August 10, 2010
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press, 2010

TORONTO – Jason Schwartzman strides into a Toronto hotel room and immediately takes matters into his own hands.

Locating the air conditioner, he promptly shuts it off with nary a word to his two castmates or the entourage that accompanies them.

Next, it’s to the bathroom to locate a sufficiently plush bathrobe to wrap around his slim frame.

Then, he greets a reporter with a firm handshake and a mischievous gaze.

“Hi, J-Bones,” he says by way of introduction before taking a couch alongside co-stars Anna Kendrick and Brandon Routh to discuss “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.”

The tone for an off-kilter, amiable interview has been set for the Canadian homecoming of the comic-book inspired comedy, starring Michael Cera as a 22-year-old Toronto slacker who must battle his new love’s seven evil exes.

“If this movie was 3D there wouldn’t be a lot of people alive at the end of it,” Schwartzman says by way of explaining the visual impact of video game graphics, cartoon sound effects and comic book panels that pepper the film.

“Bodies can’t take it. There’s only so much the human body can take. Other films need to be 3D, this one doesn’t have to be.”

Cast members of the sprawling action-comedy took over the city with a rare red-carpet premiere last week, surprising fans with various low-key sightings at hipster cafes and restaurants, and holding court with group interviews that strayed from movie talk into private jokes, Canadian cold remedies and childhood passions.

“I have to say I love Stay Puft,” Cera declares in his joint interview alongside director Edgar Wright when talk turns to his favourite film, “Ghost Busters.”

“I have a stuffed Mr. Stay Puft. And I have Mr. Stay Puft on my pillow case, my boyhood pillow case.”

Such random banter is the norm in the playful and chaotic world of “Scott Pilgrim,” an action-packed love story featuring video game sound effects and icons and comic book artwork pulled directly from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s indie book series, which inspired the film.

Set in a snow-covered Toronto and featuring a parade of local landmarks including discount store Honest Ed’s, music venue Lee’s Palace, late-night favourite Pizza Pizza, and tourist haunt Casa Loma, the fantasy traces the sweet but self-obsessed Scott as he literally fights to win the heart of doe-eyed Ramona Flowers, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Even the books’ more minor characters make appearances in the music-packed film, including Alison Pill as the surly drummer Kim in Scott’s band, comic Aubrey Plaza as the potty-mouthed Julie and Johnny Simmons as hanger-on Young Neil.

Routh plays Todd, a vegan with telekinetic powers and one of the ex-boyfriends Scott must vanquish.

“Hot Fuzz” director Edgar Wright says he spent a lot of time trying to incorporate the comic books’ imaginative storytelling in the appearance of the film.

“I loved the artwork. And I loved the idea of a character having to literally fight for love. So then that became sort of a six-year kind of process of adapting the books with Michael Bacall who I wrote the screenplay with,” says the shaggy haired Wright, who gained a cult following with his Brit TV series, “Spaced” and the horror-comedy “Shaun of the Dead.”

“There is a certain point of taking the ball and running with it…. The thing is, most comic book movies and most video game adaptations, they jettison all the things that are most famous about comics. Because this was a comedy and it’s imaginative, and (there’s) even the idea that it’s kind of playing out in Scott Pilgrim’s head, it was the perfect kind of excuse to let your imagination run riot, basically.”

Schwartzman, who appears in the climactic scene as Gideon, a sleazy record executive with a tight but inexplicable hold on Ramona, says performing with a slew of digital effects was made easy thanks to Wright’s meticulous direction.

“In the fights I did with Michael, he’d actually shot that before with two other stunt men dressed like us, with a DV camera in some warehouse that was very crudely edited together with sound effects and music and everything and he showed that to us,” says Schwartzman, who reportedly showed up for other interviews strumming a guitar and with a Cheeto stuck to his lapel.

“Edgar would show us the fight that he had already shot with the two guys and say, ‘Now we’re going to get that shot. And now we’re going to get that shot.’ And instead of shooting the whole fight scene like a three-minute fight scene from one angle, then a three-minute fight scene from another angle, we simply would do it shot by shot, angle by angle of only that thing that he needed. He knew exactly what he wanted so we were able to hyper focus in an amazing way.”

And just because it was inspired by comics and martial arts mayhem, doesn’t mean female fans won’t be able to relate to the story, says Kendrick, who plays Scott’s no-nonsense sister, Stacey.

“There’s a great gender cross-over,” says Kendrick.

“I think, you know, the other example of that is ‘X-Men,’ I think girls really respond to ‘X-Men’ because there’s girls fighting and it’s girls with guys. It’s not just Wonder Woman, it’s guys and girls fighting together and I think that’s the cool thing about this…. It’s girls and guys fighting each other and fighting alongside one another and I think that girls will really respond to that.”

“Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” opens Friday.