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Scott Pilgrim vs. JoBlo: Talking with Scott, Ramona and Knives!

08.12.2010
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It's early on Sunday morning. My head is throbbing and my mouth is dry. I know this feeling well. Comic-Con is over. The previous four days were packed solid with panels, interviews, screenings and parties and normally this would be the time when I'd shuffle through security at the airport to head back to New Jersey where I could sleep for about three days straight. But on this particular morning I was sitting on a train headed up the pacific coast to Los Angeles. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD was calling my name.

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I arrived near exhaustion and mostly just wanted to go to sleep in my hotel but SCOTT PILGRIM was screening at the Arclight and since I'm almost never in LA, I decided to go check it out. Junket audiences are notoriously fickle bunch and I was curious to see how it'd play. I was inexplicably nervous for the film, despite having seen it twice already. After the credits rolled and the audience cheered, I just sat in my seat and smiled. No reason to worry. After all, just a few days ago at Comic-Con, a couple hundred lucky fans were escorted down to a secret screening of SCOTT PILGRIM by Edgar Wright himself, as he jumped off Hall H's stage and made his way down the streets of San Diego like the Pied Piper of geeks.

The screening went over perhaps even better than Wright, the cast or Universal could've ever expected. Big laughs, tons of applause and a standing ovation.

As it turns out, those lucky fans weren't the only ones who were seeing the film for the first time. It was also a first for a good deal of the cast, who previously had only seen chunks of unfinished film.

"It was amazing," Michael Cera says, reflecting back on the event. "I don't think it could've been any better for me...It was perfect." Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who stars as Ramona Flowers, didn't know what to expect but thought their reception "was just mind-blowing...overwhelming really."

Ellen Wong, who plays Knives Chau in the film, adds, "It was exciting to finally see it because we had worked so hard on it for so long," which may be the understatement of the century. The SCOTT PILGRIM shoot spanned a massive seven months including two months of training and rehearsals. Cera says he and his Sex Bob-omb bandmates Mark Webber and Alison Pill "rehearsed the hell out of the songs" so that when the time came, they could play them on autopilot and concentrate on the acting. Not that it made some sequences any easier to shoot.

The sequence where angry Sex Bob-Omb face off against evil exes The Katayanagi Twins in a Amp vs. Amp battle took weeks to film. "We shot that for a week doing [those songs] over and over...There was just a lot going on. The monsters, the extras...it's a pretty complicated sequence."

The length of the shoot was lost on Wong who was making her feature film debut with SCOTT PILGRIM. "I'm just thinking this is what all films are like. Everyone on set was like, 'Ellen...this is not what it's like.'"

Wong also had some preparation for processes that took their time. Before the seven-month shoot, she had a six-month audition process. "I just put myself on tape and from there Edgar called me about a month or so later," she recalls. After the call back, she went in to audition. "For the first part of the audition it was early Knives. She was just really fun and outgoing and we were having a lot of fun with that." After surviving that cut, she was brought back for a fight test that would see if Wong, who was already trained in martial arts, "could do some of the moves" Wright had envisioned for Knives. Finally she was flown to Los Angeles ("My first time!") for a screentest with Cera and was finally cast in the film.

Wong admits the process was "nerve-wracking" but the period allowed her to read all the books and research the film even more. Though she admits, "That made it worse because then I wanted it even more!"

While it was mostly peaches and cream for Wong during filming, things were different for Winstead. The actress describes playing the cold and disaffected Ramona Flowers for seven months as "one of the darkest periods of time of my life." As we begin talking about it, I can see her get uncomfortable as she says, "This is the first time I've ever brought this up."

Midway through filming Winstead suffered a debilitating spinal injury. It was a fluky thing that happened during filming but wasn't related to the filming of the movie. She was in constant pain. Doctors and specialists couldn't figure out what was wrong with her and because of the film's schedule, she couldn't take time off to have the injury properly investigated. "So I went through the whole movie in pain." It's a remarkably honest and serious moment in a weekend otherwise lighthearted weekend.

"Are you alright?," I ask as if he she had just fallen down.

"Oh I'm fine now..." While the experience surely left some physical and emotional scars, Winstead says it actually helped her performance. "I'm pretty happy and I smile a lot so this helped put me in that mode."

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Like Wong, Cera had some time to think about playing Scott Pilgrim. "I had a general meeting with Marc Platt and talked about it a bit and I was still really young then. I was about 17," says Cera, who is now 22-years-old. Wright was in Toronto promoting HOT FUZZ and had lunch with Cera telling him he wanted them to make SCOTT PILGRIM together. Wright admitted Cera, who was a huge fan of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, was a little young for the part but knew the project wouldn't get going for a few years giving them the perfect window.

