Margot Robbie snorting the Paramount logo. Brad Pitt dancing in his pants. A penis-shaped pogo stick. Sex, drugs (lots of drugs) and jazz (so much jazz). One quick watch of the trailer for Damien Chazelle’s Babylon tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the kind of tone, energy and shock-factor that the Whiplash director is going for in his new exploration of 1920s Hollywood, and its transition from silent movies to talking pictures. If you haven’t seen that teaser yet, we’ll give you a clue – it ain’t subtle.
This kind of maximalist filmmaking is something that Robbie experienced before with Martin Scorsese’s bonkers banking biopic The Wolf Of Wall Street – but, apparently, Babylon takes the kind of antics that made that movie such a standout to a whole new level. “I remember being on set for [The Wolf Of Wall Street] and thinking, ‘I’ll never be in a film as crazy as this ever again,’” Robbie tells Empire, in our major new world-exclusive Indiana Jones 5 issue. “And then I made Babylon. There’s a dizzying amount of debauchery. One of the most disturbing, chaotic scenes I’ve ever witnessed is in this film, and it involves a fight with a snake. I won’t tell you who wins or loses that fight, but trust me, it’s insane.” Forget Idris Elba punching a lion in Beast – this January, it’s all about Robbie wrestling a reptile in Babylon.
It’s quite the departure from Chazelle’s previous depiction of the city of angels, La La Land, which was more about swooning romance and sweeping dance sequences than experimenting with just how many expressions of bodily fluids can be fit into one film. But it’s the juxtaposition between Hollywood’s riotous underbelly and the elegant work it was producing that the director found so interesting about this era. “Hollywood back then was a place where, from the most depraved animalistic behaviour, emerged these works of art that were so beautiful and alluring,” Chazelle tells Empire. “1920s Hollywood really was a cesspool of vice, hubris and excess. We tried to put that on screen. All of it.” Gird your loins, people. We’re in for a wild ride.
Read Empire’s full Babylon feature, speaking to Damien Chazelle, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Li Jun Li and more, in the brand new, world-exclusive Indiana Jones 5 issue. On sale Thursday 24 November, or you can pre-order a copy here. Babylon is in cinemas from 20 January 2023.