BUCKLE UP

Edgar Wright on mak­ing‘ Baby Driver ’, his‘ car chase mu­si­cal’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

“We’ve met be­fore. For World’s End. No. Be­fore then. Scott

Pil­grim. In Dublin. I re­mem­ber the room.” We al­ways knew that Edgar Wright was a clever clogs. But only the top 10 per cent of the clever clogs com­mu­nity could – we’re guess­ing – de­scribe ex­actly where you were sit­ting dur­ing a 30-minute in­ter­view from four years ago.

His pas­sion for culture has dulled about as much as his mem­ory. In­deed, the writer-di­rec­tor be­hind the Cor­netto Tril­ogy – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End – has lost lit­tle of the boy­ish en­thu­si­asm he once brought to Spaced, his TV break­through, and to Shaun, his de­but fea­ture film.

Back in 1994, Wright, the clos­est thing there is to a Bri­tish Quentin Tarantino, burst out of the lo­cal video store and on to TV with his spaghetti spoof, A Fist­ful Of Fin­gers (The Great­est Western Ever Made . . . In Som­er­set). Re­leased in 2004, Shaun of the

Dead would at­tract celebrity fans, in­clud­ing Tarantino and Lan­dis. Since then, Wright has writ­ten The Adventures of Tintin: The Se­cret of the Uni­corn for Steven Spiel­berg and Peter Jackson,

has racked up pro­duc­tion cred­its on Son of Ram­bow, At­tack the Block and Sight­seers, and fea­tured in The Hitch­hik­ers Guide to the Galaxy, Land of the Dead and Sing.

“It never gets any eas­ier,” he says. “I some­times get asked about the dif­fer­ence be­tween mak­ing-low-bud­get films and Hol­ly­wood films. What dif­fer­ence? The su­nis al­ways go­ing to be­com­ing down or go­ing up. Even with all the money in the world, you still have ‘hard out’ when the sun goes down. Once it gets late, it gets dark. And I’m not King Canute.”

It’s just as well he’s philo­soph­i­cal about the busi­ness of moviemak­ing. In May, 2014, af­ter de­vel­op­ing Ant-Man for eight years, Wright abruptly left the project, cit­ing dif­fer­ences with Marvel over its “vi­sion of the film”. The fin­ished film, as di­rected by Pey­ton Reed, with re-writes by Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd, re­tained plenty of Wright’s tics and wit. But it did rather leave fans pin­ing for Wright’s orig­i­nal script (co-writ­ten with At­tack the Block’s Joe Cor­nish), a script Joss Whe­don de­scribed as “the best . . . Mar---

vel ever had”.

On­wards and up­wards. That set­back brought Wright back to a project that has been ger­mi­nat­ing for more than 20 years. Just as Shaun of the Dead prided it­self as be­ing the planet’s first zom-rom-com, Baby Driver, Wright’s novel new ac­tion-com­edy, is, as he puts it, “a car-chase mu­si­cal; a car movie driven by mu­sic”.

“The ker­nel of the idea came around 22 years ago,” he says. “I had been lis­ten­ing to the John

Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion al­bum Orange. For the open­ing track

Bell­bot­toms, I vi­su­alised a car chase. And over the years, I started to won­der what that car chase was about. What if it’s about a get­away driver who has to find the right mu­sic be­fore he can drive? And I road-tested that idea in a mu­sic video in 2002 with Noel Field­ing [for Mint Royale]. Which you see a tiny bit of in the movie.”

The film’s hero, named af­ter a song by Si­mon and Gar­funkel, is a youth­ful get­away driver played by Ansel El­gort ( The Di­ver­gent Series, The Fault in Our Stars).

Baby Driver re­peat­edly puts a pedal to the metal in or­der to pay off a debt to crim­i­nal king­pin Doc (Kevin Spacey), a job that brings him into con­tact with such un­de­sir­able fel­lows as the in­creas­ingly un­hinged Buddy (Jon Hamm) and the en­tirely psy­chotic Bats (Jamie Foxx). Baby hardly ever speaks, pre­fer­ring sign language when he’s at home with his deaf fos­ter fa­ther (the deaf stand-up CJ Jones) and his head­phones. A ro­man­tic sub­plot brings Baby to­gether with a singing wait­ress called Deb­ora (Lily James), but the real love story here is be- tween the boy and his head­phones. Might this be an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tail?

