After helming the brilliant Shaun of the Dead, then following it up with the even more brilliant Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright is a god among geeks. The fact that he shares so many geek passions makes his status all the more sacrosanct. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World allows him to expand those proclivities in a new direction: adapting the underground comic book series complete with pop culture in-jokes and gratuitous video-game references.
“Scott Pilgrim is like a dream sequence where the character never wakes up,” he says. “You could even see the film--if you want to put some Inception theory into it--where the lead character never wakes up from his daydream. There’s a point where he walks into the bathroom and then walks out into the school corridor and it’s never clear, from that point on, whether we’re in the real world or not anymore. I say not.”
Achieving that dream sequence took a great deal of work. “I’ve been working on this script, in conjunction with Brian Lee O’Malley and Michael Bacall for five years, at least,” he says. “I’ve been working on the film, solidly, for two years. So that’s like two solid years of work up on screen, and the paint is only just drying.
“I remember in 2005 writing the first draft of the script and saying to Michael Bacall--we were watching a lot of Arrested Development at the time--‘Oh, it’s a shame that George Michael kid isn’t older. He’d be perfect for Scott Pilgrim.’ And then cut to 2010 and he’s 22 and the character is 22 and we’re all good.”
Within that framework, he had to keep Scott Pilgrim’s emotional core clear, a feat he pulled off rather effortlessly in his first two films.
“You kind of have to ground the craziness in something realistic, and usually that comes from the characters. In this, Michael Cera, to me, is the perfect actor for it because he consistently undercuts the insanity that’s going on.
“It’s not as simple as boy meets girl, boy gets girl. It’s really about young love and the ups-and-downs, the immaturity, and insecurities of love at that age. Scott Pilgrim is adolescent and the way that he thinks about a new relationship is it’s the best thing ever and the way that he feel about a break up is it’s the worst thing ever.”
Despite the film’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visuals, Wright maintains that the best way to keep that emotional honesty is through practical effects.
“It was really important to have real locations, real sets, things that people can touch and put their feet on. You’re in real environments. You know, Speed Racer or even some of the green screen films like the Star Wars prequels--if I had a complaint against the Star Wars prequels compared to the original ones is that there’s nothing! There’s no hardware! There’s nothing to touch anymore! If you were there in the 1970’s ones, the Millennium Falcon is something that’s there and you can touch it. It adds so much to the performances. So I think with this, even though there are crazy fight scenes and fantastical things happening, we had real sets and people were in locations and could literally have their feet on the ground.”
As for future plans, he remains decidedly mum about them. (“I have no new news.”) Like any comic book fan, however, he opens up a little bit when talking about superhero films… including his on-again, off-again flirtation with a big-screen version of Ant-Man.
“I talked to Kevin Feige about that a while back where we just discussed about whether he [Ant-Man] would be in The Avengers. The thing is, the script that I’ve written, the way it works wouldn’t really fit in with what they do. And my film is very much an introduction to that character, and so it wasn’t something where it felt right to introduce him in that film. Maybe if I do the solo Ant-Man film and maybe there’s a later Avengers movie then they could draft him in later. But it didn’t work with the kind of the angle that we were going to do with the origin that I’d written.”
Regardless of whether that project takes off, Wright has no shortage of possible ideas for the future.
“I’m going to take a little break and then get back to writing,” he assures us with a smile.