‘Baby Driver’: 58 Things We Learned from Edgar Wright’s Audio Commentaries

     October 14, 2017

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In the lead up to every new Edgar Wright film, there’s certainly excitement about the film itself, but there’s always added excitement about the eventual Blu-ray release and accompanying commentary track. Wright is a true lover of film, and thus is prone to packing the home video releases of his movies with tons of behind-the-scenes insights and goodies, which includes at least one insightful audio commentary from the filmmaker himself and sometimes multiple others featuring other folks from the production team and/or cast.

Baby Driver, one of the best films of 2017, is no exception, and now the film is out on Blu-ray and DVD for all to consume over and over again. The Blu-ray is packed to the brim with extras, from 20 minutes of extended scenes to a couple of deleted scenes, as well as copious behind-the-scenes featurettes that cover everything from the music to the stunts to the car chase sequences. And then, of course, there are two audio commentary tracks: one with just Wright, and another with Wright and his cinematographer Bill Pope, who also shot Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The World’s End.

With the film now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD, and given how insightful Wright’s commentary tracks are, I’ve gone through and listened to both Baby Driver tracks and pulled out some particularly insightful or amusing bits of trivia and information. There’s no substitute for the real thing, and I highly suggest actually listening to both commentary tracks because there’s plenty more included there (and they’re a delightful listen), but as a fan of the film, here’s some of the more notable things I learned about Baby Driver.

  • baby-driver-blu-ray-coverWright layered in the whine of the tinnitus through the studio logos leading into the beginning of the movie’s first song, which he put together with Steven Price.
  • Wright started writing the film properly in 2007, at which point he connected with then-music supervisor Steven Price who broke down the songs for him. Price went on to score The World’s End and Gravity, winning an Oscar for the latter.
  • In 1995 Wright was 21, living in North London, and while he was editing his first film Fist Full of Fingers he was listening to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and would visualize the action of Baby Driver, specifically the film’s opening car chase, without knowing anything about the story or characters.
  • Wright says he’s a big believer in music as a motivator and uses music to soundtrack his day, much like Baby.
  • Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia gave him the idea to use tinnitus as the reason Baby is always listening to music.
  • Wright says it’s very deliberate that, at least at the start of the movie, Baby is a bit of a goof when he’s on his own but is very quiet and serious when with the rest of the team.
  • Another inspiration for the film was that Wright loved doing choreography in his previous films and music videos.
  • Wright took the advance from Working Title to write the film in 2007 and turned in the script in 2011. He does not recommend doing this.
  • In developing the script, Wright interviewed real ex-cons so he had a better understanding of American getaway drivers. The only other movie he’s done where he got to interview people for research was Hot Fuzz.
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    Image via TriStar Pictures

    The film was originally written to take place in Los Angeles, but he changed the setting to Atlanta when they decided to shoot there instead. He was initially reluctant, but after scouting locations he had never previously been to, he came to the conclusion that Atlanta was actually a better location than L.A.

  • When the location changed, Wright also noticed that Atlanta was populated with muscle cars like Chargers and Mustangs. So that also convinced him it was a better place to set the film.
  • Some portions of Baby lip syncing inside the car in the opening scene were shot towards the very end of the shoot.
  • All of the reaction shots in the cars were shot for real, which was incredibly difficult to pull off.
  • Jon Bernthal had to keep going back and forth to Atlanta to shoot his scenes given the complicated nature of the schedule, even though he’s only in a couple of scenes altogether.
  • They shut down the I-85, one of Atlanta’s busiest highways, twice for the opening chase sequence, and the second time they reshot about 85% of the sequence. But Wright was able to cut a lot of the footage together to show the actors what the movie would look like, since this was towards the beginning of the shoot.
  • They did 28 takes of the coffee run oner, and ended up using Take 21.
  • The diner was actually a set. It’s not a location that exists in real life.
  • DP Bill Pope says he’s always looking for a location, especially for Edgar Wright, that essentially lights itself.
  • Wright storyboarded a lot of the movie with his brother Oscar Wright.
  • To use the clip from It’s Complicated, Wright emailed John Krasinski—who’s a friend—to ask for permission, and Krasinski replied,”This is how I get into an Edgar Wright movie?”
  • J. Jones who plays Joe is a real deaf actor. He was the only actor they auditioned that was actually deaf, and Wright immediately felt uncomfortable about casting a non-deaf actor for the part.
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    Image via TriStar Pictures

