Good news, everyone! Edgar Wright’s made a new movie! And it’s ace! Seriously, Wright’s new movie Scott Pilgrim Vs the World (opening August 12 in cinemas everywhere) is a frontrunner for my favourite movie of ’10, and I was fortunate enough to recently snag a little time with the man himself. Here’s a bit of what we discussed.
Just when you thought Christopher Nolan’s reality-twisting blockbuster Inception was this year’s apex of mind-bending mayhem, here comes Scott Pilgrim Vs the World to kick things up a notch. There are many differences between the two films, of course, with Inception taking place in a multi-layered dream world while Scott Pilgrim’s stage is a heightened reality informed by video games, indie rock and the endorphin rush of young love. But according to Scott Pilgrim’s director, the prodigiously talented Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame, they may well be more similar than one might initially imagine.
“They both have a bit of a dreamy feel to them, actually,” he muses. “I might run with this theory about how you’re not watching reality but Scott Pilgrim’s fanciful version of events.”
It’s a theory that holds water, especially when viewers get a load of Scott’s transformation from unemployed twentysomething slacker who divides his time between playing bass in a so-so Canadian rock band and innocently dating a 17-year-old high schooler to sword-wielding, butt-kicking action man who energetically dispatches a rogues’ gallery of romantic adversaries when he meets the literal girl of his dreams.
Scott Pilgrim Vs the World sees Wright going Hollywood, so to speak, after the success of his previous two films and the much-loved TV series Spaced. While his past projects had seen him working regularly with friends and collaborators like actor/co-writer Simon Pegg, Scott Pilgrim took him out his comfort zone in many ways.
Wright admits that he was able to bring many of his regular co-workers aboard Scott Pilgrim but the addition of new faces like screenwriter Michael Bacall and especially Bryan Lee O’Malley, who created the six-volume series of graphic novels on which the movie is based, helped him make the transition. “When it comes to adapting material, I don’t think I would have done if I didn’t have any contact with the author,” says Wright. “The fact that Bryan was so approachable made it much more fun to do.”
In the five years since Wright first began work on the film, O’Malley’s series has become more and more popular with each new book that’s been released. The filmmaker admits that a few big changes had to be made in order to streamline the six volumes (the final book in the series, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, has just been released) into a two-hour movie. “But as there are expectations that audiences have of a big summer movie, we also had the licence to do things a bit differently – we wanted to take the essence of the books and go even further with it in some respects,” he says.
“When I first started, I was a little sceptical about making the film based on just the one book that was out – I said ‘Can we just wait until they’re all published?’ But there’s definitely the feeling in Hollywood of striking while the iron is hot, which in this case turned out to be a really good idea because we became involved with Bryan and the whole thing became a very organic process. Michael and I encouraged him to map out the rest of the books, which he did, and I think it’s nice that the film and the final volume are being released so close to each other.”
Wright is no stranger to special effects or action sequences, as anyone who has seen Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz can testify. But there’s a bit of a big leap between his previous films and Scott Pilgrim, and Wright ensured he was properly prepared.
“You have to enter into a production like this knowing exactly what you’re doing, so everything was heavily planned and storyboarded,” he says. “The special effects sequences and action scenes were thoroughly planned out and worked out to the millisecond. You can do that and still enjoy the process, though, and I think something that was extremely important for me was to ensure that the performers were having fun.”
Wright’s eye for casting has always been astute (remember the great line-up of UK character actors in Hot Fuzz?), and he’s assembled a spot-on roster of young talent in Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, ranging from complete newcomers (the adorable Ellen Wong as Knives, the teen infatuated with Scott) to underrated performers (Superman Returns star Brandon Routh, hilarious as vegan tool Todd Ingram), bright young things (Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick as Scott’s domineering sister) to sorta-veterans (former child star Kieran Culkin, stealing scenes Downey, Jr-style as Scott’s roommate).
The film, however, hinges on the actor playing the title character, and for Wright the decision was simple: “Michael Cera was my first and only choice.”
The star of Arrested Development and Superbad was already a Scott Pilgrim fan, having already read the first two volumes before even meeting Wright, and he handles the demands of the role with great skill, displaying a combination of appealing neuroticism, unlikely romantic charisma and impressive fighting skills reminiscent of the young Woody Allen. (OK, not the fighting skills.)
“That’s the highest compliment you could pay both Michael and me, actually, because I’m a huge Woody Allen fan,” says Wright. “When it comes to the character, there are two camps: there’s the people who think Scott Pilgrim is awesome and the people who think Scott Pilgrim believes himself to be awesome. Bryan and I are definitely in the latter camp, but you’ve got these fans who think Scott should be played by some young, handsome matinee-idol type. I never, ever thought that. I wondered about who I’d want to watch for the entire film in this role, someone who had that kind of goofy charm as well as this kind of fragility about himself. And that was Michael.
“Plus I thought it would be great fun watching him be a badass!”
ITEM! Wright made the best of the Grindhouse faux-trailers, and here it is!