‘Baby Driver’: Jon Hamm & Ansel Elgort on Moving to the Beat of Edgar Wright’s Quasi-Musical

     June 1, 2017

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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 a break in filming, we got a chance to speak to Ansel Elgort and Jon Hamm.  They talked about the unique experience of working on a film that’s timed to music, Wright’s infectious enthusiasm, the strained relationship between their characters, Elgort getting behind the wheel and Hamm avoiding stuntwork, and much more.

Check out the full interview below. Baby Driver opens June 28th.

baby-driver-final-posterQUESTION: So can you tell us a little bit about your character?

JON HAMM: You know, yeah, it’s like we decided, Edgar and I, I don’t know how much — maybe talk to Edgar, maybe he sort of kind of told you the genesis of my involvement in the project and stuff, but I’ve kind of been around for a long time on this one, I did one of the early, early, early table reads a long time ago, and I just thought it was a really cool idea, to kind of mess around with the cops and robbers movies and the heist movies and that whole thing, and Edgar’s visually such a specific and interesting filmmaker that I thought, out of all people, he could really come at this with a fresh take. So, you know, my guy, we decided he was kind of this guy who just for several reasons, most of which are his own fault, kind of wound up on the other side of good decisions, and then kind of decided he liked it and was sort of good at it, but probably thinks he’s smarter than he is, probably thinks he’s better at it than he is, and like most criminals doesn’t really get the consequence when the shit goes down. So yeah, I mean, I could get into really stupid, boring specifics, but that’s the general idea, and he’s sort of attracted to the plus sides of easy money and sort of disavows the other sides.

What was it that early on that brought you onto the project?

HAMM: You know, I just really liked the sort of general idea of the script, and this idea of making kind of a quasi-musical, and I don’t know how much Edgar’s sort of shared with you guys about that, but I’ve had the hardest time in kind of coming up with the bullet point version of what this movie is other than quasi-musical. It’s been really interesting to see it kind of shape up. We have these choreographers on set all the time whenever we’re doing any kind of action sequence, and that’s been a really cool challenge to kind of — you know, there’s already a million things going around at any shoot day anyway, and then you add guns or you add explosions or you add car crashes or you add any action element to it, and it gets even weirder, and then you have to realize, “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to be doing this kind of choreographed and in time,” that makes it even more difficult, but more exciting and I think more original. In an increasingly kind of crowded environment for entertainment, that’s kind of an exciting thing that’s out there that doesn’t look like everything else.

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Image via Sony

What’s the relationship between y’all’s characters? Is it contentious?

HAMM: We’re father and son. [laughs] It kind of runs the gamut, and Ansel can speak to this as well. It definitely changes over the course of the film without revealing too much, but there’s kind of a mentor/mentee relationship in the movie, sort of an older brother/younger brother relationship in the movie, if not explicit than sort of implied, and then it doesn’t go as planned. As most crime stories, you know, something goes wrong.

How much of the actual stunt work do you two get to do yourselves?

HAMM: Well, I try to do as little as possible because I’m 45 years old and I break easily. You know, I think especially when you’re closing down highways and when you’ve got a lot of multi-ton vehicles involved with things, I would much rather let professionals with way bigger insurance policies handle things like that, but when it scales down into smaller stuff we’ve been very involved. There’s a lot of guns, there’s a lot of jumping over things, I remember at one point Ansel had what looked like a very dangerous thing jumping over this moving thing that I was like, “Really glad I’m not doing that.” [laughs] But I mean, I think it’s a really a function of personal comfort. I used to be a lot more comfortable with doing a lot of that stuff and now I’m a lot less comfortable the day after doing a lot of that stuff.

ANSEL ELGORT: I finally got to do some driving today. I was glad. Like, at first they just wanted me to like, drive fast and then stuff, but it had an emergency break in the car, so I asked the stunt guy, I was like, “Do you mind if I skid to stop with the e-brake and slide the car a little bit?” And he was like, “Just don’t go past your mark.” And I was like, “I won’t!”

HAMM: Where the people are.

ELGORT: And the cameraman was standing there and I had to slide up to him. Everyone in the car got pretty fucking nervous, I think Flea yelled, as I was driving really fast and as I was braking and sliding, I think he yelled, and he had a mask on, “Oh shit!” He was like, “I thought you were gonna take him out!” But I was so glad I got to do some driving today.

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Image via Sony

HAMM: We all got trained, we all had a couple days of sort of intense kind of work behind the wheel and just be comfortable in doing stuff if it comes up, and there’s a perfect example of it. Ansel knows how to do it, great, if you’re not putting a cameraman or anyone else in danger, then great, I’m sure it looked amazing. That’s another thing, we’ve been able to see a lot of the stuff kind of pieced together, and again, I don’t know how much Edgar’s shared with you about the process, but there’s a lot of kind of in time-on time editing happening on set with a guy that Edgar’s worked with several times before, and so literally by the end of the day you can go see sequences roughed together and have a really clear idea of what you have and more importantly, I think, what you don’t have. So you could push that off to second unit or add a day or we have to come back to this location and we gotta get XYZ shots. By and large, it looks pretty great.

ELGORT: I think he has a live feed of what’s happening and he just records the feed, so it’s not actual film, it’s like a digital feed of what the film is gonna be, and literally when they say check the gate, if you walk over to his monitor he already has the shot you just shot and he’s putting it into the puzzle.

HAMM: Yeah. I’ve never seen it done before that fast. Because of computers!

You said your character has a little bit of a hearing issue, can you talk about that?

ELGORT: Yeah, Baby has tinnitus. He was in a car accident when he was seven, and that’s probably why he has such a thing with cars. But because he has tinnitus, he has to always listen to music to drown it out, and that’s sort of the explanation to why this whole movie is set to music is it’s all through Baby’s ears.

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