Baby Driver interview - director Edgar Wright
Baby Driver hits cinemas now and is the latest from Edgar Wright, the acclaimed director of the Cornetto Trilogy.
Visiting NZ shores for the first time in 4 years since The World's End trip, Edgar sat down for some time to talk about the film and its inspiration.
Be warned, there are some spoilers ahead! (Not just of the car variety)
You've been everywhere right, do you even know which country you are in?
Yeah it's not over yet, we have er four more countries to go yet - Australia, Malaysia, Brazil and then Mexico. And then maybe that's it, unless we go to Asia as well
Thanks to Baby Driver for bringing to life every Grand Theft Auto chase in my head (Edgar laughs) and actually doing it properly...
Well, it's funny, I don't own that game, but I have played it round at my brother's and it's interesting because I did think it would be interesting for a generation brought up on Grand Theft Auto to present them with some of the thrills of that game.
And it's funny when I played the first one - the first was the one with overhead shots, right? - games like that and Driver, based on Walter Hill's The Driver, intrigued me - and it would be interesting with this movie to show you what that would be like in real life and in quite a few instances, show you some of the trickier situations.
Cos I think the thing is a lot of people, both through movies and video games, have the fantasy of what it would be like to be in a heist and being pursued, and the reality of it is a real nightmare. It's almost what the premise of the movie is; the first chase is the fever of being a getaway driver, and the end of the movie is the nightmare of being a criminal.
It's a very moral tale, and the driver gets away at the end but still gets punished - was that important to you?
Spoiler alert! (Laughing)
It was always in the script like that, there was never a version where they get away at the ending; If you have them get away with it completely, it seems like it's an advertisement for carnage - and I felt it was important. Here's the thing; a lot of current movies have this idea of good criminals and bad criminals; a lot of movies present you with a "He's a criminal but don't worry he's one of the good guys"
But what this movie is about, its essence, is there is no such thing as a good criminal, everybody who is a criminal, is bad in a way.
I think that thing is that Baby starts the movie compartmentalising his involvement in these crimes. His earbuds and shades are a see no evil, hear no evil approach.
He needs the music to motivate him, but it's also the music that is motivating him but also creating a bubble in which he's trying to exist and sort of the events of the movie are there to pop the bubble.
So I thought it was something where you kind of like set up this sense of this gang of robbers being a charming but fascinating bunch, but you very quickly reveal that Baby is in a nest of vipers. This is a life he has to extricate himself from - the movie is about the getaway driver trying to escape his shadow.
What was the choreography like for you? Was it a nightmare to prep and turn into reality?
It wasn't a nightmare in the sense it was always the main sort of thrust of the enterprise. It was always the idea was to do a film about a character that is completely obsessed with music and also happens to be part of the high stakes job; the premise of the movie on a experiential level is that every scene is a different song, so I started with that idea and I kind of had to follow it through to its natural end. The worst crime would have been to start the movie with all the choreography and halfway through think it's too tough and just jack it in, and then the unique premise would have gone out of the window. So we stuck to it all the way through, and it's an amazing thing to come to the movie with all of these songs and routines, stunt scenes etc, bits of rehearsals we had done and follow it through. We played the songs in on set and the actors acted to the songs and it was choreographed to the songs and it was a joy. It didn't make it any easier, but you could tell on set that it was going to be something different and therefore something special.
Having a studio come to you after that small superhero film fell through must have been quite a boost given the idea had been in your head for quite a while?
Yeah the irony is when I was working on the movie that I didn't do, which will remain nameless (laughing) I did think in the back of my mind, I thought "Oh if this movie does well, maybe I'll get a chance to make Baby Driver" cos I'd already written it at that point, and then when I was back - it was the first email I got from Working Title, which just simply said "Baby Driver next?"; it was from ERic one of my producers and it said "Subject heading: So" then the main part of the email next was "Baby Driver next?" and I was like Yeah, if we do get Baby Driver off the ground, this would be a dream outcome for this whole saga.
I'm not going to say it was easy, probably the toughest thing is just getting the film made, getting the green light; that required getting all the actors on board , getting the budget worked out, how you'd make it for that money. That process itself was a tough one.
How do you feel about the fan reaction online to the film in terms of the art etc that's been sent across for a fresh concept, that's incredible?
It makes me feel - I haven't come to terms with the fact it's out; it's an idea I've had for so long and I've been talking about it for so long, and you start to feel like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Oh it's out, we made it, it exists and people are watching it. And not only that, people are seeing it multiple times.
