Edgar Wright will never admit this (and good grief I tried to get him to), but I do believe he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder while filming Baby Driver. (There were many times during this interview in which Wright would just smile and say, “Your words, not mine.”) But Wright will admit he’s still frustrated by the time he lost while working on Ant-Man before parting ways with Marvel – and he’s right, because it’s somehow been four years since we last got an Edgar Wright movie (2013’s The World’s End). So, yeah, it’s only human nature in a situation like this to want to prove someone wrong. And even though Wright doesn’t need to prove anything at this point in his career (he’s got a whole filmography of beloved films, ranging from Shaun of the Dead to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) the stylish and just plain cool Baby Driver does feel like the work of someone wanting to prove something.
In Baby Driver, Ansel Elgort plays Baby, the best getaway driver in the business. He’s also a young man of few words, because he’s constantly listening to music because to offset his tinnitus. Baby Driver is a sleek vision that Wright obviously put his heart and soul into (and, at least with critics, that’s paid off as Baby Driver is currently sporting a nifty 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
Ahead, Wright talks about his lowest moment in-between losing Ant-Man and getting Baby Driver made – but, no, he won’t go as far to say that there’s any sort of personal vendetta associated with Baby Driver, well, except for that devilish grin. Wright also tells the story about the closest he ever came to watching Ant-Man, when someone was watching it next to Wright on a plane. (Which seems incredibly cruel for a few reasons.)
Baby Driver even makes tinnitus cool…
When I was reading up about it in research, that’s how that Barbra Streisand line comes into it: I was reading about tinnitus and it said famous sufferers of tinnitus include Barbra Streisand – and it had this thing about Barbra listens to music the entire time to drown out the whine. And then what’s funny, Jamie Foxx has the line in the movie where Darling is talking about that and says, “Oh, Barbra Streisand does the same thing.” And Jamie Foxx says, “Do I look like I know a fucking thing about Barbra fucking Streisand?” The irony is, Jamie Foxx is very good friends with Barbra. So when we were shooting that scene, I said to Jamie, “How do you think Barbra will react to this line of dialogue?” And Jamie said, “Do you know Barbra?” And I said, “No.” And Jamie Foxx said, “Barbra is gangster,” which I thought that was the most amazing sentence.
What is it that’s so appealing about someone who can drive a car better than anyone else?
I’m not a gearhead in the sense of that I’m that interested in the car itself, but there’s something about movement and music that is my favorite thing.
Is it because we all drive, and someone has to be the best?
I guess so. I think it’s that thing of like…
It would be like being the best breather. We all do it, but there’s someone who is the best…
Maybe Michael Phelps is the best breather.
Michael Phelps is probably the best breather.
Well, the movie itself is sort of answering the question of what would it be like to be a getaway driver? And sort of, it’s like, I just drive the car. I’m not really an armed robber. And it is almost like a reverse version of Goodfellas, in a way. Henry Hill aspires to be a gangster. But in Baby Driver, Ansel is already like a gangster at the start of the movie and is aspiring to be a normal kid again. It’s actually sort of his coming of age is actually sort of the realization that he shouldn’t be doing this.
Did you look at Scorsese as a reference point?
Well, I’d say if I was going to pick four movies that are sort of classic jukebox movies in terms of using preexisting songs, they would be, going backwards: Reservoir Dogs, Goodfellas, American Werewolf in London – which is probably the first time I ever really thought about something using pop music in a different context. And then somebody who doesn’t get enough credit for starting this, because he essentially never did it ever again, but the first real diegetic music film that I can think of is American Graffiti. So George Lucas actually started it and then never touched it again.
Well, he never directed another movie other than the Star Wars movies after.
It’s true. Which is sad, in a way. So American Graffiti is an influence on this. So, yeah, Scorsese would certainly be an influence, and is one of the directors that uses music just brilliantly.
You have this library of beloved films now, but did you feel with this one you had something to prove after the Marvel Ant-Man situation?
I mean, here’s the funny thing. When I was still doing that movie, in the back of my head, I thought, well, maybe if I do this franchise movie and it does well, I’ll have enough muscle to get Baby Driver made. Because I had already written the Baby Driver script at that point.
And I’ve heard you say that before, but when you finally got to start this, was it like, “Screw that situation, watch out, because I’m going to blow you away with this?”
[Laughs.] You’re not going to attribute that quote to me! You could say that, I can’t say that. That’s cocky, sounds way too cocky. So I don’t get to say that.
I don’t think that’s cocky. I think anyone would feel that way. After something didn’t work out, I’m going to prove them wrong.
I’d say, and I’ve never told this in an interview before, the toughest part of that whole thing for me was that when I walked away from that movie, I said to my agent, “As long as I’m making another movie by the time that one comes out, I’ll be fine.” And then the truth of the matter was I wasn’t shooting Baby Driver by the time it came out. And that was the toughest part. Around the time that that movie came out, Baby Driver was still maybe happening, maybe not happening. It didn’t really get the official green light for another four months afterwards. So that, to me, was the toughest moment of the whole thing.
There are a couple of scenes in Baby Driver that felt like eff you moments – that were just so good, and I could just see you like, “Fuck you, look what I can do.”
This is Mike Ryan speaking, not me. Just say “Edgar smiled when you said that.”
Come on. That’s human nature.
[Laughs.] I’m not going to comment.