    Wright says the hat joke regarding the tattoo was stolen from the screenplay he wrote for another film that he didn’t do, seemingly alluding to the fact that this was from his Ant-Man

  • Wright says he didn’t really intend for Baby’s jacket to be like Han Solo’s, but says even Phil Lord and Chris Miller pointed out that it looks like Han’s jacket.
  • The original version of the mask scene had two Michael Myers masks and one Austin Powers mask. As it came closer to time to shoot the scene, the Halloween people hadn’t said no yet but, “Their concern was they said the scene was funny and they’d never let Michael Myers, the actual image, be used in a comedic scene. Which is fair enough.” Wright had to rewrite the scene and get Mike Myers’ permission to use Austin Powers masks for all three, to which he agreed. Myers asked Wright to read and perform the scene to him on the phone.
  • The freeway carjacking scene is soundtracked to “Neat Neat Neat” by The Damned, but cinematographer Bill Pope told Wright the scene was going to be longer than the song. Wright’s fix was to have Baby rewind the song at one point, so the song actually does last for the entire sequence. Wright shot the rewind bit on one of the last days of production as a fix.
  • Wright was inspired to use The Damned in the film after watching a documentary in which the band members were lamenting the fact that their songs never get used in movies.
  • Baby’s apartment and the diner were two of the only sets used in the film. The rest were real locations.
  • The first day of the shoot was the coffee run sequence.
  • Wright shot a lot of the flashbacks with a 16mm handcrank camera.
  • During Ansel’s audition, Wright asked him to lip sync the words to a song that he knows by heart. He chose “Easy” by The Commodores, which Wright then put in the film.
  • Baby’s diverse taste in music is a result of him inheriting a bunch of iPods from stealing a lot of cars.
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    Image via TriStar Pictures

    Quoting Bill Pope, Wright says one of the reasons they wanted to shoot on film was because it’s transportative—“It makes it more magical because it’s not quite like real life.”

  • Quentin Tarantino read the script and told Wright about another song called “Deborah” by Dave Edmunds, but the character in the song was “a complete bitch,” so Wright opted to just use the T-Rex and Beck “Deborah” songs instead.
  • Someone at the studio asked Wright to cut out the part of the film where Baby pronounces T-Rex as “Trex” because they thought it made the character seem dumb, but it was one of Wright’s favorite parts of the film, so he kept it in.
  • When filming the scene at the Laundromat, in between takes they had to pump all the machines full of quarters—there was no “switch” to make them run at the same time.
  • There’s one shot in the Laundromat where you could see Wright’s head in the reflection, so they had to digitally remove it.
  • Bill Pope says the circular shot in the restaurant between Baby and Deborah was tricky to shoot because it had to end exactly when Kevin Spacey toasts his drink.
  • Wright didn’t want to shoot “leafy, woody” Atlanta because a leafy freeway makes you feel like the characters have gotten away or looks too much like Smokey and the Bandit in the country. So for almost the entirety of the movie they shot in urban areas. The state of Georgia offered to shut down rural freeways for their use, but Wright wanted to shoot in the heart of the city.
  • They did four days of reshoots after two test screenings. The scene in the car between Baby and Deborah when they kiss, after Doc confronts Baby, was a reshoot, and wasn’t shot by Bill Pope—Ken Sang shot it instead, because Pope was unavailable. Audiences wanted to see a bit more between Baby and Deborah before Deborah makes the decision to leave with Baby. But during the filming of the shot of them kissing, they had overrun on the location by an hour so the police were yelling offscreen to tell them to wrap it up.
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    Image via Sony

    The scene with Baby and Doc’s nephew came from an interview Wright did with an ex-con, who said he would take a “son” or a “nephew” with him to case banks so he seemed less suspicious.