That's great, I love that - people who have been multiple times, I don't know what to say other than just a heartfelt Thank You - it's something that's come from my head and it's an original screenplay and when people are like drawing characters you come up with or quoting lines back to you, or fan posters and amazing artwork. It's just extraordinary, I don't really know what to say. It's good for the film business too, I go and watch franchise movies and there's plenty of those out there this year that I've liked. However, there's too many of them.
Just having an original film out there competing against these franchises, makes me feel there's some hope left in the film business.
Colossal and this have stood out for being completely different this year
Anne Hathaway came to a screening of this in New York and I was able to say you were great in Colossal!
The other thing I really wanted to touch on that really touched me was the relationship between Baby and CJ Jones; how was that as a working experience? Did you have to change how you did things?
Yeah the thing that was really amazing in that was that I'd written that part and I'd specified in my casting brief that it said "Joe - then in brackets it said 85, African American, Deaf" and you write down this is who I want that character to be, the actual casting process was a lot more difficult and yet a lot simpler at the same time.
Difficult in that there aren't that many working deaf actors of that age range, and ethnicity. When we did a cast brief for it, my casting director said there's one guy who almost fits the brief, but he's 20 years younger, there's nobody specifically of the age you're talking about.
So the others were like actors pretending to be deaf, and we auditioned CJ Jones and when I auditioned other actors who were pretending to be deaf, it immediately felt wrong to me and I had to see CJ again right now. I called and said I need to see CJ Jones again because i want to give him the part; it was a no-brainer to me, watching other actors pretending to be deaf was just strange to me.
Could it have crippled the film as well (if it hadn't been the real thing with the actor)?
Well I think that's something that happens - I don't want to comment on that too much, I can only talk in terms of what I've done, so I don't want to badmouth other films; however in my binary decision making process and moment having seen a deaf actor audition was good and seeing other actors who weren't deaf pretending to be deaf, I had to give it CJ. We saw him again and he gave another amazing audition and we told him in the room. "CJ you've got he part".
And I remember it was very emotional for all of us and then working with him on set was incredible and me and Ansel both found it a really life-changing experience because working with CJ made me want to be a better director. Because you realise when you're talking to someone who's reading your lips, 40% of what comes out is utter rubbish and nonsense and when you're aware of this, it forces you to be more succinct, more direct and more articulate and it was a beautiful experience shooting those scenes and I know me and Ansel both get a bit misty-eyed when we watch them back because it was just something very pure about it, but hopefully what people have said about it is that it feels quite unforced.
It's happening, I just read a review of birthsmoviedeath by a deaf viewer who was touched by it because they said the path to better representation is not making a big deal out of something. So the fact that Joe is deaf and Baby talks to him in sign language for the hearing impaired is treated as normal and so, I don't know what to say other than it was just something we had to treat the process of casting and the ASL with the respect it deserves. I'm proud to have worked with CJ and he did a screening on the Sony lot with the deaf community and that was another incredible experience and you realise how much it means for deaf people to see that actor on the screen. I don't know what else to say, I'm getting quite misty-eyed talking about it now
If you were to tell your younger self this is the reaction you'd be receiving for Baby Driver, what would you say?
Why didn't I make this movie earlier? (Laughing)
The music is integral to the film - is this your musical? Is it a musical for the GTA generation?
I would do a musical - somebody came up on the internet with describing Baby Driver as Grand Theft Amadeus, I love that; that's a better title! Would I do a straight musical? Yes. If there was the right thing. There are a lot of musicals I love and adore, and if there was the right thing, then yes, but I don't know what that is
There is talk of a sequel, are you keen to do it?
Definitely being explored - I think a sequel though; prequels are difficult because you know , you immediately take out, there's not that many prequels that work - can you name one? The problem is this you know the fate of the characters, where as one of the things that works about Baby Driver and one thing that many people have commented on is that it's unpredictable, you don't know what and how it's going to pan out - especially with a starry cast , it's like you don't know what will become of those characters. And when things do happen, people are shocked. That's great as it's exciting; it's how it should be and I always love that in films, like Hitchcock, Tarantino, Scorsese, Brian de Palma when there's like "Oh wow, did not see that coming!"
Is there a one line email waiting for you after you finish the Baby Driver press tour?
Not yet, I've already said I need to collapse after this tour; I feel like I'm 90% nespresso - I need to get back to a more human level!