Set Visit: Scott Pilgrim Interview with Mark Webber
He's the lead singer of Sex Bob-omb. He works at Happy Avacado restaurant. He's starring as Stephen Stills in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, based on the comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley. I was lucky enough to check out the Toronto set last year, mere moments after San Diego Comic Con, where I got to chat with Mark Webber about the film, his character, and freaking out about singing in front of people.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD opens August 13th, 2010.
Can you describe your character Stephen as you see him?
Hes like a lot of typical musicians that I know. Hes very focused on the music and just the music. And also has some extreme insecurity and anxiety about if hes ever going to make it. And in terms of performing, when he really, luckily, is able to kind of get out of that anxiety a bit, but hes very anxiety-riddled and very focused on the band and has a very big dream of making it.
Hows your character differ from the comic? Has there been any changes to it or is it pretty much in line?
Its pretty much in line. And thats whats been really amazing about this is that the cast with Edgar and weve really been able to remain really true to the books. And yeah, theres certain qualitieshes a bit grumpy and that anxiety and theres like these key overall emotions that you try to have and then figure out whos this guy as a real person. And that just comes from having a really good director and really good actors to interact with, you know?
Ive heard that from all the other directors, that there have been little bits of sort of back-story that we dont really know about from the books from Brian. Did you get anything about your character?
That we wouldnt know that you want to tell us?
I dont know if I allowed.
Johnny [Simmons] already ruined everything. (laughter)
You know, theres one thing and its a big thing and Im concerned that maybe it comes out in the next book, so I really I mean its really amazing. I worked with [co-star Allison Pill]. I did a movie called Dear Wendy with her. Its where we first met.
Thats a great film.
Thanks. And then we went on and did a play togethera Neil LaBute play called The Distance From Here, so me and Allison were friends. And then so coming into it I knew at least I had that. And then getting to know Michael has just been amazing. Hes just a really great guy and Johnnys amazing. Hes one of a really great young actor who is really fun to watch and be around, so we all really get along so well. And were like a real band. We spent pretty much all of March, before we started shooting, kind of having band practice. We all show up at our rehearsal space together and learn how to play the songs and like real bands do, we fight and argue and it was great. Its been one of the best experiences about this thing is how much everyone really enjoys each others company.
Johnny complained that he didnt get to do a stunt in the movie and that everybody else gets something to do. What work have you done thats been sort of a because I would assume thats sort of a new experience of doing that sort of thing?
Yeah. No, totally. I actually just last Friday came in to practice with what my stunt is which is being Im on stage at the Chaos Theatre when we get blow off-stage by the twins. And I just finally got to put on this harness that Ive seen Michael and everyone else in and everyone talks about it being incredibly painful and uncomfortable. And it is. I have huge bruises on my stomach now. But its really a lot of fun to be strapped into this thing and being lift up and pulled 30 feet in the air and spinning around and having to somehow control it and act on top of it has been quite an experience. Its fun. Its really fun.
Since Stephen is the lead singer of the band, was that a little nerve wracking because I know that singing can be kind of scary for some people?
Yeah, it was incredibly nerve wracking. I mean it was the biggest challenge for me to that Ive had on this film for me to overcome. I never really like Ive sang "Happy Birthday" in front of people. I mean that was the extent of my singing in front of an audience, so I had some vocal lessons and it was made very clear to me early on that I had the shot to be able to go an re-record these vocals and if it was good enough we would use my voice. So its the type of pressure that like I really want and like really look forward to as an actor. Its something to really sink my teeth into and I had a really good coach and then I came up here and had an amazing recording session with [music producer/supervisor Nigel Godrich], which
...yeah, and that was a really big deal for me and its just a testament to just how good of a producer he really is. I mean I guess apparently early on we were going to be in a big fancy studio with a bunch of engineers and he kind of cleared that all away and we actually recorded the songs and the guy Jimmy from Metric like his home studio and just me and Nigel. So it made me very comfortable that there wasnt a lot of other people around and he was able to really we became friends and he really helped me go there and it worked.
Were you coached by [Canadian musician/consultant] Chris Murphy as well?
Yeah for the guitar.
What was your musical background like before? Did you have any kind of musical background?
I had guitar lessons in Los Angeles before I came out here and then worked with Chris Murphy. He was, you know, our coach every day in the rehearsal rooms. And yeah, hes there every day when were on-set doing the musical sequences.
You say that if you were good enough they would let you record your own vocals. For a band like Sex Bob-omb, how good is good enough? (laughter)
Thats the best thing I had going for me (laughs) is that I didnt have to sound like Thom Yorke, which I constantly had to remind myself. You know, its pretty good. Its all right. Hes trying.
We were talking to Allison earlier about sort of reacting to the supernatural elements and how sort of just of part of that world it is. So how is that for you as an actor trying to react to that naturally?
Its tough. I mean its a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. And thats another one of the big challenges about this is that but the cool thing is that when we go to shoot our coverage, weve generally been able to see .I mean theres been so many little bits from just like storyboards being cut and edited together that we can watch and then we get to watch portions of the fight and we can kind of see where things are going and get a sense of what we have to react to. Before, it was just us looking at a pink X on a screen. And Edgars been really good about really reminding us whats going on. "Theres a giant fireball coming now!" and things like that.
