THE EMPIRE VIEWING GUIDE BABY DRIVER
Beneath the chassis of this year’s heist hit, with insights from writer-director Edgar Wright
__ Fleeing hot fuzz, Baby (Ansel Elgort) spots an opportunity on the 85 freeway, in the form of two other red cars going in the opposite direction. Wright cites this high-velocity pan as the action shot he’s most proud of. “It was incredibly complicated. Ansel has to look over and turn at just the right moment,” says Wright. “The reset time for the shot was half an hour, so you’re going, ‘Please don’t fuck this up.’”
__ The opening-credits sequence sees Baby dance down an Atlanta street for two minutes and 45 seconds, from the Healey Building to the (fictional) Octane coffee shop. “The Healey was Tom Hanks’ hotel in Sully,” says Wright of the location. The song ( Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl) was played via concealed speakers, except inside Octane, where characters listened on in-ear headphones.
__ One of the movie’s most inspired sight gags sees a trio of shotgun-toting Austin Powerses advancing on a bank. Wright was friendly with Mike Myers, so was able to call him for permission. “I had to act the scene out on the phone for him,” laughs Wright. “He told me about a time he went to the bank before he was famous: the lady behind the counter said, ‘Michael Myers? Oooh, are you gonna stab me?’”
__ A scene-stealing appearance from Paul Williams, of Smokey
And The Bandit and Phantom Of The Paradise fame, as an arms dealer with a neat line in porky monologues. The idea for the scene came from a New York Times article about teen drug dealers who use meat-based codewords. Coincidentally, there’s another 2017 film that uses the phrase “everything but the squeal”: Okja.
__ After the post-heist huddle at Doc’s warehouse, Baby returns home to deaf foster father Joe (CJ Jones). “CJ is a comedian who’s actually deaf, but he is 20 years younger than he appears on screen and he’s not in a wheelchair either,” Wright explains. “It’s an amazing thing, working with a deaf actor, because it makes you realise the percentage of your wordage that’s absolute guff.”
__ This stylised flashback reveals the source of our hero’s tinnitus: a car crash during a childhood journey with his troubled parents. It also reveals that Baby was an earphone addict even before he started to drive. Wright confirms it’s a lifelong habit for the character. “It drowns out the sound of whatever’s upsetting him. Whether it’s his parents arguing or a getaway, he uses it to escape on every level.”
BYE BYE, BATS
__ Foxx’s Bats gets skewered by an irresponsibly stored piece of metal, kicking off the third act. “Both Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx said the same thing after they’d signed on, which is they didn’t want to die,” says Wright. “It almost gave me a heart attack.” Fortunately he was able to talk them both into a spectacular demise, citing the power of shock deaths in the likes of Django Unchained.
DAMNED IF HE DOES
__ Baby’s killer track for the second heist is the propulsive Neat Neat Neat, by English punk-rock band The Damned. So reliant is he on the beat that at one point he even stops the tune and rewinds it. Wright himself is just as big a fan of the band. “In the Damned documentary that came out last year, [lead singer] Dave Vanian is ranting, ‘Why does nobody use us in a movie?’ I was like, ‘I’ve got you guys!’”
__ Baby and Debora get to know each other by talking tunes, and it turns out Baby thinks the band T-rex is pronounced “Trex”. “The studio wanted me to cut that joke out,” reveals Wright. “Somebody said it made him look dumb. But I said, ‘That’s exactly why it’s so charming.’” Quentin Tarantino suggested the Dave Edmunds song Deborah be namechecked in the scene. “But the Deborah in that song is a bitch!”
__ Jon Hamm’s Buddy goes berserk. Some shots were captured after George Miller watched an early cut and provided notes. “Surgery with Dr George Miller was pretty incredible,” says Wright. “We added the line where Jon says, ‘Here it is, Baby: your killer track.’”
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