Interview: Scott Pilgrim director Edgar Wright: Extended Edition!

Whenever you interview someone on camera, it's always a fairly short affair and I always leave with about 100 questions I didn't get to ask. Luckily, I was able to bank a lot of those questions and save them for this extended chat with Mr. Edgar Wright.

Edgar was insanely generous with his time and I even had to stop him at a certain point because I'm sure we could've just kept going and going (and he had a tour of Pixar to get to). Unlike some other interviews, where I edit a lot of stuff out, this is our entire conversation, warts and all. Hope you enjoy.

Edgar Wright

Hey man, how's it going?

Good man, how are you?


Sorry you had to get up so early.

Oh no no, it's OK. We're in San Francisco actually. We just flew from LA to San Francisco. I slept for three hours I think.

One of these days you'll get more than five hours sleep.

(Laughs) Once this film is done, I'm retiring.


I'm just sick of talking about ANT MAN so whenever people ask me, "So what's next?!" I just say I'm retiring.

It's got to be frustrating when news like that breaks before a big press tour because it monopolizes so much of your time.

It hasn't been too bad with this one because people have seen the film and there's plenty to talk about but usually prior to that people say, "So tell us about your new film?" And you go blah-blah-blah-blah and then they go, "So what's next for you?" and I'm like, hey I haven't even finished this one yet. That's kinda weird.

Speaking of SCOTT PILGRIM, we should probably start talking about that. I was curious about the writing process with you and Michael Bacall. Did you work on the script at the same time or each take turns?

We worked together back in 2005 and initially there was only two books and some kind of rough notes on the other ones from Bryan. I was initially a little skeptical about exactly how... There's this thing in Hollywood for any great, new kind of concept to just strike while the iron's hot. But part of the last five years for me and Michael Bacall was just stalling for time to allow us to get more notes from Bryan (laughs). But yeah, we worked together. Sometimes in LA, sometimes in London and occasionally over the internet. We've become very close but I didn't really know him all that well when we first started. There was a point where he was going to write a draft as a writer for hire and then we got on so well that we decided to write it together.

So how'd you two meet?

Well it was because at the time, I was about to get busy with HOT FUZZ and I thought I didn't have enough time to write it myself and Bryan was busy writing the books and really didn't have the time or necessarily the interest in doing the adaptation himself. So it was actually a case of auditioning writers and I met sort of three or four writers and me and Michael Bacall got on like a house on fire. I had read one of his previous scripts, this thing called PYSCHO FUNKY CHIMP, which he had done. I knew he was on the wavelength. It was actually really nice after working with Simon [Pegg], who I've known for like fourteen years, to work with someone completely new. It was interesting and fun because we were both on our best behavior together. We hadn't figured out which of us was the lazy one yet... We were both playing Good Cop, Good Cop. The clean underwear phase of our relationship.

Have you figured out who's the lazy one yet?

Ummm, I wouldn't say either of us is lazy but I do rely on Michael Bacall frequently.

When you read something like SCOTT PILGRIM or really any property, how do you know that it could not only be A film but YOUR film?

To be honest, I haven't really read too much stuff in the last four years because mainly I've been trying to develop my own stuff and write my own material. But SCOTT PILGRIM was one of the few things that was handed to me where I thought it could be really special. It was sent to me as soon as the first book was published in 2004. Two of the producers, Jared LaBeouf and Adam Siegel were at a SHAUN OF THE DEAD screening and collared me afterward. And they were right. Aside from the essential premise, which hooked me right away with the "guy takes on seven evil exes of his new girlfriend," but as soon as I read the book I really fell in love with it. I reminded me of my own sense of humor. Oh...Mike, I gotta call you back. They want me to come on the radio. Bye!

Hey man, sorry about that!

What a diva move.

Ahhhh! It was a power move.

Your movie goes over like gangbusters at Comic-Con and this is what happens.

I wasn't even doing anything. I just went off and ate M&Ms for an hour. I just logged on to the internet. Was looking at MovieHotties.com.

I was actually reading a Q&A with Stallone--

--Oh did you see that?! I actually e-mailed Harry [Knowles] and said I would do that in a second.

To go have a beer with Stallone? Absolutely.

