Talking Baby Driver with B-A-B-Y himself, Ansel Elgort
Baby Driver hits cinemas this week, and I was lucky enough to get some time with the film's star Ansel Elgort to talk the movie, his love of music and his desire to wear elf ears....
What was it that attracted you to the role - other than the music?
The character was great, and the director was great. I think about its story, character and film-maker for me - that's really it. I don't care about budget or anything else when I'm looking at a film. Those three things were there with this
How much of Edgar's work had you seen before?
I'd seen it all, Hot Fuzz is my favourite. I knew that when I sort of read the script and what he had done with Hot Fuzz stylistically and what could be possible with Baby Driver and I just thought, "Wow this could be really cool".
Did you get a lot of the humour?
Of course, English humour is still prevalent whether it be as Americans have ripped it off a lot in the dry humour styles. Growing up I was very much into Fawlty Towers, which was definitely English. I definitely got it.
You're always looking to shift perceptions away in terms of roles, I'm guessing?
Honestly, I don't really care about perceptions. If I had a crazy streak where people kept coming to me with insanely good scripts and great characters that were YA romances, I would have kept doing them. It's just about script, character, filmmaker. And with a film like Fault In Our Stars, I loved the script, character and I loved Josh Boone and I wanted to do it. This is a script I loved - and the character, wow, the dude even makes music in the film at night - that's what I do! It was unbelievable.
The way it was described in the film, how he walks out of crime central on the coffee run and it's all to music and time. it was so cool.
28 takes for that for opening scene set to Harlem Shuffle- was that a difficult challenge?
I love a lot of takes and actually 28 is not that many. Usually when you're filming a scene, you're doing 5 or 6 takes over 10 set ups, a day, so that's 50 takes a day. Doing 28 takes on one angle, I think that was just the shortest day on set. We started at 7am and we were done by 6. Everything was at least 12 hours and we had an ambitious schedule.
What kind of direction did Edgar give on set?
Everything, every kind of direction. He was hands on but we also did a lot of that work in prep; so we really took time to figure out who baby was. The thing is you know, emotionally he is a complex character but he's not like a crazy complex character, but he's not like a Henry the VIIIth character, it's physically and the choreography, the sign language and the stunts, the accent and all the little things that we did in prep that built up to who Baby was.
On set, we had it all figured out. and that was perhaps the most unique part about working with Edgar and something I really liked was that he was so specific and deliberate in prep. So when we showed up, we knew what we were doing. A lot of directors when you show up they give you directions and it completely changes the scene, a sort of "Woah I didn't know we were doing it this way, but that makes a lot of sense"; or it's take 3 and they're like It's not working, what are we going to do" and it's the intensity
With Edgar It's a "Remember you know what we're doing here?" it's a very simple - he's very effortless.
Storyboarding and performance mean you know what you going to do. It's a not a crazy challenge, it's nice to turn up and know what you're going to do, but you can't be locked into it, you still have to be organic in every take.
You mentioned about the choreography, was it harder than you expected?
No it was great, choreography is the kind of thing you get into your mind in 3 mins and then it's easy; it's like learning lines, but it's easy to me as I've learned a lot of choreography. That was definitely an advantage that I had, coming from musical theatre.
The relationship in Baby Driver which stood out more than Baby's one with waitress girlfriend Debora, was the one with your father CJ Jones. Talk to me about bringing that to life, cos that felt extremely natural, human and realistic, and felt poignant with so little said.
Yeah it really brought a heart and soul to the movie for sure and er, it was (pause) unique experience working with a deaf actor and working with ASL. I've never worked in another language and that's what it was - but you don't make sound with your voice. The scene where Baby eventually brings him to the home at the end, that's one of the most emotional scenes in the movie, and you're not talking.
It's all just with sign language, you're speaking a different language, and it's physical acting; it became like a memory and it's really cool.
It's normalising it as well, right? Not often you see a character like this in big budget, big summer films?
Exactly, that's what Edgar really laced into the movie - be it with Debora or with CJ (Joseph)
How did you approach that in terms of language? And learning it? You're not naturally gifted as a character in that, but it looks clunky as anyone learning a language would?
The nice thing about that was like you said, it's not Baby's first language or only language. It's sort of like he has a way of communicating with his foster dad, I think they spend a lot of time in front of the TV; he takes care of him and he was taken in when he was young. But I think Baby sort of lacked that parental figure and why he got into trouble as a kid, and why he started boosting cars and was the spirit of 85. so for that reason i figured that the language would be something that he knew but was super clean or sharp in it. But I wanted to be clean and sharp and do the language justice, for that reason I learned with a dialect coach, not a sign language coach. Then CJ would give me suggestions and I would look to him as this guy really knows what he's doing.
It's a very moral tale as well - everyone gets their just desserts?
I think that's nice, without spoiling the ending, it's not like a regular Hollywood crime film where everything goes well for your hero, it teaches crimes that doesn't pay. It's quite funny when people come out and they're like "That's awesome, I want to rob banks now" - in the first scene maybe you do, but after that, not so much! He keeps avoiding the cops, but it catches up.
There's been talk of a sequel given the success - what would you like to see in one?
I would love to come back and do another. Where he goes you'd have to ask Edgar! I think a sequel would be another adventure and now Baby's finally grown up, it's cool to see that and see him grow. Now it's time for him to continue to be a man and take care of business.
You're phenomenally busy yourself with DJing and acting - what else would you like to do - what's your dream gig?
I would love to do a musical, but I'd also like to do a LOTR kind of movie, be in a fantasy world where I get to dress up like an elf or something. I love playing characters and I know that will come in time so I'm not freaking out about it. I always felt like I was a character actor growing up, doing acting classes and I'm really glad things fell into place. I'd also love to be in a musical, a sort of Guys and Dolls, West Side Story - like a classic musical made into a movie. Then I'd also like to do - there's a movie I have an idea for writing and possibly directing, and star in as well - that'll have music at its soul. Music is the biggest part of my life, I love acting, but as an actor I'm part of a big puzzle, but with music, this music I'm doing now, I'm writing it, singing it, producing it, it's all a journey from nothing to something.
That's really cool when as an artist you can really feel that nothing to something, and a movie, there's like a 1000 people working on it, but I love doing something by myself too. The thing about music is whether you like it or not, you have to appreciate it and where it's coming from and why it's at the place it has
Music is all about youth and trend, it's constantly changing - more so than movies change and any other art. I like trap music combined with punk music currently. Not the big commercial trap, but the smaller underground trap. It's cool staying on top of where music is going, and it's cool as a musician to want this. there's a reason why musicians don't last as long as actors or directors in terms of being in their prime. it's about the youth, of course the Rolling Stones sell out huge arenas and have the songs, but people are obsessed with their old records.
Tell me about the stunt work on the film and what you took away from it, aside form the red Subaru!
I learnt a lot and I think I'm a pretty good driver now, and I think my family trusts me behind the wheel, but I like to scare everybody and drift into my driveway. I pull 90s into my driveway and the only thing they're mad about is the skid marks in the drive. There's tons of tyre marks in the drive where I pulled the emergency brake!
Baby Driver is in cinemas now.