A good time was had by all…
Only a few days after playing to a crowd of 6,500 at the San Diego comic book convention, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World director Edgar Wright and stars Michael Cera and Anna Kendrick arrived in Seattle for only about 15 hours to talk to press before jetting off once again to Los Angeles. Luckily, myself and Laremy Legel writing for Film.com had a chance to sit with the trio to discuss their new movie out this Friday, August 13.
Based on Brian O’Malley’s graphic novel series of the same name, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a busy body visual feast of action, comedy and young love. To say the film is fun is an understatement. To say the interview was an absolute blast would be spot on.
I debated on whether I should break this up into a narrative style or just stick with the transcript and I think it plays a lot more entertaining just running the transcript since a lot of the more sarcastic and fun moments would have to be cut from a narrative.
So with that said, the interview begins just below and stay tuned for my review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it’s a film I know I am going to be seeing again this weekend.
Comic Con was pretty big for you guys.
Edgar Wright (EW): Yeah, that was amazing. It was a real sense of relief on Friday morning because we had an amazing panel and screening Thursday night. Having worked on it for five years on the adaptation, two years on the actual film… What was great about it was, some people said showing it at Comic Con was like fanning the flames, preaching to the choir, but the truth of the matter is they are going to be the hardest critics of the film because they are the super fans of the books and believe there’ve been other films where you’re either met by a stony silence or boos. So getting the response we had was a huge relief to us really.
Have you read the Variety review where Peter Debruge insinuates there’s a 25-year-old cutoff for this film and anyone over that age isn’t going to be into it.
Anna Kendrick (AK): My mom’s 60 and she fucking loved it.
We’re in our 30s and loved it.
EW: I’m 36.
And you didn’t like it from what I understand.
EW: That’s the irony of it. I directed the whole film, but watching it thought, “Eh, it’s not for me.”
Michael Cera (MC): I’m not the target demographic.
Do you see that breaking off point? I’m in my 30s and grew up part of the Nintendo generation, which has an obvious influence on the style, look and feel of this film and I loved it. Then she [pointing at Anna] says her mother loved it, and it –
AK: She says? She says? My mom did love it.
You’re mom’s got a bias though… I didn’t want to bring it up…
[Everyone is laughing at this point]
Do you think there is any kind of breaking off point like that? Because I look at Scott Pilgrim as being a film for a rather broad audience. It’s an easy story to connect to.
EW: The way I’ve approached the three films I’ve done [Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim], is I make it for myself and hope other people are on board. That’s the only real way I can do it. I try to approach it as a film fan so it’s not cynical; it’s not chasing a demographic. If like Variety said — it’s for audiences under 30 — there are a lot of people under 30 in this world.
I just thought that break off just seemed so arbitrary and simply based on your lead cast members who are around that age and not much else.
EW: To be honest, if I watched this film when I was 12-years-old I would hope it would blow my head off. If anything, as approaching it as a film fan, I try to put myself in the mind of myself as a kid when I first saw Gremlins or Ghostbusters or Big Trouble in Little China. Something like that where I’m thinking, What is this? What am I watching? I love it, but I don’t understand why I love it.
Even before Comic Con when we did test screenings — because we did like five test screenings around the country — you could tell by people in the focus group, people that stuck around afterwards, there were people in the audience that had never seen anything like that before and kind of needed another hit immediately.
It’s definitely unique. I didn’t watch a single trailer and have never read the books so I had no idea what was coming. When it started and came to that first fight scene I was like, “What the hell?”
MC: You didn’t know the plot or anything?
I didn’t know anything.
EW: That’s a good way to watch it.
MC: That’s incredible!
We both try to do that with most films. Even a film such as Dark Knight we went in cold.
MC: You didn’t even know it was a Batman movie.
EW: [Laughing] It doesn’t say “Batman” in the title. It could’ve been a medieval film for all you knew.
We thought it was a Martin Lawrence sequel.
EW: [Laughing] Can we just clear up The Dark Knight is not a sequel to Martin Lawrence’s Black Knight.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Do you worry about Scott Pilgrim being too modern or too busy? The beginning is really busy and then it begins to tone down a bit.