In the comics Steven gets really excited about recording their music whereas youre pretty easygoing. Do you become kind of gruff in the film?
Yeah, no definitely I do get thats where I go. If you had to pick one thing that kind of embodies his persona all the time, thats it. But for me when youre taking something and making it like a real-life character, you dont want to be just one-note the entire time and its about the reason why he has a tendency to get so angry and controlling is because of his anxiety and a lot of insecurities about himself as a musician and as a person, so. And I can do that pretty well, too.
Talking about the band you formed with Michael and Allison and I guess Johnny sometimes. I mean if you guys actually physically had to play songs live would you be able to do that? Or is it in the playback to make it look like
Well, Johnny played before and Michael played before and Allison is like now an incredible drummer. I unfortunately am (laughs) Im thankful we have playback. (laughs) Im thankful that Beck and those guys recorded the music. I mean I would never Ive gotten over the months gotten much better and can actually kind of play but if it were just on me, it wouldnt be a good situation.
Youll play at the wrap party right? (laughs)
We might. We might. I mean Michael jokes about it. He talks about how we should play our opening song at like the premiere or something like that. And at that point I definitely would be able to nail that song for sure.
Everybodys talking a bit about Chris Murphy and you mentioned recording at Metrics home studio. For the concert sequences and things where theres other bands coming through, have you guys been tapping into kind of local bands, local music scenes?
Yeah, whats been really great for me is that I met Kevin Dru from Broken Social Scene and hes been around and I met Emily and I met Feist. I went with Kevin to a church somewhere and saw this amazing performance. I forget who this guy was, but he used a lot of like he just recorded everyday people' voices and interviews and then like played this orchestra music along with it. And just being able to hang out with Kevin and kind of talk to him about the music here and Im a big fan of his, so it was cool that these guys are around. Its really great. Its been a lot of fun for me. It makes me feel that much more like Im a local musician kind of trying to make it in the scene you know to be around these guys that I respect and admire and just kind of hang around them and soak up little bits of stuff from them.
Theyre always talking about how Edgar really knows exactly what he wants when hes shooting, so do you find that sort of confining as an actor or do you like that?
I go back and forth. I, for the most part, really, really enjoy it. And its presented its own challenges for me. But its really like I remind myself of how many times Ive been on the set of a first time director who really just doesnt know, and he knows down to pretty much the facial expression that hed like you to make. And it really suits that style suits itself for what were doing here, you know? So I actually really appreciate it and its been really good to have someone who knows exactly what he wants.
Are you guys involved in the video gamethe companion video game theyre making for this film?
No, I just heard about it.
So have you been asked to do voices?
No, not yet. I would love to. That would be like a dream come true.
Are you a gamer?
I used to be. Not as much now, but I guess the way that Brian was talking about how he wants us to be kind of reminiscent of like what is it like kind of like Street Fighter where its not
Its going to be sort of 8-bit-16-bit style?
Yeah. Which sounds really cool to me.
Do you plan to keep playing music once the movies over?
Yeah, Ive definitely gotten bitten by that bug. I mean thats the great part about doing what I do is that you essentially been able to have like months to learn how to play guitar and sing and I mean its great. Its a new skill-set that I want to keep working on.
Can you describe Stephens look a little bit? Are you Stephen today or just Mark?
This is a combination of both. I mean, my beards a little bit bigger now just because I havent worked in like 6 days, but its pretty much spot-on how he looks in the book. It' pretty amazing how we all kind of transform and really look like the characters.
Spend a lot of time in makeup to get that look or was it just someone doing your hair or ?
Not as long as some people had to. But its been really amazing what the makeup artists and the hair people on this film have done and the wardrobe and its very much like you can open up the book and its like, "Wow."
Do they have you tied up and if you decide to make another movie have you been inspired to try to do another movie now after working on this one?
I really want to Im working on writing a screenplay. I really want to continue to direct and havent had an incredibly a lot amount of time to do that up here. I might go do a movie called The Can with Jesse Eisenberg after this in the fall in Texas. And thats it.
Has [author Bryan Lee O'Malley] given you any insight into your characters name? Is that just a joke to have a Stephen Stills and a young Neil in the same group, or did you go back and see some CSNY because its kind of an inspiration or...?
Just that he really is actually a big fan of Crosby, Stills and Nash and that I think if Bryan were to answer that, I mean it is a joke in a way. And thats what so really great about what hes done with this series is just these little jokes. And even stuff very specific to Toronto and the scene up here. I actually never heard to Sloane until I got up here and met Chris and started listening to his music and then realized, oh yeah he wears a Sloane shirt. You know, these little thingslike right. Its been really fun.
How did you get involved with the project since Johnny told us that he got in through Facebook?
Oh really? (laughs)
Wow! I guess mine was old-fashioned. I just got the script from my agent and read it and really loved it and went in and auditioned for Edgar and yeah, that was it.
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