  • One of the ex-cons Wright spoke to said he had a tape of “killer tracks” that he would listen to when he would drive around, and another ex-con told a story about hearing Guns N’ Roses’ cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on the radio before going in for a job and deciding it was a bad omen. They opted not to go through with the job.
  • Wright said that while he doesn’t allow much improv on his films, Jamie Foxx had a couple of great bits that made it into the movie—including the line about the “fake ass Louis Vuitton hat.”
  • Jamie Foxx had a habit of watching takes back on the monitors next to Wright, and when it would be a shot of Jon Hamm, Foxx would turn to Wright and say, “He handsome.” So the line got added into the movie.
  • The scene in the car soundtracked to “Nowhere to Run”, was shot on digital.
  • The “Tequila” scene took three days to shoot and one extra day of second unit, which Wright shot with stunt coordinator Darren Prescsott.
  • In the key diner scene towards the end of the movie, you can see Baby quietly writing his message to Deborah in the background. In the same scene, Jamie improvised the line “That’s some Oscar shit right there.”
  • There were also inserts in the diner scene of Jon Hamm holding his fork like he’s going to stab Jamie Foxx’s character, but Wright felt it was complicating the scene too much. But you can still see Hamm holding his fork in the wide shots.
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    Image via TriStar Pictures

    In the editing room, the diner scene ran on for about 90 seconds longer than the song that was intended for the scene, “Something Is Wrong with My Baby,” so Wright hit the “Genius” button on his iTunes on that song and found “Every Little Bit Hurts”, which they added to the scene so music would play throughout.

  • Wright and Pope usually have coffee every morning to go over the shot list. Many days on Wright’s film they’d have up to 40 setups, so Pope would do the math to figure out how often they had to be shooting a new setup.
  • The ending of the first draft of the movie had Baby leaving prison in modern day and then stepping into 1950s gear with Deborah also in 1950s gear, “so it was clearly a dream.” But when Sony head Tom Rothman read the script one of his big notes was the movie couldn’t end on a dream sequence. So Wright thought about it and then decided to have the 50s sequence earlier in the film to plant the seeds for the mirror ending. The idea was inspired by the unicorn dream in Blade Runner.
  • The short scene of Deborah being stood up at the diner wasn’t in the script, but Wright improvised it during production when he realized the audience (and studio) would need to know what Deborah was up to at this point in the story.
  • The studio wasn’t crazy about the footchase sequence, and Wright ended up deferring some of his fee to pay for the filming of the sequence.
  • In shooting the footchase, Wright says First Unit and Second Unit were sometimes shooting simultaneously in the same area. Since Ansel Elgort is 21 and 6’4”, Bill Pope says he had to trade off grips to keep up with him with the camera while he was running.
  • Wright first met Jon Hamm when Hamm first hosted SNL, at the afterparty. He wrote the character of Buddy for him.
  • The final montage was originally supposed to be silent, and Wright wrote “B-dialogue” for lip readers, to mimic Baby’s new deafness. But after test screenings Wright decided to put the actual audio of the dialogue in.
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    Image via Sony

    The entire end sequence was shot in a working prison.

  • Wright made them all wear white jumpsuits because he got tired of seeing orange jumpsuits in movies and liked white jumpsuits in Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway.
  • In the first cut of the movie, the final shot was entirely in color. But some people in test screenings had more arguments about whether it was real or not, because of the rainbow. Wright decided to make it go from black and white to color, but still wants to leave it up to the audience to decide if that’s what’s actually happening or what Baby imagines happening down the road.
  • Wright spent three days at the end of the shoot shooting inserts of steering wheels and gas pedals, etc. He says he did the same thing on The World’s End and Scott Pilgrim.

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