EW: I can’t watch it cold like an audience does. I watch it in kind of a rush, because it feels like two years of my life flashing before my eyes in 112 minutes. I’m a big fan of films that I grew up on and would watch obsessively, over and over again. If I didn’t feel like I got everything on the first watch good I want to see it again immediately. My favorite film of all-time is Raising Arizona. I watched it again as soon as it was over. I had it on VHS, rented it, and I watched it and said, “I want to watch that again, right now.” I think I did the same with something like Goodfellas, which is a completely different genre. I saw that at the cinema and went back the next day because I wanted to experience the rush again. So I’m that kind of audience member.
I also feel like so many summer movies do not give you your bang for $12. You know what I mean?
You get a lot of bang in this.
EW: There’s also something that you would come out of that thinking, “Wow, I got my value for my money with that film.” There are so many other things that you just feel you wasted two hours of your life.
Like The English Patient.
MC and AK: [Laughing]
EW: Nah, nah… I like The English Patient…
It’s not a summer tentpole. Let’s put it that way.
EW: English Patient is longer than two hours as well. [Laughing]
Yeah, it’s still going on.
Photo: Universal Pictures and Oni Press via Vulture
So Bryan O’Malley gave you ten characteristics about each character and Anna, yours is actually based on his sister.
AK: Yeah, I didn’t get a list but I met Stacey in real life.
EW: You got the human list.
AK: Yeah, I got the human experience. It was cool. She actually worked at Second Cup, which I do in the movie, and she gave me her name tag to wear in the movie. So the “Stacey” name tag is actually her name tag.
Did you do any barista method acting? Did you go work at a Starbucks for a year or anything like that?
EW: Like Daniel Day-Lewis. [Laughing]
AK: No, but … In Canada… I’m such an idiot. I didn’t even know Second Cup was a real place. I just knew it from reading the books. I went to rehearsals and in our hotel was a Second Cup, and I was like, “Oh my god! This is the Second Cup! I found it. I didn’t even know it was real!” I was asking for coffee, and I tasted it and I was like, “This is really great!” And it’s like Starbucks over there. It’s like going into a Starbucks and going, “Oh my god, I didn’t even know this place was real.” And I was like, “This is really good coffee you guys!” Ugh!
Well it’s like I always say, Canada only exists in our mind anyway. So you’re kind of off the hook with that.
MC: That’s kind of the comment that the film makes. In a roundabout way.
EW: We’re planning on going into the theater showing Inception and splice Scott Pilgrim vs. the World onto the end of it so it seems like the final dream.
MC: I thought you were saying Splice was going to be in it? The film Splice.
EW: It’s a triple-feature with Splice in the middle…
Or Don’t right in the middle…
EW: [Laughing] Oh my god. You just come up with the craziest triple-bill of all-time.
It would seem based on the quality of Scott Pilgrim the only way to approach a video game movie is to make a movie that’s not based on a video game.
EW: Yeah, that was something in the back of our heads when we were writing it. A funny aspect to it in the same way, there was a point before how Batman and Spider-Man changed things and how the great comic book movies of the ’80s were not comic books. RoboCop, when that came out, was like the best comic book movie ever and it’s not based on a comic book. I guess in the back of our minds we thought it would be interesting to make a video game film that’s not based on a video game, but it’s kind of like a flourish, a structural thing, because at heart it’s a love story. It’s a love story about young love and its pitfalls and up and downs.
Did it make it easier to use the video game style? Michael Cera going through battle situations and doesn’t have to be dressed up in blood…
MC: It’s powder fun.
Might have to address the hair but that’s about it.
EW: It is a PG-13 and there’s really no blood and gore in the books. One of the ideas with the fight scenes is they were more like video game fights where people get knocked down, but get straight back up again. There is like a Mario element to Scott Pilgrim to where he’s tenacious, if not indestructible.
I’ve never read the comic, but I know there was some doubt around Michael Cera playing Scott Pilgrim. Was he always the guy for you?
EW: I know he’s sitting right next to me, but he was always the first and only choice for me. If there was any sort of question mark it was people’s perception of the character. Me and Brian Lee O’Malley discussed this a lot. When you read the books there’s a question mark, and you’re in one of two camps. Is Scott Pilgrim awesome? Or does he believe himself to be awesome? Both me and Brian Lee O’Malley are in the latter camp, your lead character has an inflated sense of his own worth and skill and general awesomeness. If you read the books by the time you get to the last book he becomes an unreliable narrator. So Scott Pilgrim is telling you he’s awesome rather than he actually is. It’s not like he’s an action hero, it’s not like Vin Diesel would’ve been better for the part.
The rumor is Matt McConaughey screen-tested better.
MC: My hair is more like the drawings though.
