On January 1, 2009, director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) began a year-long photoblog. It just so happened that 2009 was also the year when he began production on his next film, an adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic book series Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The combination of one of my favorite directors creating an adaptation of one of my favorite comics sent me in a frenzy. The frenzy had me bugging Steve every two weeks telling him that if there was a set visit, I wanted to go. I had to. Taking a look inside of what Wright would do with this material was a chance I didn’t want to miss.
I got that chance immediately following last year’s Comic-Con. Less than 48 hours after the Con ended, I was in Toronto and sitting on the steps of a pyramid in Club Kaos. Hit the jump to read about my visit to set of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
First thing’s first. Watch the trailer for the film. It will give you power.
You can read my full report below and/or scroll to the bottom of the article to see a 38-minute video blog I did about the visit with Peter Sciretta over at /Film. If you want to see me at my most enthusiastic/dorkiest, then the video blog is for you.
Cera Strikes an Imposing Figure as He Prepares to Strike
When we first arrived on set, we sat down in some chairs, put on some headphones, and watched a monitor as cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix, Team America) set up a shot Cera swinging a sword (say that seven times fast). The sword is red, but we’re told it’s not blood. His face is intense and it’s a look you would never see on George Michael or any of Cera’s other characters (well, except maybe this one). We’re also told that Cera’s stunt double goes through two hours of make-up and that the stunt doubles for Winstead and Ellen Wong (who plays Scott’s ex-girlfriend, Knives Chau) are men.
It’s Day 84 of a 94-day shoot and they’re on the set of “Club Kaos” where one of the film’s major battles take place. They’ll be moving on to the 9th Circle set (more on that later) next week. We watch Cera repeatedly swing the sword, but it’s just the motion as opposed to a long-shot of fight choreography, although Pilgrim is in the middle of a battle in this scene. It’s just one second of what will be a much larger (and judging from the trailer, a very cool) action scene.
Interviews with Some of the Cast and Co-Writer Michael Bacall
Then we’re told it’s time for interviews. We go to a different room, sit down at a table, and we’re privileged to have the lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead be our first interview of the day. She was followed by the equally lovely Johnny Simmons (Young Neil), Alison Pill (Kim Pine), and Mark Webber (Stephen Stills). Along with their individual experiences working on the set, all the actors talked about their time in Toronto, the music in the film, how O’Malley helped them gain insight in to their characters, and their enthusiasm working with Wright. We also spoke with co-writer Michael Bacall. Look for these interviews throughout the week.
Returning to Club Kaos
We return to the monitors and it looks like Scott is about to kick Jason Schwartzman’s character, Gideon Gordon Graves, in the face. I don’t think I’ve ever grinned so wide at the prospect of a foot greeting someone’s face at an accelerated upward trajectory. The video on the monitor then goes out (intentionally), but we can still hear the action through the headphones. Afterwards, Schwartzman walks by us. He smiles and briefly says hello. He’s wearing a red shirt that’s torn at the shoulder, a black tie, and has a cut across his face.
Then it’s time for our big interview with Wright who was later joined by Cera and Schwartzman. We walk onto the set of Club Kaos and it looks pretty spectacular. It’s painted black and red with various pyramids around. We’re told that thrones come out of the top of the pyramid. Unfortunately, there is no throne right now so we settle for the steps even though it would have been awesome if Wright had been sitting in the throne during the interview. Instead he sits in the chair reserved for Kim Pine (it’s Alison Pill’s but all of the chairs have the character’s name on them instead of the actor’s). You can read this interview tonight by clicking here. It’s a long read but it’s a good one.
So Club Kaos is black and red pyramids with fucking thrones that come out of the top and it’s where an epic battle between Scott and Gideon takes place. Cool, right? The set doesn’t even come close to 9th Circle.
Descending to the 9th Circle
We walk into a gigantic sound stage where they’ve built two stages for a musical performance/set piece. One is massive. There’s an illuminated blue grid. Inside each square of the grid is a gigantic flashing light. I can feel the heat burning forth from every bulb and I begin to sweat. I move towards the other stage at the opposite end of the room. It’s tiny, rickety, and if I didn’t know I was on a movie set where safety is the highest priority, I would not be comfortable on top of it. If you need a visual of David vs. Goliath in music stage-form, this is it. For those that haven’t read the books, Scott’s band—Sex Bob-omb—is David.
They’re planning to use this set at the end of the week and I almost feel sorry for the actors as they’ll be sweating their faces off next to those bulbs. Then I remember they get to star in a movie I can’t wait to see and I stop feeling sorry for them. I also know that they and the crew will be more than able to handle it. They’ve shot footage around the city, spent months training for fight scenes (including one month just to shoot five minutes of a battle), learned to play instruments, and from what I’ve seen, shown real fidelity to the imagery of the books.
Art Department +12 Attention to Detail
But in case I needed any more proof, we move onto the art department. I break out my voice recorder and all the other journalists laugh a little at me, but I know I can’t scribble down my notes as fast as I can talk. Turns out, I was being silly because I was whispering into my recorder and my breathing kept covering what I was trying to say. However, I did make out some of my comments. I also have the ability to remember things so that helps.
The walls are plastered with storyboards and concept art. The storyboards are matched up to real places in Toronto because O’Malley took those real places and including them in the books. But what really impresses are the art designs. My favorites are the little skulls on some of the weapons and all the little things that the audience will probably never see (although I hope that in post they’ll edit in little notes like in the book that indicate a weapon’s special bonus like in a role-playing game). We also got a look at the fake Lucas Lee (played by Chris Evans) movie posters that Edgar snapped a photo of during his year-long photoblog. They even have little credits on them. Again, stuff the audience will most likely never see but add to the authenticity. I’ve come to learn that such authenticity is so crucial in helping a movie come alive. There’s so much in terms of the set that’s not really there, especially with the reliance/necessity of green screen. But walking along the practical sets we’ve seen today and then seeing a whip-sword that has little skulls on it conveys that even on the most minute detail, everyone involved wants to make this film come alive.
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Then set visit came to close (ending on time, but I know we all would have gladly stayed longer if they’d let us) and we made our way back to the hotel.
You’re going to see these set reports across various movie websites. Some cynics will see all the positive remarks and say that it was pre-determined they would positive. But I know these other journalists and I read their stuff on a regular basis. They’re not Pollyannas. They have the power of critical thoughts. And I will tell you right now: every single journalist left this set visit with a huge smile on their face.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World hits theaters on August 13th.
And here’s the video blog I did with Peter. This is me at full fanboy so fair warning. Thanks to Peter for letting me do this blog with him and I hope you enjoy it.
Fore more SCOTT PILGRIM Coverage: