Last week I got the chance to sit down and talk with both Edgar Wright and Michael Cera of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World at our very own Ritz Carlton in Center City, Philadelphia. It was a big day for me both as a writer and a fan, getting to meet and chat with both of these guys face-to-face about the film.
I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it. You’ll learn quite a bit about the film and which great Canadian invented basketball. I really hope you support these guys, and check out Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World at your local theater!
So how familiar were you with the source material before you started production on the film?
Edgar: I was given the first book.
I was asked this the other day “Were you a big fan of the book already?” and I said I was given the book the week it was published, so I sort of read it with everyone else when it first came out back in 2004.
So for me the process of making this film has been, for the last six years, a very organic one. Because I got to be in contact with the author as he was writing the books the entire time.
When we started filming in March of 2009, the fifth book had just been published and the sixth book only existed as a rough draft. So, I was working on the adaptation for about five years altogether.
Edgar: He was very involved in the sense he read every single draft of the script.
In some cases, me and Michael Bacall would send the script to Brian and he would do little polishes on scenes. So he touched up a couple of scenes he had an idea about.
But weirdly, some of his stuff in the film that he did work on in the script, is not in his books either. So it really is like a real collaboration, because there are a couple of lines in the film that are Brian’s but the aren’t in the books, and then there are a couple of lines from our script that were in the books; because we wrote the first draft of the script back in 2006.
There are like one or two lines, in book four and five that are lines from our script. Brian O’Malley was very polite to email me and say, “Can I use one of your lines from the Roxxy Scene for the book?”
Michael: Art imitating art.
Dan: That’s very meta.
Edgar: Yeah, it was very good that way, and it was an easier thing in terms of like a fanbase of a comic like this where everyone has very specific thoughts on things. I would just kind of try not to read any of that and just kind of go straight to the source and talk to Brian about stuff.
More Epicness after the jump!
But did you keep the fan reaction in mind when making the film, especially with a property as beloved as this one is?
Edgar: I think doing that is kind of the path to disaster, because you will end up really just chasing your tail trying to please everybody.
So because I did have access to Brian, but if it had been more of an Alan Moore type situation where he was like “No radio contact with the creator!” I probably wouldn’t have done the film at all, to be honest with you.
But because he was so involved, even literally (and pulls at his shirt) even this doodle that is in the film, which isn’t even in the books; but is one of Brian’s drawings. We were trying to keep him involved at every stage of the film, to the point we began to feel as if we were bothering him.
He eventually said, “Hey I trust you guys, get on with it.”
I think he eventually got tired of us, because we were calling him like everyday to say “Hey, check this out! What do you think of this?”
Did you have any idea the film would coincide with the release of the sixth book? Was that planned?
Edgar: I think it started to come together once we realized when the film would kind of be made. Yes, it was definitely planned that the last book would come out before the film.
Since we’re talking about book six, how did the ending come about since both are pretty different, between the book and the film?
Yeah, in earlier drafts the ending was even more different.
Part of it was Brian, he likes to feel his way through the books so his ending of the book went through a whole bunch of different drafts. There were ones that didn’t reflect the film at all.
He really didn’t settle on his ending for book 6 until last year when we were filming. I feel it was fine that way because we both agreed early on, it was better to do something in the spirit of the book then try and cram 6 books into one film. The film became sort of its own beast and they serve each other, if people watch the film and never read the books I hope they would go back and read the books, but they really don’t have to.
A whole bunch of people have been reading the books since the trailer came out and some people I know have read the books just to have an opinion of the film.
How do you think it’s going to go over with people who haven’t read the books and aren’t video game fans? People who have no sort of groundwork for the world the comic and film are based on?
Edgar: I really hope they would enjoy the film on the basis of, you know at its heart it still feels as a story about young love and a right of passage film. All of those kind of touches (video game, comics) are flourishes really, it’s more really making a comment on the characters have sort of grown up in that world and this is the media that governs their lives; you know for better or for worse.
How did video games, especially the 8-bit style which is very prominent throughout the film, influence the film and what are some of you thoughts of video game to film adaptations?
Edgar: I always thought it was funny, that this film is not a video game adaption; but I thought I would put all the things in this film that they don’t put into video game to film adaptations.
It always amuses me for the most part, all of them like Tomb Raider, Doom, Prince of Persia and Super Mario Brothers none of them have the most recognizable things from video games; none of them have points and coins.
I thought that would be an interesting aspect is to kind of take bits from video games that all of the film versions leave behind. Another thing that is weird about video game adaptations is most of the video games are based on films, so when you get around to it the film or the video game it feels like a weird Xerox.
Like resident evil was based on zombie films; then you have a film based on a game that was based off a film. Like how Tomb Raider was based off Indiana Jones and it feels kind of like it goes through this weird filtration system by the time you actually get to the movie.
