Emmanuel Itier: How do you think the movie is going to play with an audience outside the boundaries of this Comic-Con?
Edgar Wright: I don’t know. We’ve done test screens with the film where you watch it with a normal audience. Those ones are nerve-wracking, but they’re kind of exciting sometimes because you’re watching the people completely cold. You have no idea what the film is or who is even in it. The central themes in it should be as easy to understand, as something like Grease, especially the romantic aspects of it, or certainly in terms of young love. You have this idyllic version of what young love is supposed to be, and then the reality is a lot more complicated than that. I think most people, when they meet their first girlfriend, assume they’re going to be the love of their life, and that is very rarely the case. So I think that was what’s interesting about the film — it’s somebody dealing with what could be his first big relationship and seeing whether he’s actually adult enough to make it work.
EW: I’ve been working on this film for two years. I would say the first year of it was making the film, and the second year was editing the film — not just the editing, but also there are some points where it becomes almost like making an anime film because all of the graphic work and animation is designed to the frame. It took a lot of time to get it right. Scott Pilgrim is seeing his life through the media that he conceives. So the film you’re watching is like Scott Pilgrim’s perfect world version of events, or it’s almost like how he would like to be remembered, and he may not be our most reliable narrator.
Michael Cera: He could make an entirely different film from someone else’s point of view and just make it like people actually being murdered, carelessly slaughtered.
EW: We were going to shoot something for the DVD, which we never got around to. We were going to do a DVD extra where Scott Pilgrim is arrested for the murder of 30 people — a thing like Paranormal Activity, alternative ending, not shown in theaters. He killed seven exes and 15 henchmen.
EI: Can you talk about the inspirations and the process that went into this?
EW: It was the challenges of the book, in terms of the tone, and like the book is sort of on one end it’s very relatable, and then on the other end it’s very fantastical. There are things that you can do within a comic that are more difficult to do in live action, but then the challenges of that is also what attracted me to it. It was kind of irresistible to try to pull off. It was a real gift, in a way, that you didn’t have to be completely in the real world. A lot of the scenes in the film, whether it’s a kissing scene or a fight, are explosions of emotion. It’s like imagining how Scott Pilgrim is seeing this in his own head. I have this theory about the film. There is the bit where Michael is daydreaming and walks into the bathroom and then comes out and there is a school corridor. If you want to read it like this, you could say that the rest of the film is a dream after that point and none of the rest of it is real. It’s the work of a fantasist. That is in the book as well, especially in the last volume — the idea of Scott Pilgrim being an unreliable narrator. So I love this idea that you’re watching somebody’s daydream, basically.
EI: I couldn’t see anyone else doing it the same way with the same sense of humor. How did you find Michael Cera?
EW: We met in 2007?
MC: Yeah, I think that’s right, and spent a magical night out here together. We had met before that, though.
EW: The first time we met was in Toronto. I think I met Michael when we were doing press for Hot Fuzz. So we’ve been talking about it for about three years.
MC: And then we went and saw Die Hard.
EW: We saw Die Hard with a Vengeance.
MC: With Mary Elizabeth Winstead…
EW: Mary Elizabeth Winstead at the Scotia Bank. Not Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free and Die Hard. Let’s get it right! Oh my god, my geek credentials will be taken away forever! Or, as it’s called in the UK, Die Hard 4.0.
EI: Was Michael in the role already when you started bringing the script to him?
EW: Oh certainly, he was in mind… I started the first draft of the script in 2005. I actually finished it just before shooting Hot Fuzz. I wrote the first draft in 2005 and we handed it in. Michael Bacall and I handed the studio the first draft in January 2006, just before I did Hot Fuzz. So it was a long time ago. This was before I met Michael. We actually were watching a lot of Arrested Development when we were writing. I remember saying, “It’s a shame that the kid from Arrested Development isn’t older.” And then cut to three years later and we’re all good.
EI: Do you think you can get into the Matrix and kick Neo’s ass now?