I met Stallone once, briefly.

He's a pretty nice guy.

Yeah, I met him through Robert Rodriguez and he seemed really nice. I am genuinely a big fan of him as well.

When did you find out that your movie was opening up against a Stallone film?

A while ago. It is kinda strange to me because people ask you about it all the time and the two films just get inexplicably linked. It's a weird thing because you look back at films released on the same day, you can go back on Box Office Mojo and look in the 80s and see GREMLINS and GHOSTBUSTERS were released on the same day. It's crazy.

Even six months from now, no one is going to remember.

It's just sort of a strange thing. It's just because of the internet and it's now become a sport. I always found it strange when a film opens at #1 and it's called a flop. Like KICK-ASS opening at #1 and making three times its budget back and they say" FLOP!" I think it's one of the bad things about the business. And it's funny because if you look back now some of the films that are routinely called "classics" or even films that people think of as classics. I mean they're making a remake of THE THING right now or even TRON: LEGACY. TRON and the original THING were flops. Now that doesn't matter anything now because John Carpenter's THING is a classic but at the time it was like an expensive flop because it opened against E.T. But no one gives a shit about that now. I find the TRON: LEGACY thing is...I can't wait to see that film but it still blows me away they made a sequel to TRON. It's one of those films that you thought you were one of the only people that liked it.

If that movie came out now and performed how it did when it was released, you'd never hear about it again.

That film is a design classic basically. It's something where it's reputation has grown more, almost as a fashion thing, rather than the film itself.

I've watched the film recently and it's not a great movie. It's a good movie with a lot of aesthetic value. And groundbreaking certainly but it's not without its flaws.

It fascinates me. I love that something like that could return. When cult movies are sort of embraced. Something like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, I remember when it came out in the UK, I saw it in an empty cinema. And loved it, by the way. It almost felt like it was my own private film.

I remember going to the video store to rent that as a kid and the clerk didn't even know what it was. Anyway, I don't even remember where we were before when we got cut off.

Just ask me a new question!

We were just wrapping up talking about how you knew SCOTT PILGRIM would be your movie.

Yeah... It inrigued me as a challenge. This was something that I thought would be really interesting to do, really ambitious. All of the things that are complicated about it, tonally and it terms of the actual content, are the reasons I wanted to do it. People always seem to ask, "Were you daunted by doing this film?" and if anything the complexity of it is what intrigued me. It wasn't generic and it wasn't just another superhero film. It was something kinda different and exciting to do. Because it's a mix of different things - and not just in terms of action, music, comedy, romance - it's interesting to do a "youth" film on a larger scale. It doesn't really happen. Most of your youth-oriented films are more in the line of SUPERBAD or AMERICAN PIE. So to do something like this, which is much more expansive was really adventurous to me.

Was there the hesitation in the back of your head to stick with original material and not do an adaptation?

I think ideas kind of get in a holding pattern and it's just whatever is the right time. Basically when I'm done with this I've got to return to three things I've been writing or thinking about for three years or more.

Can you get right back to work after this? How long does the SCOTT PILGRIM hangover last?

It's something that has always been difficult with me careerwise. It's not so much that I need to take a break, it's just that my body makes me completely shut down. I remember doing "Spaced" and kinda having to take a few months off afterward. Moreso just as a complete mental and physical shutdown. I don't think this will be any different. I think it's that thing where your body knows that you don't have to get up. Like when your body suddenly starts reacclimatizing itself to sleeping in.

I was talking to Joe Kosinski, director of TRON: LEGACY at Comic-Con, who, like you, has spent a long period of time on one film, and he said after a while he started having TRON dreams and hallucinations.

It was very sort of intense. One of the great things about doing this film was being in Toronto for sort of nine months. The cast was there for the whole five months of the shoot and the eight weeks before when we did training. So there was definitely a happy, summer camp vibe shooting it. But then I went back to edit in London. And it was a strange thing, like making your first studio movie and you're going back to London to edit it. That was actually - the editing is really intense - like being banished to your Fortress of Solitude. "Now go sit in a dark room for an entire year! And see how you like it!" So it was actually quite like doing a live-action film and then an animated film in the edit. The editing was a completely separate animal in itself. It's nice to be out in the daylight a little bit.