Winstead was acutely aware of the book's fanbase and how passionate they could be so after being cast in the film, she did what most actors would: she Googled herself. "I'm a bit of an internet geek so I was always hanging around the Scott Pilgrim fan forums." While most everything she read about herself taking on the part of Ramona was positive, she knows she needs to stop reading the internet. "I think as the more well-known you get the more people say bad things about you."

While Winstead was lurking on "Scott Pilgrim" message boards, Cera had been reading the first two books in Byran Lee O'Malley's series. "I loved them," he admits. "They capture dialogue and people connecting so well." He seems genuinely disappointed when talking about how he hasn't had time to read the sixth and final installment in the series. "The past week has been pretty crazy. I've got to get it. Is it fantastic? I've signed a few copies and flipped through it but that's it."

Cera's not the only SCOTT PILGRIM cast member who's also a fan. Wong, a Toronto native, actually went to the midnight book release at The Beguiling with about 2000+ other fans. "I just went as me and was just totally excited to get the book and it wasn't until I got down there that it just hit me and how much of an impact this book has on so many people."

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"He's such an amazing writer/director. Just brilliant. His film knowledge is encyclopedic." It's not unusual for an actor to praise their director, especially while promoting a movie, but when you talk to the SCOTT PILGRIM cast, they're almost in awe of Edgar Wright. Their eyes go wide, lips curl into a smile and they sometimes need a few seconds to think of the right adjective. "Hard working..." "Passionate..." "Genius..."

That kind of attitude toward their director helped during the arduous shoot.

Winstead thought back to one moment of direction from Wright. "'Keep your head really straight and then move your eyes to the left after you say the line,' he told me. 'Then move your head really fast to the left and the camera is going to go with you.'" She laughs, "If Edgar thinks it's what needs to be done, we totally stick with it, even if it meant spending an entire day whipping our heads to the left. We just had complete trust."

Part of that trust was fostered during the two-month rehearsal period prior to shooting. To get the cast in the spirit, he would invite them all to his apartment in Toronto to watch movies he felt would be an inspiration; movies like FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF or FIVE DEADLY VENOMS. And in addition to group sessions, Wright gave a lot of his actors some homework. "He gave me some Clint Eastwood movies," Cera explains. "He gave me FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and A COUPLE DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY... What else? Oh yeah, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Crazy shit."

Wong describes the approach as a "little mini film school" and said she would sit down with Wright and go over "really cool films that inspired him and roles that made him think of Knives." Like Cera, she had a list of films to watch and she'd watch them and write back with her thoughts on the film and her character. "[Edgar] wants us all to be in this together."

Winstead says she didn't get any specific movies from Wright to help prepare her for Ramona but she did get something from O'Malley that proved significant. The author gave her a list of ten things about Ramona that aren't in the books and that no one else knew about the character. "They were all secret facts he'd want me to know about Ramona. They were all pretty sad and tragic things." In the end it was this list that helped Winstead crack the challenging role. "It made sense. It gave a reason to why she acts the way she does."

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As I had previously said in my review, SCOTT PILGRIM is a movie all about growing up. And not just for Scott. "[Knives] thinks she's fighting for Scott," Wong says, "but she realizes in the end that it was all for herself." Winstead, who calls early Scott a "douchebag" and "immature," says both Ramona and Scott find themselves throughout the film and realize that neither of them have been treating people around them very well. As Wong explains to me, it's not really about who winds up with who and whether they can really make it as a couple, it was about their journey up until that point.

The journey at this point is over. SCOTT PILGRIM hits theaters tomorrow. Cera, exhausted from a day full of press, flops back into his chair. "How do you think it's going to be? You think it'll play well?" I just sat in my seat and smiled. No reason to worry.

Source: JoBlo.com

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9:27PM on 08/12/2010

Ummm

What's with the ridiculous amount of negative votes? I think one person is just changing their ip address or somethin so they can vote down multiple times.. Oh well. I'll be seeing this in 3.5 hours and can't freakin wait! It's gonna be a blast
What's with the ridiculous amount of negative votes? I think one person is just changing their ip address or somethin so they can vote down multiple times.. Oh well. I'll be seeing this in 3.5 hours and can't freakin wait! It's gonna be a blast
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-15
5:42PM on 08/12/2010

So pumped...

..for this that I will be seeing it at 12 tonight, babay!
..for this that I will be seeing it at 12 tonight, babay!
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5:31PM on 08/12/2010
I honestly can't wait for this fucking movie.
I honestly can't wait for this fucking movie.
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3:08AM on 08/13/2010
dude its awesome
dude its awesome
-15
3:37PM on 08/12/2010
I can't wait to see this movie tomorrow.
I can't wait to see this movie tomorrow.
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3:37PM on 08/12/2010
Great article, Sampson. Love the zine format/style.
Great article, Sampson. Love the zine format/style.
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-16
3:36PM on 08/12/2010
I can"t wait to see this movie tomorrow.
I can"t wait to see this movie tomorrow.
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