The memorable freeway ramp dance sequence was shot in only two days with 150 dancers in 110 degree heat, “La La Land” producer Marc Platt recalled at Saturday’s Producers Guild of America nominees panel.
“Shutting down the freeway didn’t seem that impossible when I first read the Damien Chazelle’s script,” Platt told an audience of about 600 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. The event was held for the 10 nominated films for the PGA’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award for top feature film production released in 2016.
“We closed the ramp between the 105 and the 110 freeways for a Saturday and a Sunday in September,” Platt noted. “When we were done, Everyone was exhausted but no one wanted to leave so we were able to show the footage on monitors on the ramp to the 150 people applauding and crying.”
The Honorees at the 2017 PGA Awards
Platt, who has credits going back to the 1980s, also told the audience that it was a joy to shoot locally: “It was only the third time in 30 years that I got to shoot in LA and it was glorious to be able to see my family at night.”
The two-hour event, moderated by PGA co-president Gary Lucchesi, was punctuated by tales of the intricacies of development and production.
“Casey Affleck wanted to play Desmond Doss in 2003 but I couldn’t get it financed,” said “Hacksaw Ridge” producer Bill Mechanic. He noted that Mel Gibson passed twice on directing in 2002 and 2010 before coming on board in 2015 and noted that Affleck reminded him recently that he had sought the Doss part 14 years ago.
“They never forget,” Mechanic added.
“Hidden Figures” producer Donna Gigliotti evoked major applause by noting that Ted Melfi took himself out of the running for “Spider-Man” to direct “Hidden Figures.” She also said praised Kevin Costner for agreeing to work for less than the three stars — Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer.
“Kevin’s the fourth banana,” Gigliotti recalled telling Costner’s reps. “He can’t get more cash than any of these three women.”
“Deadpool” producer Simon Kinberg recalled that Fox studio executives were hands-off during production because his movie was relatively inexpensive at under $60 million. “They didn’t interfere because it wasn’t a big movie,” he added.
“Deadpool” is by far the biggest grosser of all 10 nominees with more than $700 million in worldwide box office. Kinberg also impressed the audience by recounting that the first movie that he saw in a theater was 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back” in Los Angeles.
“My dad took me on a Saturday and I didn’t want to leave the theater when it was over,” he added. “I think I saw it 15 times that weekend.”
Platt recalled at the PGA panel that the first movie he saw in person was “Mary Poppins” in 1964 and added, “I’m beginning on the sequel on Tuesday.”
The winner of the Zanuck award will be announced Saturday night at the Beverly Hills Hilton.