EW: He could hook it up. He knows Keanu [Reeves]. [Laughs]
EI: How was training for the action scenes?
MC: It was amazing training. We woke up every day at like 7:00 in the morning and came in and ran, did like 100 push-ups, and tossed the medicine ball around… It was a nice way for all of us to get to know each other and get really familiar with each other…
EW: Once you’re in your gym shorts, there is no going back from that.
MC: All pretenses go away and you just work out.
EW: We did it for eight weeks. I did it with them every morning as well, which is amazing.
MC: Sword fighting with foam swords…
EW: We had a sword fighting tournament. The funny thing is that all of the actors who are involved in the fights train, obviously, but then the actors who weren’t involved in the fights felt left out and would come and join us anyway. Kieran Culkin and Brie Larson…
MC: Bryan Lee O’Malley came…
EW: So the people that didn’t actually have any fights to do would come and workout with us in the morning.
EI: This is quite a departure for you because you’ve been in these indie films where the biggest action you’ve had to perform was running…
MC: Which was exhausting.
EI: Was the acting different?
MC: The acting in this movie, I think, is very particular and very heightened and cartoony. The rehearsal period was really helpful for me to get there because you have to feel really comfortable around everyone and confident in what you’re doing. It was definitely a process of finding it in the rehearsals. It felt totally different. It feels totally unique to this movie, I think. Everyone’s performance feels like it really just belongs in this movie.
EW: I remember you saying it was different. It’s also very regimented in places because the set pieces are either musical numbers or it’s almost like dance sequences, and doing the comedy within the set pieces is all very particular. Maybe in other comedies the style is a bit more loose in terms of the way of shooting it and the amount of improv and stuff, but we rehearsed a lot to nail things that were very specific timing-wise.
EI: What’s with the blinking?
EW: The Blink Nazi. [Laughs] Michael Caine’s acting master class was “never blink on a close-up.” It was rule #1. But with this, especially because all the actors have very expressive eyes… Whenever people blink in any close-up, it’s always like a sign of weakness. If you watch the film, there is very little blinking in the film at all. It’s something that helps that entire style or tone — people are very expressive. The actors in this film all have amazing eyes. The person that I was particularly tough on was Brie Larson, who played Envy. She was sort of ice cold. I said, “Don’t ever blink. You look so much stronger…”
MC: So in-control.
EW: Exactly. You’re totally in control if you don’t blink.
EI: After Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun, any plans of turning Don’t into a feature?
EW: I don’t know. It would be fun. One of the gifts of doing Don’t and the Grindhouse trailer is I didn’t have to bother thinking up a plot [laughs] — basically done as a bunch of money shots strung together.
EI: With no plot at all, it would be fine anyway.
EW: I’m a bit into Italian horror films where it’s style and the substance is not very heavy, like set pieces. The thing about making that Don’t trailer was that it was trying to see how many actors and different scenarios you could fit into one trailer, so you would watch the thing and…”What the fuck is this film about?”
EI: What’s going on with Ant-Man?
EW: I basically haven’t done any work on it for two years because I’ve been working on this full-time. I’m a terrible multi-tasker. Once we’re done promoting this film, I’m going to return to writing, and that’s one of the things I’m going to be writing.
EI: What about you, Michael? What’s next?
MC: I don’t know yet. I’m just going to see what feels right. Maybe Ant-Man, Ant-Lad…
EI: How big is music for you guys?
MC: Very big.
EW: I am a big music fan, and so is Michael. Can I call you a multi-instrumentalist? [Laughs]
MC: Sure, I don’t mind being called that.
EW: Multi-instrumentalist Michael Cera. That’s what was a gift about this source material — I’m a big music fan. In my previous films, I haven’t had any scenes with people playing music. That was a trip. We worked really hard on that aspect with Nigel Godrich and the various bands that did the songs.
EI: Did you get the Benz you wanted?
EW: Absolutely. I think we kind of have an embarrassment of riches.