Maguire as James McKay
Tobey Maguire – James McKay
The Spider-Man star, who also executive produces Babylon, appears in the film as a deranged Los Angeles mob boss. And it turns out that the 47-year-old chose this role out of three or four that he was trying out for in readings with the director.
Chazelle told EW: “It’s kind of funny looking back, it was actually Tobey who chose this character, McKay, out of this variety of choices, who was the creepiest, the most depraved of all of them. I don’t know what that says about Tobey, but that’s what he chose.”
When asked why McKay spoke to him, Maguire replied: “Oh, that’s a good question. [Laughs] I dont know. There was something appealing about playing James, because he was unusual and I really liked the character. I liked the role he plays in the story, and where he comes from. [into play], elevating the film and these boys to that underbelly, to that world. It seemed fun. And he didn’t have a very clear vision of what he was going to do, which was kind of exciting. There were just so many possibilities in the characterization.”
Jean Smart as Elinor St John
Jean Smart – Elinor St. John
The 71-year-old powerful Hollywood gossip columnist draws on several writers of the time.
Speaking to Radio Times, Smart said: “There’s a girl, Elinor Glyn, who was a British screenwriter who came to Hollywood in the 1920s. She and she, too, was a novelist: she is credited with coming up with the phrase It Girl and helping make Clara Bow a star, and she even wrote one of Clara Bow’s screenplays. She also wrote a novel called Three Weeks, which was considered a kind of 1920s version of 50 Shades of Grey. So she was also quite an unconventional person, but she was drawn to what was going on here and she moved to Hollywood. And I think even though she seems to be kind of an objective observer, you see towards the end that she’s also caught up in movie magic and how she literally makes people immortal.”
The supporting cast also includes Jovan Adepo as jazz trumpeter Sidney Palmer and Li Jun Li as Chinese-American lesbian cabaret singer Lady Fay Zhu. Notable cameos also include Katherine Waterson as Estelle Conrad (Jack’s third wife), Flea as studio executive Don Wallach, Eric Roberts as Nellie’s father Robert Roy, Ethan Suplee as McKay’s bodyguard Wilson, Olivia Wilde as Ina Conrad (Jack’s ex-wife) and Spike Jonze as German film director Otto Von Strassberger.
Babylon is now available in UK cinemas.
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