EW: There was a bongo scene in the first draft.
Michael, did you identify with the character? The story is rather relatable to people in terms of young love which is something pretty much everyone experiences and another reason that “25 and older” idea is kind of ridiculous to me.
MC: It’s such a huge tone that it’s not something I thought about relating to really. It’s something I felt a lot better about it after we’d rehearsed it a bunch. I felt more confident going into the shoot. Reading the graphic novels, I relate to the voice of them, if anything, that’s what I’d relate to. They are written in a very familiar voice. It feels like you’re hanging out with friends.
EW: I hope people relate to it. I think most people have had this experience, it’s about the blind optimism of young love. And then about growing up, and to use a line from the film, it’s not all peaches and gravy. So that’s an experience that Scott Pilgrim, Knives Chau, and Ramona Flowers all have, that young love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And the way to move on is to move into a relationship is a little bit more adult, where you can forgive each other your flaws.
I noticed that people laughed over a lot of the secondary punch lines. When you’re editing, do you worry about that sort of thing or is more like throw everything at ‘em you’ve got?
EW: The first time you saw Airplane did you laugh so much that you had to watch it a second time because you missed stuff? These are high level problems to have. The worst crime is to leave a gap. If you’ve ever seen the film version of the Broadway [show] Producers they leave the same gaps they did on the stage and it feels very strange to watch. On stage they know where the laughs are, on stage it works, but it’s much better to just hammer through. I’d rather try and cram in another two gags then leave a pause to say “hey, wasn’t that bit funny?”
Where did the “Seinfeld” musical cue come from?
EW: That was my idea, but it came from a bit in the book. There’s a bit where Scott and Ramona kiss and there’s a little arrow and it says “studio audience” and it went “aaah.” I thought that was so sweet, and we wrote that into the script. And the next scene was him coming back all cocky after making out with Ramona the night before so we thought he should do a Kramer style entrance, or a Fonzie style entrance. And then the thing was we should show the entrance with the [makes "Seinfeld" noise]. “Happy Days” was the first show where that really started to happen, where the show would stop for like 30 seconds every time Henry Winkler came in.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Anna, do you look at 2010 and say “This is a joke that I’m not getting an Oscar Nomination” or do you expect one for Scott Pilgrim too? I mean, you were pretty supporting here.
AK: The weird thing is I met Edgar for the first time before I even knew what Up in the Air was and before I shot the first Twilight film. And somebody, a journalist at a roundtable, said to me “Oh, you must have done this before Up in the Air and Twilight because you wouldn’t have done it otherwise.” But I absolutely would have done it otherwise.
Journalists are the worst.
AK: Yeah, like what is wrong with you guys? I don’t know, she was being kind of snarky or whatever. I’m sort of floored by everyone else’s performance here, and envious in the sweetest way that I can think of in terms of how well everybody does in the movie. I’m just really happy to be grouped in with these people. These actors might not be people that my mom and dad know, but I’ve known who Alison Pill and Mark Webber are for years. It’s such a seasoned and professional cast, especially for a young cast.
EW: That’s what’s funny to me, people saying “All these new young faces” and I’m thinking most of these people have been working for ten years even if they’re twenty.
The thing that was great about making this film was creating this universe, and so much of that is the casting. I couldn’t ask for a more amazing ensemble. One of the things that’s great about the books is you get a great sense of a Greek chorus in Scott’s life, all the people trying to advise him. So it was amazing having a killer ensemble of comic actors even before you get to the seven exes. I really wanted to create world and to have Anna and Allison and Kieran Culkin in supporting roles is amazing.
Edgar, what’s up next for you? Is Them still on your slate?
MC: Is [Them] a filmic version of the TV show Totally Hidden Extreme Magic?
EW: [Laughs] I’ve never even heard of that show!
MC: It’s on the SyFy Channel.
EW: I’m going to say “yes.”
MC: It was a great show. A great show.
AK: Can we make that movie?
EW: You’ve got the exclusive now, the three of us are making a big screen adaptation of Totally Hidden Extreme Magic.
And Anna, you’ve just completed a cancer comedy, right?
AK: Yeah, we finished what is now an untitled film (tentatively titled Live With It) that I think is going to be pretty good. Look at that!
You obviously did that one for a paycheck.
AK: Awww, man! I wish.
And Michael, you’re replacing Robert Pattinson in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, correct?
MC: I think so, yeah. But I’m going to change my character’s name to Edgar so there will be a “Team Edgar.”