We joked about it before but with all that animation and the visual flourishes was there any discussion between you and Universal or you and the producers about converting the film to 3D?

It never was mentioned. I don't think Universal has really done many conversion jobs. All the things they've been planning have to be shot in 3D.

They seem much better about it than most studios.

There's a couple of things in SCOTT PILGRIM that would work in 3D, like some of the visual things. But there are so many shots in it, you'd be adding on another $20-$30 million in budget immediately. Even a rush job, it would just be impossible. The other thing I've noticed is that, when I've seen other 3D films, I'd hate for this film to look murky. It's so bright and colorful, it would kill me if it were like watching it a third of the brightness.

I got that same feeling watching the THOR footage at Comic-Con.

They showed you THOR in 3D?

They did. The footage looked good but the 3D still wasn't working.

3D would have a lot better rep if James Cameron could personally go around to every single theater and check the technical specs. I think you need a perfectionist alongside Cameron or Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick had a lot to say about what theaters played his movies and their technical specs. You can have a lot of incredibly sort of precise and beautiful and colorful movies and then the shittiest projectionist in the world could ruin it.

I think it's refreshing that the movie isn't in 3D. It's not a sequel, it's a standalone film and it's an original concept.

It's funny doing the press circuit because so much is focused on what's next and I think it's interesting that - I get asked this a lot - "What deleted scenes can we expect on the DVD?" And you've got to think that the 112 minutes they just saw were enough. They want to talk about that or sequels. With this film, very early one, we decided and Bryan was of the same mind, this should be a standalone film. I'm old enough to remember Ralph Bakshi's LORD OF THE RINGS and I remember being distraught going, "They're not going to finish it?! There is no Part 2, that's it??" I think that's happened a couple of times recently where films have finished with a "See you next year!" and then haven't hard Part 2. The thought of that was too horrible to bear so we agreed to make a standalone film.

The ending of Part 6 of the graphic novels is left open to interpretation in some sense --

-- Yeah, in a sense.

-- So regardless of the movie, just as a reader and fan of the comic, what did you feel the future held for Scott and Ramona?

I don't want to go into too much detail for people who haven't seen the movie or read the book. But I feel like it's kinda open-ended. There's a feeling in the book where it's not necessarily about...I don't want to give anything away here. On the one hand it's about riding off into the sunset but at the same time, there's a thing about going through a black void. So it ends on a question mark. All you need to know is that he is adult enough to give it another shot and try to be a better person. Whether that necessarily continues is the question mark.

When I was talking to Michael the other day he mentioned you gave him a lot of Clint Eastwood to prep for the role. What did you see in Eastwood that you thought would translate to Scott?

I guess it was sort of where he gets his resolve in the fight scenes. The moments where, he's got this insane inner-confidence in the fights. Which you could argue comes from an adolescence spent gaming. I was showing Michael a bunch of bad-ass things and the first scene I showed him was the Clint Eastwood/mule scene from FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. "My mule thinks you're laughing at him." Also Michael got into a real Kurosawa tip during filming. He was kind of obsessed. But it's almost just a way of holding yourself during fight scenes. It's done for comedic effect in SCOTT PILGRIM. But really...who wouldn't learn something from the Church of Clint Eastwood. Right now I'm looking out the window thinking about DIRTY HARRY. Eastwood is always in the back of my mind. WWED. What Would Eastwood Do.

I'll let you go but best of luck with everything. Though with the reviews so far, I don't know that you need much luck.

We've been doing screenings around the country and people really seem to be digging it.

At the premiere the other day, it was amazing to see all those people sitting behind your row - like Guillermo del Toro, Sam Raimi, Quentin Tarantino - enjoying the movie.

I got the greatest e-mail from Sam Raimi today, which makes me want to retire. That was one of the best e-mails that's ever been sent. God bless. I'm happy now. Oh did you see my tweet about Paul Williams?



Of course! I got to say hello to him at the afterparty. It was awesome.

He sent me an e-mail saying, "Swan loved it." I had told him that Swan and Z-Man Barzell from BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS had been an inspiration for Gideon.

Source: JoBlo.com



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