Edgar Wright Talks ‘BABY DRIVER’ From SXSW Festival
Following the first trailer that Sony’s TriStar Pictures released of writer-director Edgar Wright’s new film, BABY DRIVER, the film had its premiere at this year’s South by Southwest Festival (SXSW).
Wright spoke with Comingsoon about his first straight-forward crime film, who’s known for genre-bending comedy director and hits like Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.
Comingsoon revealed that although the film feels very much an Edgar Wright, at the same time it doesn’t.
“It is not specifically a comedy. If Blockbuster still existed, it would be in the action section or the thriller section. It is funny in places but it is a crime action thriller. But there are elements of my other movies in there and I think almost the entire movie is built out of doing sequences in my other films and TV work, scenes choreographed to music and I had so much fun doing those, that I basically came up with this movie to have a way to do that for an entire film. It is a movie that is heavily sound centric, so the action and the drama is choreographed to the music but also in a way that it’s not score played on. The main character is listening to the tracks in the movie, so it is diegetic music in a way. We are essentially seeing it through the main character’s ears.”
Wright also talked about who is the title character.
“From the title, it’s about a young getaway driver and when I was auditioning young actors for the part, Ansel as soon as I saw him he was a favorite from the get go, not just because he is a music fan and plays music but also because he is genuinely young. His presence as a young actor, 20 and turned 21 on set, is worked into the film as this young apprentice to this gang, which, within the movie, the way it comes about is he is on the bubble about whether he wants to be involved in this life or not. So at the start of the movie, the character of Baby is someone who is working within a gang but does not see himself as part of the gang. So the question of the movie is, ‘can you be involved in crime without being a criminal?’ The answer is no. [laughs] As you will discover over 130 minutes.”
One thing that is especially surprising is the cast– Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Lily James.
“It was amazing. Jon is actually the only person I wrote with in mind. I did a read-through of the first deaf, I finished the first draft in 2011, Jon Hamm was the only person at the table who is still here playing the same part. So I had Jon in mind, obviously I didn’t necessarily know who would be Baby. And then people like Kevin and Jamie, it’s like one of those things that happens on films, big actors’ names come up and you go ‘well they’d be amazing, but I don’t know if they’d do it’ and then they did. The thing you’ll see is it’s not one of those movies where you have a big cast that’s doing like short cameos they did in 32 hours. They’re in the movie, they’re part of the ensemble. Kevin and Jamie and Jon were there for the entire shoot and really felt like an ensemble.
I actually admitted this to her the other day, I had never seen DOWNTON ABBEY. The only thing I’d seen her in was CINDERELLA and I auditioned her and it was great, she came in doing the accent and became this other person, so it was a great way to meet someone through being the character rather than this general knowledge of their work. She’s really, incredibly charming and there’s a sweetness to her that factors into this movie, because she’s sort of the ray of light from a completely different life in the movie. And it was great. Especially for her third American role. And she’s quite a comedian as well. I showed this to a director friend of mine and he said, ‘who’s that girl playing Debra?’ ‘That’s Lily James.’ ‘What would I have seen her in?’ ‘Have you seen CINDERELLA?’ ‘Yeah, who did she play?’ [beat] ‘She played Cinderella.’ So that was really her disappearing into the role. We were the only Brits on set and I would call her, in a cockney accent, Cinders the entire time. She was also rehearsing for ROMEO & JULIET for Kenneth Branagh at the time, so I’d also call her Jules. I’d get ROMEO & JULIET on my phone and start reading it out to her, ‘hark, what light through yonder window breaks’, and she’d start doing it back to me. When you’re doing a car chase movie, you’re sitting in a car waiting for places or grips or stuff for quite a while.”
And lastly, when it comes to doing a movie, you will watch other recent or past films in order to get influenced for that particular look that you want to achieve in your product. What was Wright’s?
“There is a holy trinity of ’90s heist movies I hold very dear– RESERVOIR DOGS, POINT BREAK and HEAT. They’re all in California and all in similar ways have this aspect of the planning that goes into a heist and what happens when they take a serious left turn. If you go further back, like STRAIGHT TIME is another one that I’m a big fan of based on Edward Baum’s book, which I think weirdly is an influence on RAISING ARIZONA and RESERVOIR DOGS, but they all have sequences that are somewhat similar. There’s a scene in STRAIGHT TIME where the getaway driver chickens out and leaves them there and it turns into a foot chase. Then the most obvious one that is a big influence on me and is even reference in the title is Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER, which is one of my favorite films and I’ve always been really beguiled by that movie. I saw it as a teenager. I actually got to know Walter through doing a Q&A with him on THE DRIVER and I think I spent most of my last 12 years convincing Walter Hill it is a classic. [laughs] He’s a very modest man and I think I finally convinced him by going on about it the entire time. Walter makes sort of an appearance in the movie as you’ll see or hear. If there is one movie you can trace the family tree back to, it would be that one.”
Baby Driver hits theaters on August 11.