Genre-busting British director Edgar Wright’s latest heist thriller, Baby Driver, may be about criminals living in the fast lane, but the film took its own time to gather shape.
“Baby Driver is a project which is a culmination of an idea that I had 20 years ago,” said Wright as he got ready to show excerpts of the film at a theatre in Los Angeles to a room filled with journalists from across the globe.
“It was a long time coming and it’s been a dream movie for me. It’s a proper thriller driven by some very good music and a dream cast ... This was the real trip for me,” said Wright of Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz fame.
For the next few minutes, Hollywood heavyweights Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and the youthful Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Eiza Gonzales catapulted us into a testosterone-charged world where spectacularly stylish car chases, dangerous stunts, neat bank robberies and menacing men (led by an ominous looking crime lord played by Spacey) were the order of the day.
But Baby Driver, shot on the streets of Atlanta, won’t go down the route of all gloss, no substance, promised its director.
“This film is a bit more real. It has humour and stylised music sequences, but at its core there are real characters and real consequences. I don’t want it to be a heavy-handed morality play, but the movie is about the disparity between the fantasy of being in a high speed police chase and the reality of being in one. I wanted to make a movie that will make you think twice about doing a crime,” said Wright.
At the centre of this adrenalin-fuelled thriller is Baby, played by a baby-faced Ansel Elgort, a getaway driver whose job is to cart a bunch of wacky robbers to safety as soon as they are done with their job. He suffers from a medical condition called Tinnitus where he needs to constantly listen to music to drown out the constant ringing in his ears. Baby times all his escapes to the rhythm of the songs on his playlist.
So think 180-degree turn in an alley in one direction, then another 180 the other way to some electrifying beats.
Gulf News tabloid! sat down with the writer-director to get down to the bottom of it all... Excerpts from our round-table conversation:
How did the idea of your film, Baby Driver, come about?
I was 21 and I used to listen to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms — incidentally the first track of Baby Driver — a lot. At that time, I used to think, it was a good car-chase song and that was literally the germ of the idea of Baby Driver. Then later, I had this idea of a getaway driver who had to listen to music all the time, a driver who developed Tinnitus, after a car accident when he was younger. He had this constant whining in his ear and he drowns it out by playing music. That develops into an obsession and that was the basic premise of the title character. Lots of directors like Quentin Tarantino use soundtracks so well in their films, but I wanted to use music in a heightened new direction in my film. There’s no musical score in Baby Driver, but the songs are in either Baby’s iPod playlist or stereo or playing on TV. That’s how the story of this film developed into a concrete idea.
Jon Hamm from Mad Men told us he doesn’t have a single musical bone in his bone. So how did you convince him to take on the film?
I have never seen him dance, but I have seen him sing. Jon and I keep doing Bryan Ferry’s impersonation and it amuses us to sing Love Is The Drug at random intervals. Jon did well in this film. Everybody in this movie has some musical prowess — be it Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Lily James and Eiza Gonzales. There are lots of musicians who have parts in the movie too. Baby Driver is a music-driven film and it was fun to have Flea, Sky Ferreira and Paul Williams. Jon Spencer is in it briefly too. Some of it are not just walk-in cameos either.
But is Meryl Streep in the film too? You tweeted about it...
There’s a clip of It’s Complicated in Baby Driver. So they are in the movie, but were not on the sets. Now, I feel like I have been caught lying in a court of law.
Baby Driver is a star-studded ensemble with big names like Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Ansel Elgort. Were there any egos at play?
All these people are super-talented. This is not some massive payday movie, here you have a large cast who are doing this movie because they love its screenplay. They did this movie because they loved the script and therefore there’s always that mutual respect with actors like that. But I was super conscious when there was a shot between Kevin and Jamie, and I would tell my DP softly that there are two icons in this shot. Their parts weren’t like extended cameo where they just shot scenes for three days and left. For the bulk of the movie, we had Kevin, Jamie, Jon, Ensel, Eiza and Lily in the same scene. They are a part of an ensemble film in every sense of the word. It was thrilling to watch their takes. This may be a studio movie, but it’s a mid-budget one. While there would be no film if there was no Kevin or Jamie, I didn’t think of actors that big when I was writing it. But then it all just exploded.
What was it like working with Kevin Spacey?
On the first day I was shooting with Kevin, he had a dialogue-heavy scene with Ansel where he was passive-aggressively threatening him. Even though I had watched Kevin rehearse those lines, I had an out-of-body experience while watching him do the scene in front of the camera. I found myself enjoying it like a viewer.
What’s your take on gun control in the US keeping Baby Driver in mind?
I don’t understand yet what’s the argument against doing background checks [when a firearm is sold]. Why would you argue against background checks, no matter which side of the political divide you belong to? If you see Baby Driver, it’s a heist movie that doesn’t end well for everybody. The ultimate message is that crime doesn’t pay. While there may be stylised versions in films, the reality comes crashing down in this film. This is my first movie that I have made in the United States. While some of my previous movies were financed here, it was shot in the UK or Canada. So I feel incredibly fortunate that I got to make Baby Driver here. This is an original movie, and you know it’s easier to spot a unicorn than an original film in this day and age when studios are concentrating on making franchises.
Don’t miss it
Baby Driver releases in the UAE on July 20.