That was really nice we really didn’t have to worry about that because we weren’t adapting a game. A lot of these references in the film span about 30 years of gaming and all the references in there are very nostalgic ones, and some of them are at least 20 years old.
So when you were looking at the comic, when did you decide when to stray from the visuals that were given to you?
Edgar: It was all pretty organic. There was no sort of particular chart or something its just there is the stuff from the books and then there was stuff that wasn’t, I know Brian was happy with it that everything was in the same spirit though.
Because, there are various things he can do in the comic that we couldn’t do in the film and vice versa, I was trying to concentrate more on what Scott Pilgrim could do in the film that he can’t do in the comics, you know.
What were some of the inspirations for the visual style of the film? The combination of 8-bit video games, comics and live action; Gideon’s sword is a prime example of that fusion of styles.
Edgar: I think that came out of just, I like the idea that the last fight was the most elaborate one you know. We spent quite a lot of time and money making something look primitive.
I just thought it was kind of funny that, like I don’t know sort of how it gets further into the film it begins to literally dissolves into pixels so it’s like the whole movie is deteriorating into a video game visually. It’s funny sort of, I have been working on this film for 6 years and it’s something like 112 minutes long and I can never really watch it cold and be like “Wow”, ok?
The idea is, and what Brian’s great note for the Michael was, he wrote this really great list of 10 facts Scott Pilgrim facts about each character that aren’t in the book. Number one on Michael’s list was Scott Pilgrim is the hero of the film inside his own head. That really came to me and said it all about the actual film. The film is really Scott Pilgrim’s version of the events and he is a very unreliable narrator; who has cast himself as the lead in his own film.
Scott Pilgrim is a big daydreamer, and this is the way he chooses to visualize his life you know when a door bell rings in real life does it really go, “Ding Dong!” No, but in Scott Pilgrim’s but he imagines it does. So this really is the work of a fantasist I think.
This film reminds me of a notion called 21st century film making for the generation that is addicted to YouTube and fast paced editing, would you yourself consider this film a part of that?
Edgar: I think it’s definitely something that like, I know like myself I am 36, but I grew up on video games as well. You know the idea that people certainly for better or for worse can actually take in a lot of information at the same time nowadays.
It’s kind of amazing the people growing up now who look at the Internet and watch TV at the same time, or do stuff on the computer with a window open watching something else at the same time, you take in quite a bit of information. I even saw a study where kids today are growing up as better drivers because they are use to sort of …
Edgar, I heard you had written a letter to Nintendo to ask to use the Zelda music in the film and they quoted part of it on their website and I was wondering what the letter said?
Edgar: We really wanted to clear this piece of music, and Nintendo had been really cool with us to use a lot of their sound effects and stuff. But in terms of getting a particular piece of music, I had written genuinely that the music was like a lullaby for a particular generation. A lot of kids have grown up on these games and these pieces of music are equivalent to their lullabies these days.
Mr. Myamoto who is sort of the top at Nintendo watched the scene and gave us the OK, and it was very unusual for them to do that.
Michael: Wasn’t that the music from Zelda?
Edgar: Yeah I think it was called, The Beginning of the Journey.
Who are your favorite characters from the film?
Edgar: Scott Pilgrim played by Michael Cera! (laughs)
Michael: I love Kieran Culkin in the film who played Wallace. I couldn’t believe how good he is in it, and really everyone. There really isn’t one big person in the cast, it’s just such an amazing group of people. Everyone was really doing his or her own thing really well.
So Michael did you have to do any training for the fight sequences in the film?
Michael: Yeah, we did and Edgar even joined us too, it was kind of a bootcamp for two months that started at 7 every morning: waking up, running and doing pushups, all sorts of disgusting stuff.
Edgar: How often do you get to train with Superman and Captain America as well, they were just putting us to shame.
Michael can you tell us what is was like working with Edgar was it different than working with other directors?
Michael: Well, it was nothing like any film I had worked on before.
Every moment had been thought out and planned before we got there. We had rehearsed a lot and Edgar had been thinking about the film for like 3 years or something, writing it and storyboarding it, making it really tight.
I guess because it was such a big budget and ambitious film, we kind of had to know what we were doing going in. So there are some sequences where the joke of the scene is how the shot is cut together, like the scene in the bar where ever everyone is looking at each other, that was shot a very specific way where they would just get one moment work on that and then go on to the next.
It wasn’t like running a scene, they knew exactly what they were doing and they just had to get that one piece, get that right and move on.
We shot a lot of the film like that.
Michael there was some talk at Comic-con about Evan Golberg and Seth Rogan remaking Heritage Minutes, do you know anything about that and are you involved and who would you like to play?
Michael: He’s been talking about that for years.
I would like to play James Naismith, he invented basketball. They had one of those of him. (Turns on thick Canadian accent) “Cut a hole in the bottom!”