“Fun­nily enough, I never had a Walk­man as a kid,” says Wright. “I used to lis­ten to mu­sic all the time. But I would lis­ten to it on vinyl or au­dio cas­sette in my bed­room. Or in the car af­ter I started driv­ing. I didn’t start lis­ten­ing to head­phones un­til af­ter the iPod came out. That was around the time I started work­ing on movies and trav­el­ling for work. So the iPod be­came an es­cape.

“I think that’s the thing. For a lot of peo­ple mu­sic is a re­ally pos­i­tive thing. There’s no­body in the world who doesn’t con­nect with mu­sic in some way. But choos­ing mu­sic also gives you some sem­blance of con­trol. It’s that idea of be­ing able to con­trol your mood and some­how make your life bet­ter by play­ing the right song at the right time.”

Baby Driver’s hero suf­fers from driv­ing dys­func­tion in the absence of a killer choon. The en­su­ing (and heist-en­abling) sweet jam fea­tures The Damned’s Neat

Neat Neat, Queen’s Brighton Rock, Blur’s In­ter­mis­sion, and, of course, Jon Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion’ s Bell bot­toms. The idea of re­quir­ing a per­fect get­away track was fi­nessed af­ter Wright en­coun­tered a real-life bank rob­ber.

“I met a few ex-cons in Los Angeles. So some bits in the film came di­rectly from their anec­dotes. That scene in the film when Jamie Foxx is talk­ing about hex songs. That came from a guy I spoke to in Bos­ton. He had a story about rob­bing a bank. And as they were wait­ing out­side, Guns N’ Roses’ Knockin’ on Heaven’s

Door came on the ra­dio. And one of the rob­bers said: ‘This is a bad omen. We can’t go on’. So that wound up in the movie.”

How does an English di­rec­tor go about meet­ing bank rob­bers? “Some have writ­ten non-fic­tion books so that’s where we started. We got in touch with them first. And then they put you on to other peo­ple who are just out of prison. So I spoke a lot to four peo­ple but es­pe­cially to Joe Loya (au­thor of The Man Who Out­grew His Cell) who be­came a cen­tral ad­viser on the movie and who makes an ap­pear­ance as a se­cu­rity guard.

“That was very im­por­tant for me. Be­cause I’m a mid­dle class English kid from Som­er­set mak­ing an Amer­i­can crime film. I wanted it to feel au­then­tic. So I’m go­ing to talk with peo­ple who have been in San Quentin for 10 years, I’m go­ing to show them my script, and they can tell me what they think. So that was an amaz­ing experience be­cause they would say ‘this is dead on’, or ‘that per­son would never say that’, or ‘that’s too rhetor­i­cal; they’d be much more di­rect’. It was all gold.”

There are nods to what Wright calls the “holy trin­ity” of 1990s heist films, Heat, Point Break and

Reser­voir Dogs, and more than a dash of early Wal­ter Hill: The

Driver and The War­riors in par­tic­u­lar. Long-time Wright watch­ers, how­ever, will likely be stuck by the pleas­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Baby Driver and The Blues Broth­ers. His face lights up: “I love The

Blues Broth­ers. That scene when you see all the cop cars fan out? That was very much my trib­ute to Lan­dis. I love that movie. It’s amaz­ing. And it re­ally holds up.”

To achieve The Blues Broth­ers ef­fect, Baby Driver re­quired a two-mile mo­tor­cade bub­ble, with 40 stunt cars, right in the mid­dle of At­lanta’s busiest free­way. “We’re all fa­mil­iar with a cer­tain car chase fran­chise – one that shall not be men­tioned – that only uses its ac­tors on green screen. They’re never ac­tu­ally driv­ing. And that’s fair. Car chases are fun to watch but painstak­ing to shoot. There’s no easy shot in a car-chase film. Apart from the ve­hic­u­lar may­hem, there are so many mov­ing parts.

“I think some peo­ple thought I was bonkers. But when Ansel does a 180-de­gree turn and joins the traf­fic, that ac­tu­ally hap­pened. Jon Hamm made the point that you don’t re­ally have to act when you’re trav­el­ling down the free­way at 100mph. And I think he’s right.” Baby Driver opens next week

We’re all fa­mil­iar with a cer­tain car chase fran­chise that only uses its ac­tors on green screen. Jon Hamm made the point that you don’t re­ally have to act when you’re trav­el­ling at 100mph

Dizzy­ing heists Ansel El­gort, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González and Jon Hamm in Baby Driver. Right: di­rec­tor Edgar Wright

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