Last April, a group of fellow journalists and I visited the set of Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver in Atlanta. For those who are unfamiliar with the film, it follows Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young getaway driver who constantly plays music in order to drown out a hearing impairment he suffered as a child. When he falls for a local waitress (Lily James), he must find a way to escape from crime kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey) and his other criminal associates. The film also stars Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx.
During our visit to the set, we briefly got a chance to speak with Wright in between takes. He talked about how long he had been working on the film, why he changed the setting to Atlanta, selecting the music, gathering a cast of musically-inclined actors, the influence of Walter Hill on the film, and much more.
Check out the interview below. Baby Driver opens June 28th.
How long was this movie in development?
EDGAR WRIGHT: I had the idea for a long, long time. Then in 2007 I started writing it.
WRIGHT: Right, it’s developed since then. I started working on it after Hot Fuzz and then I finished writing it after Scott Pilgrim. So the process of research and trying to figure out the story and stuff, and it’s the first script I had written on my own for a long time, since I was like a teenager. The first solo screenplay I’d written since my first movie. So yeah, a long time.
How has it evolved/changed?
WRIGHT: A lot. I guess it was more of a concept initially and I sort of knew what I wanted to do tonally and what kind of movie I wanted it to be like instead of what the general premise was and it was a nice voyage of discovery in terms of starting to build out the plot and the characters and the twists and things like that. And also once I started writing I started talking to ex-cons and real getaway drivers and FBI people and stuff and that’s always fascinating to me. It was also something (interesting) because it’s an American film and a crime film. I met this guy who’s amazing, an ex-convict who is now a writer called Joe Loya who wrote a book called The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell, and I found him through a researcher and we became friendly. So when I would write pages I would sometimes sent them to him and say ‘Does this sound kind of real?’ I’m real aware of being English and middle class and writing an American crime film, so I may as well get the okay from someone who has been inside for ten years.
We’ve heard this movie compared to a musical, I was wondering if you could talk a little about how it relates to that genre along with the timing.
WRIGHT: I mean, it is and it isn’t. It isn’t in the sense that it’s not like Mamma Mia!, I don’t know why that was the first thing that came to my mind, but there is a lot of music in it in terms of Ansel’s character is playing music the entire time. So it’s not like a film where anybody sings out loud but it’s taking things that are in Scorsese or Tarantino or Soderbergh films and in those films you have the jukebox kind of soundtrack and the idea with this is that the lead character is actually playing those songs. So the songs are always sourced, they’re either in his ears or playing in a diner or playing on a stereo, so there’s always within the scenes. So that’s the premise of it really.
Is it wall to wall sound?
WRIGHT: There’s A LOT of music in it, yeah. It’s a lot of work. We have a create clearance person whose been working on it a long time, and actually we’ve had time to do it. We were going to shoot earlier and then we kind of delayed for a couple of reasons and that actually gave us time to clear all the music. So the unusual thing was we cleared all the music before we started shooting, so we can actually play it on set knowing that that’s the track we’re going to use.
Did seeing Fury Road last year give you pause about making this or did it put it a fire in your belly to do it more?
WRIGHT: No, I mean, that’s an amazing piece of work, and I think any director who saw that movie was like ‘Oh my god, what a masterpiece.’ I got to know George (Miller) through that because I actually had never met him and then my sound designer was working on Fury Road, so I got to meet George just before it came out and I did a Q&A with him and I’ve seen him a bunch of times since. I think I’ve seen the movie four times before it came out and also I paid to see it opening weekend because I wanted to support it. But I don’t know, that movie is incredible, especially for a director to come along at 71 and just wipe the floor with everybody after not having done a live action movie for 19 years is truly incredible.
What were your specific influences?
WRIGHT: I think things from when I was growing up. Obviously Scorsese or Tarantino’s films, but a big influence on me are Walter Hill’s movies. Walter Hill’s early movies like The Driver and The Warriors, I love those movies and I liked his style. Walter is somebody else that I’ve got to know through doing Q&As so I’ve made him fully away, I’ve said ‘You know I’m totally ripping you off, right? We’ll call it a big tribute to you.’ So I think a lot of those films, that would be a big influence, The Driver. Which if you’ve never seen it is really great.