There is nobody working in Hollywood today quite like Edgar Wright. The man has made four theatrically released movies and, while some might argue with you a tiny bit, he arguably has not made a bad movie yet. HIs latest movie, Baby Driver, is set to hit theaters shortly and, without giving much away, let’s just say he isn’t going to be hurting his batting average with this one.
Sony’s TriStar Pictures looks as though they are going to have a big hit on their hands with Baby Driver, at least critically speaking. The movie debuted at SXSW this year and was met with rave reviews. With a cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and talented up-and-comers like Lily James and Ansel Elgort, it may not be all that surprising to hear. Couple that with an auteur like Edgar Wright and you have a recipe for something pretty special, especially in the middle of a summer movie season filled with sequels, reboots and other such standard offerings.
Critical acclaim doesn’t always translate to box office success, but that is something that Edgar Wright is used to at this point. But he plays the long game. His three collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, known as the Cornetto trilogy, all did well enough at the box office, but they weren’t exactly monster hits. To date, Hot Fuzz remains his highest-grossing directorial effort, bringing in $80.6 million worldwide. For some movies, that would be considered a disappointing weekend. Yet, Edgar Wright’s movies have taken on a life of their own and are considered to be among the more cherished movies made in the 2000s. His fans are rightfully rabid.
That is not to say Hollywood hasn’t tried to use his talents for bigger profits. Edgar Wright was very famously attached to write and direct Marvel’s Ant-Man for years before dropping out just before the movie entered production. Why? Because he wasn’t going to be able to execute his vision. Like Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher and other such filmmakers, Wright has a style and a way of working that is uniquely him and Hollywood needs to get on board with that, not the other way around. Though, we did get to see what an Edgar Wright comic book movie looks like in the form of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in 2010, a movie that may have been just a few years ahead of its time.
Baby Driver is very much a departure for Edgar Wright, but it is also very much his movie, and one he has been working on for a very long time. I recently got to chat with him about Baby Driver, as well as his love of music and the possibility of Hot Fuzz 2 ever happening. So, without further adieu, here’s my chat with Edgar Wright.
Let me start out by saying I absolutely loved the movie. It’s great to see a movie that is very much you but at the same time, it is a completely different kind of thing. It’s a heist movie. So for people that are very distinctly fans of your work, how would you explain this movie?
Edgar Wright: Oh, I don’t know. Usually, it goes around the other way. Well, what’s funny is that it is a departure of sorts and I think it’s something that probably when compared to the other movies is more immediately accessible because the meat and potatoes elements of the movie are things that like, are sort of staples of genre cinema. Like car chases and shootouts and tough guys, sort of, and beautiful ladies. I think that that’s the thing is it’s sort of so, in a way it’s taking something that was sort of an established genre and putting a fresh spin on it. And in a way, sort of, you end up with an interesting result, at least with the test screenings is that, guys that like that kind of thing, in terms of action like the movie. But then young females who would never watch a movie like that like the movie. So that’s kind of interesting. So, you sort of have to get the word out to them, but what’s funny is that, it would be right to call it a departure. You’re right to say that it’s a bit different from the other movies. But the irony is that I’ve had the idea for this movie, in some form, since before even Spaced. So it actually goes back to like, my earliest kind of like, imaginations of like, what kind of movies I could make. But, in terms of what I’d say to my fans, I don’t think it has any loss of personality. I feel, in a way, the film is very me, but just in sort of a slightly different flavor. Wouldn’t you agree?
I would agree. Absolutely. Which, I think, is what’s great about it. Because it is nice to see someone that you love their stuff, but you know that they can go do something different. Which is what I think the best filmmakers do.
Edgar Wright: Well, also I think some of that as well, as an exciting thing is, you know, look, I love working with Simon and Nick, and I’ve done three movies and a TV series with them. Two TV series with Simon. And that’s never going to go away, and I’m sure we’ll do something again in the future. However, working with an entire new cast, which I did on Scott Pilgrim and I did on this, and with this one actually more so than Scott Pilgrim, is also with very established actors who have like, a lot of weight to them. Especially in the cases of Jamie and Kevin and John. It’s like a fun thing to bring them into your world and sort of like, meet halfway. Someone was asking me, “Did you rewrite the part for Kevin?” And I said, “Not really.” If anything, I sort of had more fun with it because I would sort of write lines that I wanted him to say. And also, what’s great about people like Kevin and Jamie is they find, they’re so musical themselves, that they find the internal rhythm in the dialogue. So a lot of the dialogue is supposed to sound, it’s not like it’s poetry, but there’s elements of it that feel like they’ve got some sort of internal rhythm to them, and those actors really find that. Even just down to the ideas of the character names, is the idea that a lot of the character names are like, terms of affection. Baby, Darling, Buddy. It’s just like, the endless combinations of those words, and they’re all things that you hear in songs.
