With Scott Pilgrim’s incessant fighting and self-loathing, the only way he can function is with a little help from his friends. Friends such as gay roommate Wallace Wells, played by Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down), and the oh-so-angry Julie Powers, played by Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation). Okay, Julie might not technically be Scott’s friend but, according to Plaza, she might secretly love him. That’s just one of the details that was revealed when we sat down with these two tremendously talented actors to discuss their roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which hits theaters August 13.
This was one of those conversations where not a whole lot got done, but the joking and chemistry was totally worth the ride. Hit the jump to read about some rare moments of on set improv, Culkin’s long hours in bed with men, Plaza’s cursing habits and much more.
As Plaza and Culkin sat down, they informed the table of journalists that co-star Anna Kendrick, who plays Scott’s sister Stacey in the film, had just left and wouldn’t be joining us. “So this’ll be a lot less useful,” Culkin joked. They then messed around about her Oscar nomination and how that changed her.
Neither Plaza nor Culkin had read or heard of the comics before they got the film but Plaza in particular became a fan after. She didn’t expect to like it but thought it was “Awesome” and “really funny.” “I didn’t know comic books could be that funny,” she said. Culkin then asked her if she thought it was “funny” and she said, that “Yes, it was ‘funny,’ both playing on her overuse of the word “funny.”
The next question was if the fact that the Scott Pilgrim series had such a huge built in fan base affected them at all and both of them said it added a bunch of pressure. “In the back of my head I wanted to make sure I’m living up to the Julie Powers in the comic books,” Plaza said. “ I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
Culkin said that he felt that pressure too because Wallace is so beloved, but once he got the character he just let it fly. “I tried not to put too much thought into him,” he said. Once he figured out what he was going to do he told himself “Just be that.”
A reporter commented to Plaza that she in particular gave her character, which isn’t particularly well formed in either the movie or the comics, a whole new dimension. She said much of that was because of the list of 10 secrets creator Bryan Lee O’Malley and director Edgar Wright gave her. And while Mark Webber and Alison Pill* told us all their secrets were in the books, Plaza said her biggest wasn’t. “Maybe Julie Powers is so angry at Scott, or hates Scott so much, because she likes him, or liked him, and he never liked her but he had little flings and crushes on all of her friends but never really paid attention to her so that really bugs her.”
My first question was if either was jealous that, due to the Greek chorus nature of their characters, they didn’t get to kick any ass. Both were quick to answer “No.” “I was telling someone, ‘Everyone is either learning an instrument or doing fight training and I don’t have to do that,’” Culkin said. “And they’re like ‘Oh I’m sorry,’ and I said ‘What are you kidding? It’s great! I don’t have to prep for weeks, I can just go in there and do my job and get out.’ I like that.” Plaza added that she was going to join her co-stars for training…but overslept. “And I realized, well, I can do that because I don’t have to be there so that was great,” she said.
Julie Powers biggest scene is the one in which she rips on Scott Pilgrim with a barrage of curses. A reporter asked “How DID she do that with her mouth?” which is a reference to a line Scott has in the movie. “Never fucking mind how she did it,” Plaza quipped. She added that on set she delivered every curse out loud but, much to my surprise, it was mostly scripted. Plaza is a stand up comedian and I figured it was all made up. Nope. Though she did add the final jab where she says she has a coffee for “’Fuck’ Pilgrim.”
Plaza continued that most of the movie was actually very precises and without improv, but Culkin was quick to point out two moments where that wasn’t the case. The first is when Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) looks at his phone and says “That’s actually hilarious.” That was just added in by Evans and Wright loved it. The second was the moment when Wallace gets home from a night of drinking, throws his keys and hits Scott in the head. It happened on an early take and Wright liked it so much, they spent a lot of time trying to duplicate it. Eventually, they had to cut between the throw in a long take and a medium of Scott getting hit.
The other actors had kept mentioning how long some of the shooting days were so I asked Culkin about how long he was in bed with multiple men and he said “not long enough.” He then began to say that it was about half a day before Plaza interrupted him. “Except for that one night where you guys actually slept in the bed,” she said. “That was a secret,” he replied and they went back and forth while we all laughed.
Someone asked if they liked the video game references and how they came across in the script script. Culkin, who stressed on multiple occasions his passion for gaming, said that even for him “it was hard to grasp in the script.” He said that the script was really long and kind of hard to read having not read the comics (it took him 5-6 hours before he finished it an understood it.) Having said that, though, once he read the comics and finally saw the movie, the gaming references for him were awesome. Later, Plaza echoed those sentiments. Even though she hadn’t played a video game in a long time, the movie was very nostalgic. “Hearing those sounds and people exploding into coins and remembering that feeling of jumping on coins and having them be your coins, I remember how that felt,” she said.
Culkin didn’t actually think the studio audience/Seinfeld gag was real until, on the day, Wright asked him to pause between lines to hold for applause. Things like that were the reason both were immediately sold on this movie. They both really just wanted to work with Wright. “I would have done it probably without even knowing what it was because it was him,” Plaza said.
She has already shot six episodes of the third season of Parks and Recreation and will be getting back to it once Amy Poehler has her baby. In addition, she has a small role in a movie tentatively called Someday This Pain Will Be Useful (“That’s never gonna be the title,” Culkin joked). It stars Ellen Burstyn and Marcia Gay Harden and is a serious drama based on a book. Plaza has a small roll as comic relief. Finally, though she hasn’t done it in a few months because of work taking up too much time, Plaza is hoping to get back to doing stand-up comedy on a regular basis soon.
Finally, when asked about their favorite games of all time, Kieran Culkin almost jumped out of his seat. “Do you want them in order?” he said. I joked, how about a reverse countdown, he said okay, then had to think about it. At this point, Plaza started rattling off names and Culkin shushed her not to spoil it. Number five is Contra, four is Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, three is Castlevania, two is Virtual Pro 2, a Japanese wrestling game for which he bought a converter and manually translated everything into English and number one is The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.
Suffice to say, Scott Pilgrim is in pretty good hands with friends like those. Don’t forget to check out our other interviews with the members of Sex Bob-Omb, two of the Evil-Exes and the man himself, director Edgar Wright.