Ardmore native gets 2 Oscar nominations as part of 'La La Land's' record-tying number

The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning, with the musical La La Land raking in a whopping 14 nods, including a double nomination for Ardmore's Benj Pasek in the best original song category.

It's no surprise: La La Land has been an awards-season favorite since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the romantic ode to Los Angeles took home seven Golden Globes at last month's awards.  

Read more: "La La Land" opens Philly film fest with joyous song-and-dance love story. 

What is surprising is how many Philadelphians worked behind the scenes on the movie, about an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician who fall in love.

Damien Chazelle was nominated for best director and best original screenplay, after taking home the Golden Globes this month for both those efforts. Chazelle spent a few nursery school years in Haverford before his academic parents decamped the family to Princeton. This is his second film after the well-received Whiplash, which netted Chazelle his first Oscar nod for best adapted screenplay at the 87th annual ceremony. 

Read more: Damien Chazelle, of "Whiplash" fame, revives the great Hollywood musical in "La La Land."

Friends' Central grad Pasek took home the Golden Globe for best original song for penning the lyrics to "City of Stars," along with composer Justin Hurwitz and writing partner Justin Paul. "We never thought we'd be a part of an original movie musical," Pasek said on stage in Los Angeles while accepting the Golden Globe. "This is for musical theater nerds everywhere."

Pasek got two nominations: One for "City of Stars," and the other for "Audition (The Fools Who Dream).

It’s a good year for Pasek. He also has a well-reviewed show on Broadway, Dear Evan Hansen, based on a troubled kid he knew of in high school. Toby Zinman called the show "heartrending and gorgeous."

Read more: Friends' Central's Benj Pasek tearing up Hollywood, Broadway.

But that's not all. Producer Marc Platt is a 1979 University of Pennsylvania alum. He'll get to take the stage when/if La La Land wins best picture.

Though they won't get the nod on stage (producers are given only best picture credit), the executive-producing team behind La La Land is stacked with Philadelphians. Executive producer and costar John Legend matriculated at Penn, like Platt. Legend is joined by his two producing partners: Wynnewood's Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, who grew up with Jackson and sang a capella with Legend at Penn. They're the principals behind the Get Lifted Film Co., the firm that also produced the Barack and Michelle Obama romance Southside with You, the WGN drama Underground, and Turn Me Loose, the Off-Broadway play about comedian Dick Gregory, starring Scandal's Joe Morton.

“We make smart choices,” Jackson said this month about Get Lifted's success, at the Television Critics Association.

“So far, so good,” Legend said.

Jackson -- who went to Friends' Central, Lower Merion High School, and Penn State -- was also a 2003 Daily News Sexy Single. Here's his entry to prove that once a Sexy Single, always a Sexy Single:

Stiklorius attended Friends' Central, where she played basketball.

Legend said there was a connection between La La Land and his team's work on Underground. “We want to entertain, we want to inspire, we want to enlighten, highlight interesting subjects that may have been overlooked," he said at the biannual gathering of television critics in Los Angeles, "and tell the stories of diverse storytellers and diverse groups of people in ways that spark conversation, make our country and our world and our art more interesting."

With so many local connections, can we expect Philly Land next? Please?

See whether these Philly guys take home the gold at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 26 on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel is set to host.


This article draws on material in the digital archives of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. Search the archives for yourself, and subscribe for full access.