There’s a scene in Baby Driver, Edgar Wright’s hit crime film from this summer that’s just being released on home video now, where the eponymous Baby is warned by a more experienced criminal that everyone in their game eventually ends up with blood on their hands and that it doesn’t wash off so easily. Baby plays it cool. Later Baby is given some driving gloves that are white leather on one side and red leather on the other. And, later in the movie, when he thinks he’s clear of the game he takes the gloves off, removing the red from his palms, soon to discover that blood really doesn’t wash off quite so easily.
If you’re a fan of Edgar Wright – and if you’re on Den of Geek there’s a good chance that you are – you’ll be well aware of his detail oriented approach to filmmaking. While the layers of detail served to make the endlessly rewatchable Cornetto trilogy even funnier and to reinforce and enhance the unique tone of the exceptional Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, the detail in Baby Driver is something else. The way the action and music are threaded together is impeccable.
But the story and character work benefit from his approach just as much. The film never forgets the kind of world we’re spending time in, yet it doesn’t lack Wright’s light touch either. It’s easily the slickest crime film in recent memory and one of the best movies of the year.
We couldn’t have been more excited to talk to Edgar Wright about Baby Driver.
So, everyone has been talking about the music and driving scenes in Baby Driver, quite rightly because they’re excellent, but I really like that you have this great pulpy crime story in there. I know the idea of the getaway driver came earlier, but what made you pursue a story like this?
Well I liked the idea of doing a crime story that was told through the eyes of somebody young, hence the title. Beyond even the driving it seemed like an interesting idea to do it through the eyes of an apprentice, somebody who, he’s already involved with a gang but isn’t fully committed. Even though he’s already a criminal and already in serious trouble at the start of the movie, I thought Baby doesn’t identify himself as a criminal. He’s paying off a debt and he’s just doing this thing until he doesn’t have to do this thing anymore. Then, on the flipside, he’s really good at it.
A lot of movies of this ilk are about people who are veteran getaway drivers. In most other movies about drivers, whether it’s The Driver or The Transporter or Drive, you hear about how legendary they are, and I like the idea of, the slightly similar thing in Baby Driver, but the thing about him that’s legendary is that he’s this kid. I like the idea of having this fresh faced 20 year old in the room with all these grizzled criminals, because you ask the question that they would; what’s the deal with the kid? I mean it’s literally the first line of dialogue in the movie.
So this is the first script that you’ve written on your own…
(both in unison)…since Fistful Of Fingers.
It’s the first script that I’ve written on my own that results in a film over 80 minutes long.
What made you write on your own this time?
I think ‘cause it was a bit of a change of direction. Also, when me and Simon (Pegg) write it’s usually for Simon to be in a main part. In other cases I’ve written with Joe Cornish and Michael Bacall. Both of those guys were a lot of help to me whilst I was writing. I wanted to write this one solo because it was something that was different.
Did that change your process?
Yeah, I guess so, because it’s like not specifically a comedy. When I’m writing with Simon or with Joe Cornish or Michael Bacall we usually write in the room together and you’re usually bouncing ideas off each other. And with David Walliams as well. Those are all comedy films in a lot of places, so you’re bouncing off each other’s dialogue. Here it was obviously a more solitary process so it just meant that I was constantly looking for validation from my friends and colleagues all the time.
Not even with a finished script, but literally with scenes, saying ‘hey, could you read this scene. Tell me what you think.’ So I’d usually be writing during the day and then at night I’d be asking people to have a quick read and tell me what they thought.
You mention writing comedy as being different, but from construction point of view, is there a degree of thrills stepping in for punchlines?
Not so much that. In a lot of the movies I’ve done, they are full of action. Scott Pilgrim has got tonnes of action, so does The World’s End, so does Hot Fuzz. The thing is with all these things is you call everything gags, the same as horror. Whether it’s like a horror shock or a stunt or something funny in movies everyone refers to them as gags. So it’s this gag with a car, this gag with a fake shock, this gag with a custard pie. In all of those genres they call them all gags. So there’s an element where (they) use the same terminology. I think in a way you end up structuring films in that way, in terms of, a lot of action films have similar structures similar to musicals. In the sense of an action film might have five big set pieces in the same way that a musical might have five big songs.
I know you’ve been working on the idea for this film for some time, but how long was the formal writing time?
It was after Scott Pilgrim, so I think it was maybe in the autumn of 2010 I started. I basically had a script by the summer of 2011, I had the first draft, and then I worked on it a little more. Then before I came back to London to shoot The World’s End, we had a read through of the script in Working Title, in Los Angeles with actors, just to hear it out loud. And the only actor at that table who’s still in the movie in Jon Hamm, playing the same part.
That’s awesome. How many drafts were there in total?
That is a difficult question to answer, because usually there’s a difference between your formal drafts that you hand in to get paid…
In between you have lots of half drafts or producer drafts, so I couldn’t tell you. More than 10, that’s for sure.
So, your characters in this are all fantastic. They’re these really interesting criminals, all of them are shades of grey. Do you have rules you use to make sure each of them pulls their weight or something you do so that you know the character’s working?
Well I think the idea of this one was, all of the characters are putting on some kind of façade, except for Deborah. Even Baby is putting on a front, he is literally putting on a front in terms of he has a physical façade in that he is wearing sunglasses and has earphones in. That’s almost his way of just retreating from the world that he’s in, especially in wearing the sunglasses, it’s so the other criminals cannot see into his soul and see that he’s scared and see that he’s conflicted.
