Edgar Wright interview: Scott Pilgrim, John Landis, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and geek culture

Edgar Wright talks to us about the reaction to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, his viewing habits, the film's music and a whole lot more...

Mr Edgar Wright

Back in August, we were so excited for the release of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that we were utterly baffled by the lukewarm response that greeted the film at the box office. Now, four months later, our collective love hasn’t dimmed – if our end of year poll is anything to go by, where it was placed second overall – and we’re hoping it finds a new lease of life on DVD and Blu-ray.

To celebrate the home release, we had the chance to pick the brains of the director himself, Edgar Wright. This is a treat and a half, because, no matter what your misgivings with the film were (if you had any at all), Scott Pilgrim was the high-budgeted coming out party for one of the UK’s most promising technical filmmakers, and Wright delivered what was, for better or worse, a true stylistic feast.

We were dying to ask him about working on such a lavish scale, breaking into the Hollywood mainstream after the independent British projects like Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, and what it’s like hanging out with other self-proclaimed geeky filmmakers, such as Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and John Landis. And that’s just what we did.

The DVDs for Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are lovingly crafted, with the latter containing your amateur short film Dead Rightas an extra. There always seems to be a personal interest involved – is that still the case with Scott Pilgrim? Was it harder to keep a handle on that, as it was such a major production, with the trappings of a big studio DVD release?

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Not at all, because this is now the third time I’ve worked with Universal Home Entertainment on DVD after Shaun and Hot Fuzz. They were well aware that the previous discs were well received because of the TLC that had gone into the extras. So Scott Pilgrim was no different. Our production team were responsible for the seventeen hours of extras on the Blu-ray/DVD and we all worked really hard to make them as special as my previous discs.

Speaking of Dead Right, will we ever see your first feature film, A Fistful of Fingers, get a release?

Maybe. I am not so crazy about it, it’s a very silly film and while it’s got lots of things that make me smile about it, not least my school friends as most of the cast, but it’s not perfect and I find it harder to watch than Dead Right, even though one was shot on 16mm and the other on Video 8!

Why do you think that Scott Pilgrim and your work in general attract comments about generation gaps and ‘geek’ culture, even though they’re quite accessible? Do you ever stop and wonder whether the in-jokes and references harm your films?

I think maybe some people read too much into them sometimes. It’s certainly not meant to be a barrier and indeed the separate elements of Scott Pilgrim – romance, music, action, comic books, video games – are all pretty popular. I would hope that are not any in-jokes that stop the film dead, it’s certainly not my intention to that. I just wanted to make a film that was a blast to watch and listen to, with characters that you could identify with.

I think all of us at some point have been through the same ups and downs of love that Scott, Ramona and Knives experience.

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Also, for a change, you weren’t working with the Spaced alumni on this film. Instead, you were working with a bunch of quite young actors. What was it like being older than your cast?

It was a lot of fun. It actually reminded me of making the first series of Spaced. The cast were young and game and up for anything. It was really fun to bring together this little family on set and it’s really sweet to me that the whole cast  with no exceptions are still hang out together to this day.Some of the fights, such as those with Matthew Patel, Lucas Lee and Todd Ingram, mirror the comic quite closely. But the showdown with the Katayanagi Twins is very different, with the spectacular battle-of-the-bands sequence.

Narratively, it is moulded to fit with the Sex Bob-omb throughline, with it being another stage on their quest for success. But then you’ve got the musical conflict between Cornelius and Beck, and the amazing CGI monsters duelling in the air.

Can you run us through the creative process behind thatscene?It was partly based on an early idea Bryan had that was discarded, but really the change here was to make it so that not every fight had hand to hand combat. Also the Sex Bom-Omb’s arc is different to the books, I wanted them to be more present throughout the second half of the movie, so that their ascension through the Toronto music scene mirrored Scott’s fights with the exes. This setpiece was a way of bringing those two arcs together.The film’s music is fantastic, with the mixture of Godrich’s score, the fictional bands’ tunes by the likes of Beck and Metric, and the pop-rock soundtrack itself. When building the soundtrack, how much did you consult the comics themselves – which were already saturated with references and playlists – and how much did you bring your own ideas to the film? Were there any songs that you lobbied for inclusion?

The soundtrack was a mix of Bryan’s playlist tracks, and tracks from my own playlists that I used to send Bryan. Then on top of that we had all the amazing artists who composed songs for the soundtrack, some of the working directly with the material from the books. Then finally Nigel Godrich composed the score, his first. It was a embarrassment of riches and I’m really proud of it.

Eli Roth has spoken of how he introduced you and Quentin Tarantino to the Spanish horror film Who Can Kill A Child? and said you were quite taken by it. Do those geek-director film nights happen often? Have you shown or been shown a particularly cultish classic recently?

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I did like Who Can Kill A Child and in fact immediately tracked down La Residencia (The House That Screamed) by the same director. I am always watching old films and trying to fill gaps in my knowledge. For example, I’d only seen El Topo for the first time the other day. When I am not working I try to watch more than one film a day if I can.

Lately I have also been very impressed with Shout Factory’s reissues of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics. They’ve done the most amazing extras for films that are actually pretty trashy. The making of documentaries for Humanoids From The Deep, Galaxy Of Terror and Forbidden World are absolutely fascinating. And on a geeky level I did teach Quentin Tarantino how to play the Leonard Maltin game from Doug Loves Movies, and we tried to out fox each other with our 80s sci-fi knowledge.On Halloween night, you presented a show on BBC Radio 6Music. It was a great little special, especially the segment where John Landis came in and you chatted about American Werewolf in London, and, thankfully, refused to play Thriller. How did the show come about? Would you consider doing that more regularly? And did you just send a cheeky text to get Landis on the show, or was it more complex than that?

Yeah, it came together very simply indeed. I did a show for 6music last Christmas and they invited me back for Halloween this year. I recorded it in LA one morning and Landis was indeed contacted through a quick e-mail. It was a lot of fun and I hope I can more radio shows like it.

Edgar Wright, thank you very much!

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 27th December

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