Edgar Wright on the Movies That Influenced â€˜Baby Driverâ€™ [Interview]
Edgar Wright has the kind of track record any director would envy. His Cornetto trilogy is well loved by fans and critics alike, and at least two-thirds of it has attained “instant classic” status. When he ventured outside his usual wheelhouse withÂ Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the result was a dizzying video game-inspired fantasia that felt like nothing we’d seen before or since.
And by all accounts, he’s knocked it out of the park again withÂ Baby Driver, which pushes him into still more new territory. This one, you see, is a high-speed heist film that also happens to be a musical. Kinda. Sorta. It’s complicated. We’ll let him explain.
Last year, we got to chat with Wright on the Atlanta set ofÂ Baby Driver, and you can read our full conversation below. In it, Wright discusses his influences, the film’s long journey to the screen, the Atlanta setting, and more.
I remember hearing you in interviews back duringÂ Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldÂ where you were name-droppingÂ Baby Driver. How long has this project been developing for you? When did you first start writing the story?
I think I took the advance for the script in 2007. I delivered the script in 2011. I had the idea forÂ a long, long time. I did a music video that was sort of like a trial run for it. And then in 2007 I decided I wanted to do it.
Was that the Mint Royale video?
Yeah, yeah, with Noel Fielding. It’s developed since then, obviously. I started working on it after Hot Fuzz and then I finished writing it after Scott Pilgrim. So there’s the process of research and trying to figure out the story and stuff. It was the first script I had written on my own for a long time, since I was like a teenager. The first solo screenplay I’d written since my first movie. Yeah, so quiteÂ a long time.
So how has it evolved and changed since you started working on it like ten years ago?
A lot. I guess it was more of a concept, initially, and I sort of knew what I wanted to do tonally, and what kind of movie I wanted it to be like,Â and what the general premise was. It was actually a nice voyage of discovery in terms of starting to build out the plot and the characters and the twists and things like that. And also, even once I started writing it, I started talking to ex-cons and real getaway drivers and FBI people and stuff. So that’s always fascinating to me.
It was also something because I was writing something that’s an American film and a crime film. I met this guy who’s an amazing, an ex-convict who is now a writer called Joe Loya, who wrote a book called The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell, and I found him through a researcher and we became friendly. And so when I’dÂ write pages I would sometimes sendÂ them to him and say, ‘Does this sound kind of real?’ I’m veryÂ aware of being English and middle class and thinking, ‘How am I going to write an American crime film? I may as well get the okay from someone who has been inside for ten years. So it was a really interesting process in that respect.
We’ve heard this movie compared to a musical, I was wondering if you could talk a little about how it relates to that genre along with the timing and everything.
I mean, it is and it isn’t. It isn’t in the sense that it’s not like Mamma Mia!Â I don’t know why that was the first thing that came to my head. But there is a lot of music in it in terms of, Ansel’s character is playing music the entire time. So it’s not like a film where anybody sings out loud, but it’s taking things that are in Scorsese or Tarantino or Steven Soderbergh films. In those films, you have the jukebox kind of soundtrack, and the idea with this is that the lead character is actually playing those songs. So the songs are always sourced. They’re either in his ears or playing in a diner or playing on a stereo, so they’re always within the scenes. So that’s the premise of it really.
Is it wall to wall sound?
There’s a lotÂ of music in it, yeah. …Â It’s a lot of work. We have a great clearance person whose been working on it a long time. And actually, we’ve had time to do it, because we were going to shoot earlier and then we kind of delayed for a couple of reasons and that actually gave us time to clear all the music. So the unusual thing was that we cleared all the music before we started shooting, so we can actually play it on set, knowing that that’s the track we’re going to use.
Did seeing Mad Max: Fury RoadÂ last year give you pause about making this or did it put it a fire in your belly to do it more?
No, I mean, you know, that’s an amazing piece of work. I think any director who saw that movie was like, ‘Oh my god, what a masterpiece.’ I got to know George [Miller]Â through that, because I actually had never met him, and then my sound designer was working on Fury Road. So I got to meet George just before it came out and I did a Q&A with him, and I’ve seen him a bunch of times since. I think IÂ saw it like four times before it came out. And then I also paid to see it opening weekend because I wanted to support it. But, I don’t know, that movie is incredible. Especially for a director to come along at 71 and just wipe the floor with everybody, after having notÂ done a live-action movie for 19 years, is truly incredible.
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