Music has been prominent in your other movies, but it is clear, it is inseparable in this movie. I don’t think you can craft a movie like this without having an almost equal love of music as you do for movies. People know you as a filmmaker, but where does your love of music intersect with that? Because it’s very clear that you have almost as much passion for music, I think, in a way.
Edgar Wright: It’s funny. I don’t play an instrument and I can’t even read music. I mean, actually, I’m really thinking about starting to take up lessons. Actually, when I was about five-years-old, I did do piano lessons for a year, and then my parents, cue violins, had to sell the piano. So that was the end of my piano lessons. And I was just thinking about it. People say it’s never too late to learn. So I thought, “Maybe I’ll just take up the piano again 37 years later.” But I’ve always been a huge music fan. I sort of lived in a household where we didn’t have, I’m a big movie fan obviously, but we did not have a VCR. Not until I started earning enough money with my Saturday job to rent a VCR, we did not have a VCR. We just had a vinyl player and we used to buy tapes and stuff. So I was always buying vinyl when I was a kid and the kind of getting tapes and stuff. In my bedroom, before I had a TV in my room or we had a VCR, I would just listen to music the entire time. My sort of pre-teen and teenage years is just delving into the back catalogs of [David] Bowie and Queen and T. Rex and Roxy Music.
Which is all so prominent in this movie.
Edgar Wright: Yeah. T. Rex and Queen are both in there. I’ve still never used a Bowie track in any of the movies, which is weird because he’s my favorite solo artist. We nearly had a Bowie track in The World’s End, and then Eric Fellner said that it was too weird and sort of put him off. And then that was the end of that. But I am a huge music fan and I would say the thing where me and the main character sort of become one, partly. I am not the main character in terms of, I have never been a top getaway driver in a gang or committed and sort of, well, I’ve probably driven illegally, but I’ve never been caught. I have been pulled over for speeding.
Sure. Who hasn’t?
Edgar Wright: Yeah. But, the thing that is similar about us, in a way that, if you write characters that are an extension of yourself is, I am obsessed with music. I use music to motivate me. I use music to motivate me in terms of like, if I’m driving, I need to be listening to music. If I’m writing, I need to be listening to music. If I’m working out, I need to be listening to music. If I’m on my own, I would like to be listening to music. It’s something that is an escape and a motivator. Have you ever like, pulled up outside of a Starbucks and a song is playing and you wait for the song to finish before you get out of the car? We’ve all done it. So it’s that element of control and using music sort of controlling you. I wanted to take that to the nth degree with this character and try to come up with a character where it’s joyful when his life and the music are in sync, and it’s debilitating when they’re not. And that was sort of the main crux of the movie.
I do have to ask. A while back you made a joke when Bad Boys 3 was announced that you wanted to do Hot Fuzz 2 with just Danny watching Bad Boys 3. So Baby Driver, like your other movies, is a movie that pretty much concludes. Hot Fuzz is the only movie of yours that I think lends itself to a sequel. Is that something you’ve thought about?
Edgar Wright: I don’t disagree, actually. It’s funny. I think the thing with sequels is that I’ve always been looking for what’s next? And the thing with any movie is, it’s going to take up at least two years of your life. Maybe three. So, when you’ve got youth on your side, and I’m already in my forties now, it’s like, I guess I would rather be telling new stories than revisiting old ones. Funny enough I think this movie you could do a sequel to it. I have ideas of where I would take it if there was the option to do a second one. Hot Fuzz I think is the only one of the Cornetto trilogy that you could do a follow-up. The tricky thing with a lot of sequels, and especially comedy sequels, is once characters have finished an arc. You know, in Hot Fuzz Danny Butterman especially, Nicholas Angel becomes less of an automaton and becomes more human and Nick Frost’s character becomes less of a simpleton and more of a badass. So then the thing is like, when that’s your starting point for the next one, where do you go from there? I’ve definitely had some ideas and me and Simon have even talked about it at points, but it’s that thing of, do I want to spend three years of my life doing that? Or do I wanna, if I have the opportunity to tell a new story, would I do that? If somebody said to me, if Baby Driver 2, if that kind of came up, it would be like, “I have ideas.” I would never say never, and you’re not wrong to say that that’s the one that you could do further installments.
Will Baby Driver be the movie that brings in the big bucks and the big critical praise to go with it at the box office? Will it rise above eventual cult status? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, Edgar Wright is going to keep doing his thing. Just be sure to check Baby Driver out in theaters.