But I like the idea with the criminals, I tried to give them all fronts and then, in desperate circumstances you start to see who these people really are. Jon Hamm’s character is maybe not as nice as you think he might be. Jamie Foxx’s character is the one that pretty much sets out his stall, he’s an agent of chaos and a complete sociopath and that remains pretty consistent throughout. But even he has got a complex about, he doesn’t like not being the star and the fact that Baby, by the nature of being young and being good at his job, is a remarkable character in this gang starts to drive Jamie’s character up the wall.
There must be a degree to which everything in this film is like plate spinning. Because everything is so precise. Is there ever a point where you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of detail you have in there?
No, I think that stuff’s always good. Detail is always good because it helps you realise the world. I think the thing that’s kind of fun about it is you can write every line, you can draw every storyboard, you can plot it out with the music to the millisecond, but there’ll always be something extra that comes up. That’s a great bonus, where happy accidents come out of it. There are a couple of lines that Jamie says that are improvs that are just killer. He wasn’t changing the lines that I’d written but he’d sometimes throw in extra lines, and sometimes those lines were just golden. Like Jamie totally improvised that line about, when he’s clapping, “That’s some Oscar shit right there, did you rehearse that?” That was just an improv that he did one time.
Or, there was another happy accident, there was the scene with The Damned. I had done the animatic to that scene where I cut the storyboards to the music. And then Bill Pope watched it and said “We’re gonna run out of song,” and I said “Why do you say that?” And he said “’Cause you’ve edited the action too fast and the stunt’s gonna take longer and you’re gonna want to see them, and you’re gonna run out of song.” And I was like “Ah ok, well let’s see,” and of course he was totally right.
So in that sequence, I was trying to figure out how to solve it because I watched the first edit it was like ‘ugh, we shot too much action for this song, but I don’t want to cut the action out because it’s good, so what should I do? Shall I have a second song? Shall I have it in silence? That doesn’t really make any sense’. And then, if you’re watching the movie, the bit where Baby carjacks the final car, he rewinds the song to the last verse last chorus. That was a shot that I did on the last day of the shoot, because I thought Baby has just been thrown off schedule, so what that character would do is get back on schedule with the song.
That’s a perfect example of a new bit that’s not in the script, not in the boards, and yet completely says everything about his character. So a lucky save that also crystalizes that character and his behaviour.
It’s great. And with it being so precise I’d be worried about it being lifeless, but it isn’t at all and I suppose it’s things like this that bring that about.
Also the performers. I mean, that’s the thing is you can work it all out like a little symphony, but the the locations offer up different things. And also to the credit of the performers, they know exactly what their choreography is and they perform it and they make it feel real and effortless.
Is there ever a moment when you’re on a film set where you have Jamie Foxx and Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and you question reality, because that’s kind of insane?
I think, yeah, I mean [people like] Jamie definitely put you at your ease very quickly. I think weirdly all of us get more star struck by other people. I’d say both me and Jamie were quite star struck by Flea. I think it’s people who are outside, or not necessarily in the business are the ones that you’re most star struck by. I remember introducing Jamie to Flea and Jamie being totally star struck by him and I thought that was amazing and hilarious. And I totally agreed. It was almost like Flea’s from a different walk of life because he’s a music guy. The same with Paul Williams, it was like ‘Holy shit, Paul Williams is in the movie! Oh my god!’
I think sometimes you get star struck by the person you’re not expecting to get star struck by.
So, Baby Driver is a project you’ve been working on for a long time. You’ve said you were working on the script back in 2010. I’m not expecting you to give me details, but do you have other projects like that that you’re working on just bubbling away in the background?
Yeah. I think one of the things is that, where they rear their head, is it’s bubbling away in your head and at some point you have to write it down and you have to make it. So something like Baby Driver never went away as an idea because I would be so determined to make it. Even if I saw films that were in the same genre, whether it’s like The Town or Drive or even The Transporter, I would watch them and go ‘well it’s not quite what I want to do’ so it would never deter me because I knew what I had with the music and the characters and the overall rhythm of it was different. So, because of that, you just become determined. Like, I have something I can see in my head and I wanna make it.
And there are other things that are like that for me. Some of them are the germ of the idea, other things are like something I thought, years and years ago, ‘this would make a great film’. So those ideas are bubbling away.
What are you doing next?
Well, I’m just in the process of, there’s films I had in development before Baby Driver, all of which are still being worked on so, one of them might be next or it might be something completely new. I’m in the process of writing some new stuff. I’m basically in a drawing board process at the moment where I’m working out what I want to do next. It could be something that already exists or it could be an original movie. TBD.
I think Bad Boys 3 currently has no director.
I think somebody else can do that one.
I don’t see the point of jumping in. I’ll happily watch it, and I was excited to see Joe Carnahan do it actually so I’m sorry that he’s not doing it any more. But I think coming in on the third of a franchise, unless it’s something I can radically change, it’s maybe not as interesting as an original movie.
Any chance that Fistful Of Fingers is coming out on DVD any time soon?
You know, it is supposed to. And part of the delay has been my fault, I’ve been trying to get some of the extras together and find some old material. It has been in the works with Arrow actually, but I wanna make sure that I can get some decent extras together. So it’s my bad and I am hoping that will come together soon.
Edgar Wright, thank you very much!
Baby Driver is released on DVD and Blu-ray today.